Flagpole, Athens, GA, December 17, 2003:

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         Travis Charbeneau  3421 Hanover Ave., Richmond, VA 23221
            travischarbeneau@gmail.com    Phone: 804 358 0417

                     Commie Health Care Winning Favor
                             Travis Charbeneau
                               slug "health"
                                 851 words
     PULL QUOTE: "The government must, can and does do some things well.
Some things that it does poorly it must _still_ do, because 'privatization'
would be foolish."
     ABC News recently devoted an entire week to "Critical Condition,"
(10/20/03) examining the current national health care crisis. Did I hear,
"What crisis?" I didn't think so. Especially among Baby Boomers, our
largest demographic cohort, enough of us have gotten sufficiently sick with
insufficient health insurance that "crisis" became an understatement.
     This may be why, for the first time, ABC polls showed a majority of 62
percent now favoring a single-payer, Canadian-style insurance plan. Like
washing the car, such talk invariably produces thunder storms of
"socialized medicine"! But we're considering nothing more "socialized" than
Medicare, where the government handles the money and the doctors handle the
     Besides, with the Cold War over, the old pinko tar brush no longer
seems so sticky. We may now experiment with common sense without being
thought comsymp bomb-throwers. Every other industrialized nation, and quite
a few in the "Third World," boast single-payer systems where everyone is
covered, yet costs are only half of what we Americans pay, leaving 43
million of us exposed.
     Here in the States we're too busy throwing band-aids at a _genuine_
national security threat that needs major surgery; too busy taking sick
people to court for filling prescriptions in Canada, where they happen to
be affordable. We're too busy navigating 150 different health care plans
and their labyrinthine paperwork, responsible for 15 percent of our medical
bill versus three percent for Medicare and other single-payer plans. At
least 59 percent of us are too busy wondering whether we'll be able to
afford health insurance or whether we'll be able to qualify for it at any
cost. 'Got herpes? A joint implant? Any number of mild but chronic
conditions? You can be rejected for almost anything.
     "Oh, but America has (all together now) 'the Best Health Care System
in the World'." Jingo slogans don't work for the millions who are uninsured
or underinsured. Nor for the employee with a chronic condition, sick
spouse, or kids, who doesn't dare change jobs or, God forbid, retire, for
fear of losing health insurance. Nor the Medicare recipient whose doctor
finally joined the stampede out of Medicare with its puny compensation and
punitive red tape.
     It's true that rich people from Canada and other single-payer nations
come to the US for that MRI scan they want right _now_. But "rich" also
describes the contented American health care consumer, because if you ain't
rich, in good insurance or hard cash, you ain't contented. Maybe this is
fair for that hot new Mercedes you really, really want. Not for health care
you really, _really_ need.
     Few Canadians forced to wait for an MRI fall down and die because of
the delay. Compare any who might to the thousands of Americans who perish
for the lack of any MRI at all -- unless they luck out with a hospital
emergency room, where they often die anyway because -- yes! -- they waited
too long. They needed a crisis before _any_ care was available. And, since
emergency care is the most expensive, and since you and I pay for it
anyway, we lose the life _and_ the money. America's uninsured suffer 15 to
18 percent greater mortality than our insured. In Canada, no one is
uninsured. The math is not difficult.
     The insurance industry operates a powerful lobby. There is money to be
made in medicine, and in "supporting" cooperative politicians (who
invariably vote _themselves_ government coverage.) The combination has made
American health care what it is today: sick. And it's contagious. We remain
in "jobless recovery" largely because in this country, for some reason,
employers must suffer the calamity of providing health insurance.  
Essentially, the insurance industry profits by hobbling every other
American enterprise with this anti-competitive, parasitical burden.
     The mere fact that health care is regarded as an "industry" is sick.
You can't stalk out of an operating room with the used car shopper's
theatricality, seeking to nail a better price. Your health is not a widget
in some ideological "free market." The government must, can and does do
some things well. Some things that it does poorly it must _still_ do,
because "privatization" would be foolish. ("Got a war coming? Call ACME
Army Guys! Check out our Middle East Special this month only! No coupons.")
     This is one of those infuriatingly-proliferating categories where
America slots into "the only advanced nation in the world that ..." Never
mind hand guns, capital punishment or the mess in primary education, what
do all these other countries know about basic health care that we just
can't figure out? Along with relics like "Best Health Care System in the
World," we used to talk about "American know-how." We don't even know how
to take care of our children. Millions of uninsured kids are skating on the
thin ice of our refusal to face reality and the corruption that makes our
refusal possible, even, until recently, popular.
     Hopefully, that will change. With good luck, it will change before
your next accident or illness. We need good luck, 'cause, so far, good
government just isn't in it.