*By now, America is aware of the epic partisan stonewalling in Congress over health care reform.
It is a pitched battle that, if passed in its present form, will lessen the chance for any governmental competitive edge over entrenched private insurance regulations, regulations that now exclude over 45 million Americans from getting needed medical insurance coverage and allow private insurance companies to assess astronomically usurious rate hikes at will.
Although I have no serious ethnic breakdown available, it’s almost a sure bet that people of color are disproportionately represented among those uninsured 45 million.
And, you may have heard or read about the recent rate hike from Anthem Blue Cross of California (a subsidiary of for-profit insurance titan Wellpoint) that raises most current member rates a staggering 39%.
The hike was instituted despite a $2+ billion Wellpoint profit in 2009; the reason given by Wellpoint, in a letter to Secretary of Health & Human Services Secretary Katherine Sibelius explaining the hike was “anticipated medical costs.”
My wife is covered by Anthem Blue Cross of California, and, when we received the notice several weeks ago, she and I read it with shock and awe. Insurance is already a substantial chunk of our monthly budget. Now, with this increase, her insurance alone is more than our monthly mortgage (I am insured separately, and received a modest increase in January). Besides she cannot drop her coverage and shop around for a better deal because the threat of “pre-existing conditions” will preclude her from ever receiving coverage from most, if not all, insurance agencies. Thus, we are forced to obey the command and cough up the dough.
Despite poll after poll that shows that most America favors a competitive and comprehensive national health insurance plan, insurance companies have influenced key members of Congress, through lobbying and campaign finance contributions, to block any reform that hints at fair competition. Those influenced by insurance companies, as well as well-heeled TV talking heads, toss about keywords and phrases such as “socialism” and “death panels” in an attempt to frighten uninformed Americans to believe they are doomed if such a bill were passed.
Here’s a true story, and it involves my wife again: We went to Paris, France on vacation several years ago. My wife loves animals and saw a dog that was lying next to a man sitting on a bench. She reached to pet the dog, and was promptly bitten on her hand. After many “mea-culpas” by my wife for not thinking, we had to take care of her wound. Fortunately, there was a hospital quite close, and we rushed there for treatment. I started worrying about the cost.
Knowing that a stitch job can begin at $400 in America, what would the cost be for tetanus shot, bandages and emergency room treatment in a foreign land? After the treatment, we braced for the bill and the doctor said, in French, “No problem. It’s covered,” and then walked us to the door. We looked at each other in amazement and as we left with smiles on our faces, saw first-hand the beauty of so-called “socialist medicine.” Mind you, America is the only industrialized country in the world that refuses does not provide its citizens with blanket health coverage.
I recently attended a town hall meeting held by Congressman Xavier Becerra (D. Calif.) in my neighborhood and saw directly the angry, scared and confused looks on peoples’ faces when asking questions about the health care bill. Becerra said that he needed to hear directly from America what it wanted in the bill. As people lined up to the microphone, planted disrupters from Lyndon LaRouche’s Labor Party (total vote percentage in his eight attempts at a run for President: .05%) began calling President Obama a Nazi, said the bill contained a death panel, shouted out “socialism” and generally interrupted both Becerra and attendees. They were promptly escorted out by the police, and the meeting settled into a mannerly discussion.
Yes, the bill may be flawed, but the fact is that Social Security underwent the same runaround. Over the years, and for the most part, flaws have been refined to the point where America cannot even think to do without Social Security and Medicare. Yes, our taxes will likely go up, but the money now being paid to private insurance companies will be directed to national health care – a fair enough trade that must include a public option for the bill to have any bite. Most of us under private insurance coverage already pay a high premium for the privilege of being turned down for whatever reason companies can find. In other words, we already have death panels. The point of the opposition fabricating the “death panel” myth is to scare America into believing the health care bill included it. So, the national health care bill still stands a tough road ahead, but the Anthem Blue Cross rate hike has awakened America by giving it a glimpse into the future. President Obama recently invited Republican senators to sit down and hammer out a bill,. Not an original request, though, because the Republicans earlier accused Obama of negotiating behind closed doors. They demanded an open, televised, discussion. When Obama said he welcomed such an idea, he asked for bi-partisan participation, Republicans said “No” to the very demands they put forth. Looks like a tough road ahead for America’s health care. And that 39% rate hike looks like it will be around for a while.