The debate on health care reform continues this Monday morning in August. Scanning various reports of out-of-control town hall meetings on the subject and editorials across online news sources, it’s obvious there’s still a lot of fear out there among various segments of the population.
Let’s start with the rebellion of seniors to a provision in the House versions of the bills that would reimburse doctors who counsel Medicare beneficiaries on “end-of-life’’ issues. Certainly, end-of-life counseling has its merits as Bill Clinton pointed out in a speech last Thursday before the Netroots Nation conference of liberal bloggers.
What Clinton failed to mention was the origin of the uproar about the end-of-life provision. The problem for seniors began with the Administration’s scary introduction of the proposed counseling on this very personal and critical issue as a means for cost cutting in the Medicare program. Many seniors heard the proposal as limiting expensive procedures such as hip replacements for people who might die within a year or two anyway. This was not good PR for health care reform, especially within a context already disrespectful to seniors in which our president, along with leaders of both parties, habitually refer to Social Security and Medicare as “entitlement programs,” i.e., government handouts.
I repeat: seniors paid into Social Security and Medicare throughout their working lives, and Medicare deducts a sizable chunk of change from their monthly retirement benefits.
As for the overall health care reform bill that might ultimately emerge from congress, Paul Krugman offers a calm voice in the midst of the current storm:
So where does Obamacare fit into all this? Basically, it’s a plan to Swissify America, using regulation and subsidies to ensure universal coverage.
If we were starting from scratch we probably wouldn’t have chosen this route. True “socialized medicine” would undoubtedly cost less, and a straightforward extension of Medicare-type coverage to all Americans would probably be cheaper than a Swiss-style system. That’s why I and others believe that a true public option competing with private insurers is extremely important: otherwise, rising costs could all too easily undermine the whole effort.
But a Swiss-style system of universal coverage would be a vast improvement on what we have now. And we already know that such systems work.
So we can do this. At this point, all that stands in the way of universal health care in America are the greed of the medical-industrial complex, the lies of the right-wing propaganda machine, and the gullibility of voters who believe those lies.
I would add to Krugman’s list of obstacles, the Administration’s condescension and disrespect for America’s senior citizens.