Guest View: Health care and the Republican hypocrisy
March 14, 2009
CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Wednesday introduced a show about President Obama’s commitment to achieve major health care reform by the end of this year, noting, “The health care system itself is an ailing patient that needs to be healed.”
In a new release, the American College of Gastroenterology recommends a colonoscopy every 10 years for people over 50 as the preferred colorectal cancer prevention test.
Yet, in many states, insurance companies may not cover this recommended preventive screening because those states don’t require it. So with all the advances in modern medical technology, numerous citizens are unable for financial reasons to undergo this important screening for what the Journal of the American Medical Association reports is the second leading cause of U.S. cancer deaths.
This is just one example of the pressing need for an overhaul of our health system. President Obama’s campaign commitment to address that need kicked off last week when he conducted a White House health summit that brought together Senate and House members, doctors, nurses, insurance, business and labor people, and consumer advocates.
Meanwhile, as the president vigorously tackles health, financial, housing and other horrendous problems left at the national doorstep by his predecessor, the cacophony of Republican no-mongers’ sniping continues.
The media has facilitated that GOP resistance. We saw more coverage of Rush Limbaugh’s rants than we did of the ideas exchanged at the White House forum. Whether it’s his infamous wish that “I hope (Obama) fails” or his insidious labeling of forthcoming health legislation as “The Ted Kennedy Memorial Health Care Bill,” Limbaugh is a choleric diversion from the hard work that’s needed from sea to shining sea. We were oversaturated with the TV clip of his appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he bounced up and down and rotated his arms so much that it looked like he either was auditioning for a deodorant commercial or needed a quick trip to the men’s room. Even the Aflac duck doesn’t quack as much.
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Limbaugh was joined by John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor, Michele Bachmann, Bill Bennett and countless others who, like their political ancestors from long ago, disingenuously dismiss all fresh ideas as socialism or socialized medicine.
This blatant mischaracterization of a constructive effort to improve national health care has been around for decades. Obstructionists shouted “socialized medicine” when President Truman wanted to develop an improved health care system. In 1962 many physicians and insurance companies fought President Kennedy’s plan to institute medical care for seniors tied to Social Security. The King-Anderson bill, enacted despite strong opposition from the American Medical Association and cries of “socialism,” is essentially today’s Medicare. The AMA had argued that this program would interfere in the doctor-patient relationship. It’s ironical that today such interference is run by large insurance companies. Dr. Marcie Hertz, a New Jersey breast cancer surgeon, advises that she has experienced difficulty getting approval for MRI scans that she has recommended for patients because of those companies’ cumbersome and time-consuming approval/appeals processes.
Insurance companies decline coverage for pre-existing conditions, leaving many people with the choice of catastrophic financial losses or inadequate treatment. That’s why one of the choices of the proposed new system will be a “public option” that competes with private plans. Former presidential candidate Howard Dean, a physician, insists that free choice and competition should be the cornerstone. That’s not socialized medicine! Patients could, but wouldn’t have to, buy into Medicare. “I don’t buy that the private sector has a right to compete and be more inefficient,” Dean said.
Today we are a nation in which almost one out of every six persons has no health insurance. During the presidential campaign, Obama favored availability of voluntary universal coverage rather than mandates preferred by Hillary Clinton and other opponents. But his expressed willingness to be persuaded by others’ ideas was reaffirmed at last week’s forum when he told participants, “If there is a way of getting this done where we’re driving down costs and people are getting health insurance at an affordable rate and have choice of doctor, have flexibility in terms of their plans, and we could do that entirely through the market, I’d be happy to do it that way. … I just want to figure out what works.”
A Senate Finance Health subcommittee, seeking to cut costs, waste and fraud and enhance care quality, will hold hearings on March 18, March 25 and April 1. This, combined with the leadership of the president and Kathleen Sebelius, his designated secretary of Health and Human Services, should get health-care overhaul moving along in earnest. The obstructionist no-mongers in and out of Congress should not be permitted to derail this vital attempt to improve the health of the country.
” Michael Zucker is a resident of South Lake Tahoe and a stockbroker with Regal Securities.