Monday, March 22, 2010

Looking into the mirror of the healthcare battle

"A mountain had gone into labor and was groaning terribly. Such rumors excited great expectations all over the country. In the end, however, the mountain gave birth to a mouse." Aesop
David Seaton's News Links
There is this saying in Spanish, "did we need such big saddlebags for such a short ride?"

I'm have been having trouble getting deep into this health care battle. I live in  a rather typical European socialized medicine system and even the wildest of European conservatives, and believe me some of them are pretty wild, wouldn't ever dream of privatizing any of those systems down to the size of this "history making" American bill.

The need for a national health system in any developed country is so obvious that I have finally come to the conclusion that the extraordinarily vile opposition to this decaffeinated bill, (the "grass roots" opposition, not that of the insurance and pharma lobbies of course), is entirely racist.

I read this comment over on the BBC site that expressed all this very well:
For those of us who lived through the early days of the civil rights movement, survived busing, dealt with outbreaks of the Ku Klux Klan and the Black Panthers, sit-ins, be-ins and such,one can see the thinly veiled racism that drives the anti-Obama movement. The republican party vowed to destroy his presidency. This health care reform debate has NOTHING to do with health care, economics or anything reasonable. It is unfortunate, but the United States is a classist, racist, economically and socially backward and bigoted country. I am a white woman who is educated and lives in the South. Believe me, this is about our President's race, nothing else. And those who are so evil and bigoted should be ashamed of themselves, but they have neither the good sense, the moral fiber or the will to actually grow up and act like adults.
I'm afraid I have to agree with her. Anyone who could think this sorry little half-baked piece of legislation is "socialism", wouldn't know a socialist if he came up and bit them on the ass. I have to admit that the sole explanation for such incredibly vituperative virulence can only be racial bigotry.

I think the enormous battle to pass this innocuous bill holds up a very unflattering mirror for the American people to look into.

Rather than heralding a "post racial America", the Obama presidency may lead to America's PC "carpet" being finally pulled back and all the nasties that have been carefully swept under it all these years come crawling out, biting and stinging, into the light of day. This may turn out to be very healthy, but it sure wont be pretty. DS


Forensic economist said...

10 years from now, health care in America will resemble that in Europe, and any politician who suggests cutting it will be himself cut. Even now, the teabaggers were chanting "hands off my medicare!"

A lot of the uproar was because the Republicans thought they could win and humiliate the President like they did with Clinton. Instead, they lost a battle that didn't have to be their Waterloo (Boehner's analogy).

Yes, race is a big part of it. Rep Lewis was called nigger, another black congressman was spit on. A hispanic congressman had his home called and a family member told to go back to Mexico.

Stephanie said...

The heart of the bill is based on proposals made back in the 90s by Republicans and their think tanks and were endorsed by some GOPers as recently as 2008. Had this been proposed by a Republican administration, it would likely have passed relatively easily with bipartisan support, although Democrats would likely be raising objections heard only on the marginal left this year.

As it is, the GOP denounce the bill as socialism while the Democrats hail the great progressive victory, and they're both ludicrous claims.

"Instead, they lost a battle that didn't have to be their Waterloo"

I thought the GOP did a fine job of controlling the narrative about the bill and making it hard for the Democrats every step of the way. And it's not over yet by any means.

stunted said...

The only way health care in America will resemble that in Europe in ten years is if Europe dismantles its current systems and begins privatizing. A mouse is far too mighty a creature to symbolize this insult to the word care, let alone reform.

Forensic Economist said...

My impression is that the German system provides universal coverage using private insurance companies, private doctors, and private hospitals with funding coming from employers, employees, and the government, not unlike what the US is moving towards. Someone more familiar with that system can comment.

Stephanie said...

Perhaps you mean Switzerland or the Netherlands? Germany has an NHS, although a system with private insurance was in place earlier -- I think. (I suppose in the eyes of today's GOP Otto von Bismarck would be a crazed lefty loony.)

I can't imagine any American administration or Congress putting the necessary regulations in place for a system like the Swiss'.

The Republican strategy this time was the same as the one in 1994 - kill the bill for political reasons. It almost worked.

stunted said...

Germany does have a private health plan, but it is non-profit, tightly regulated and therefor not at all like what America is moving towards. Switzerland has a private, non-profit system, with supplemental coverage beyond the basic package available from for- profit providers. Holland has a private health plan provided by both for and non-profit companies. France has a system similar to Switzerland's, but the supplemental coverage is bought from non-profit "mutuels". Having lived a long time in France, I am familiar with that system and it is not without its funding issues due to high unemployment, an aging populace and reduced birth rates, therefor more money going out than is coming in. There is also the French left's penchant for not wanting to give an inch on the "aquis sociaux" (entitlements), so when a recent Prime Minister (can't remember which) suggested citizens pay 1 euro out-of-pocket for each visit to the doctor to bring more funds to the system, the left screamed bloody murder about a cynical back-door attempt to turn the entire system over to greedy for-profit, private providers. The French system also reimburses almost all pharmaceutical expenditures through their social security network.

What these different countries' approaches all have in-common, be they for or non-profit, private or government-run is that they are all tightly-regulated systems whose underlying principal is that of a social contract--the idea that we are all in this together; that people should pay according to their ability, but that all should be given roughly the same care. This is totally lacking in America, where the guiding principle seems to be not wanting to pay for someone else's free ride. I apologize for my loose use of the word privatizing; I meant the American definition, which, when applied to healthcare means squeezing people for as much money as you can in a regulation-free environment where the government refuses itself the possibility of purchase of drugs on a wholesale level from pharmaceutical companies who are granted 12 year patents on anything they come up with. The mother of a friend is currently following two courses of medication at $8000 per month, each, and has just been prescribed a last-ditch treatment to be pursued along with the other two, this one at $15000 per month. This is as far as you can get from any of the above systems.

stunted said...

The French system is state-run and different in that respect from Switzerland's.

I also apologize for being strident at times in the comments. Its something I need to shed; its childish, very unattractive and, worse, not conducive to fostering real dialogue. I'll put the high horse in the barn, now. Mi dispiace, carini.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

I'd like to thank you all for your very instructive and well reasoned comments to this thread.