Monday, February 6, 2012

Get Rich Or Pound Sand

Can't Get The Care Or The Drugs That You Need? Note To Self: "You're On Your Own"

Greetings, one and all, this is the Reckoner speaking, striving to cut through the static of this Political Silly Season, alias...the Presidential Primary Race.

Although the economy remains the most important issue for most Americans, health care isn't far behind. One of the most disturbing aspects of this debate – from the Recorder’s perspective – is how often the human dimension seems to get forgotten or ignored by the candidates grubbing for votes.

We saw this tendency during last month's Iowa caucus, where Danielle Lin came ready to caucus for Republican presidential long shot Ron Paul – until she asked how he'd stop health insurance companies from denying coverage. Not to worry, the former physician responded. Why, he wouldn't even dream of doing such things: “You can't say to the insurance company, 'You have to insure me no matter what I have, I've had a prior disease.' It's like me being on the Gulf Coast and not buying wind insurance until the hurricane's right off the coast.” (Hurricane Katrina survivors might pick a few bones with that statement, too – but that's another posting for another time.) Considering Ms. Lin's status as a breast cancer survivor, this response went over like the proverbial lead balloon...and, while she did have insurance, others weren't so lucky, as she told the press: “I watched three friends die because they didn't have insurance. Nobody can afford private insurance, nobody can. And they're dead.”

Last week, Rick Santorum – another Republican long-shot, or no-shot, depending on how uncharitable you feel – went to bat for The Man, too. This time, the tough questions came from a woman who recounted spending $1.3 million on medications to keep her son alive – yet had also seen many of his friends die, because they couldn't do likewise. Ranger Rick stuck to his guns, however, repeating that time-honored mantra that causes so many Social Darwinist's hearts to skip a beat: let the market do its thing, maaan...let the market do its thing...let the get the idea. The only thing missing in that scenario is the hookah pipe and the meditation rug. For brevity's sake, read the rest of the story here:

But that wasn't even Ranger Rick's silliest statement – that honor goes to this gem: “People have no problem going out and buying an iPad for $900. But paying $900 for a drug, they have a problem with it. It keeps you alive.” People don't exactly go out and buy new iPads every month – but even if they did, the costs probably wouldn't reach the astronomical levels that the health care industry barons have racked up, with nary a peep from the likes of Mr. Santorum. Why? For an inkling, Gentle Reader, visit this link:

And that's before we start on the health benefits that members of Congress get, as this article makes plain:  As the old joke runs...if the folks on Capitol Hill got the same insurance that they palmed off on their constituents, the health care crisis would have been fixed in a day!.

Ron Paul's contributors, on the other hand, seem to be of a different stripe, as this Center for Responsive Politics report suggests.  Like Ranger Rick, Paul suggested charitable care as the best remedy for all those difficult cases – even though charities and nonprofits are struggling to keep their own doors from closing, in the face of budget cuts and decreased support. Perhaps Mr. Paul hasn't gotten the memo yet, but the Reckoner isn't about to test his hypothesis by gambling.

Are these lapses only the province of Repbulicans? Not by a long shot, as the following link'll notice that a certain B. Obama happens to lead the 2011-12 pharmaceutical contribution brigade...surely, you've heard of him! None of these facts will surprise hardened Congressional watchers, but they underscore the dimensions of the problem.

As in past election cycles, when health care is discussed, it's typically couched in terms of numbers, statistics and percentages – but, all too often, with little connection to the people who hurt the most. This is not a theoretical exercise to people who find themselves bankrupted by spiraling medical bills, or lose friends, neighbors and relatives to a profit-driven system that treats them as expendable when they lose their coverage. Unlike Ranger Rick, however, they don't have a lobbyist in their corner, and therefore, no voice.

Until we make a greater effort to heed what those voices are saying, no meaningful progress can be made, as Ms. Lin suggests: "There has to be a middle ground, there has to be regulation to protect American people from corporations. I love Paul's ideas, but there just has to be someone who gets the human piece of this." Time will tell, but until that day finally're on your own. So speaks the Reckoner. --The Reckoner


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