Well it was good, in the sense that we got a lot done on our to-do list and spent a lot of quality time with the kids.
It was hard because I have this weight in my chest: it is sadness; it is disappointment; it is hopelessness; but above all, it is anger. It has kept me awake at night, tossing and turning. It is that feeling you get when you come face to face with the reality of our government and the way politics works, the way money and greed rule the world.
I don’t watch that much TV anymore, but on Fridays on PBS there are some great programs that showcase the only journalism worth watching. One of these is Bill Moyers’ Journal. I watched it on Friday. Here is a link to the show. Please watch it.
Moyers’ guest is Wendell Potter, an ex VP for Cigna (health insurance company). He is what you would call a whistle-blower: he left the company, as he tells it, because, after facing some of the realities of the health care system in the U.S., he could not in all consciousness continue performing his job. He now reports on what he has seen and what it is that big health insurance incorporations do.
One of the things that it most revolting to me about how industries like this work, is that they spend billions of dollars on lobbyists, on campaigns to get the right weasels into office, and on ads to attack bills that will hurt their bottom line: they spend ALL of this money so that they can continue denying claims, recising policy-holders who are too sick, and raising premiums and co-pays etc… in essence, spending as little as possible on their policy-holders in order to give more back to their investors. It is such a massive disconnect for me… the logic there: it seems irrational, immoral, incoherent, and just plain stupid.
How can whether or not we get the health care we need be about profit? How can whether you live or die be about money?
Some of what he talks about is not totally new or surprising, especially if you have seen Michael Moore’s documentary Sicko (and if you haven’t you should). But it is disheartening… to say the least, to hear an insider confirm many of the allegations Moore made (not to mention to hear him talk about how the industry tried to discredit Moore.)
I was so intrigued and outraged by what he recounts that I got on to Moyers’ webpage on PBS and read more and watched a previous episode (May 22nd) found here, where two medical doctors (Wolfe and Himmelstein) explain why they, and many health care providers, support what is called a “Single-payer” health care system. This is, in a word, a universal health care system under which all Americans are covered. (Hospitals and doctors remain private, but they only bill one entity—the government. Patients can go to any doctor or hospital they choose.) They claim this actually frees doctors to do what they do and what they should be doing: treating their patients.
Both episodes talk about the memos that are sent around Washington by lobbyists and such guiding people from the health insurance industry and even politicians (mostly Republicans) on what language to use that will most successfully frighten the American people into rejecting a universal health care system or even a public option. They use terms like “socialism” (very dirty word), “coercion,” “lack of choice,” “interminable waiting,” “rationing of care” etc. The worst part is that Americans fall for it every time: we are naïve and gullible to our own detriment.
One of the best lines from the Wendell Potter interview was that they scare you now by saying that you will have a government bureaucrat between you and your doctor, but right now you have a CEO between you and your doctor (who has his own 7 digit salary and his company’s profit in mind, NOT your medical needs). Ahh! The irony of it all!
Can you imagine not being able to call the fire department when your house was on fire because you could not pay for it? Can you imagine not being able to call the police because you were being robbed because you had not contracted their private services. Can you imagine not being able to get an education (even with the sad state of our educational system) because you couldn’t pay for it? Our tax dollars pay for so many social services it is asinine to say that health care should not be one of them.
I have insurance. I have great insurance. (Even so, having a baby costs us about $2000 out-of-pocket.) But once I am no longer eligible to teach, if I don’t have a job, with benefits, I will have to pay COBRA… which is about ¼ of my husband’s salary. If I am ever left insurance-less, I am… how can I put this delicately… totally up shit-creek. You see, I fall into that category of what they call the “uninsurable.” I had cancer at 28. Luckily I had insurance and my out-of-pocket was only a fraction of the total bill for: 5 surgeries, a year of treatment, numerous CT scans, MRIs, PET scans, Dr visits, biopsies, pain meds, IV antibiotics, etc. Even though I have been cancer-free for 6 years (yay!), once I am not covered, no one will want to cover me for a price I can afford to pay… if at all.
When you look at the statistics of how many Americans are uninsured or under-insured, or a step away from losing their insurance it is staggering. When you consider that and then look at what we pay for health care compared to other countries and then consider that our system is ranked one of the last among first world, industrialized nations—it is embarrassing and horrifying. When Drs. Wolfe and Himmelstein talk about how much money would be saved by adopting a single-payer national health care program, it is mind-blowing.
What haunted me the most were Bill Moyers’ closing words, the entire commentary can be found here:
“[…] It's happening to health care as well. Even the pro-business magazine THE ECONOMIST says America has the worst system in the developed world, controlled by executives who are not held to account and investors whose primary goal is raising share price and increasing profit – while wasting $450 billion dollars in redundant administrative costs and leaving nearly 50 million uninsured.
Enter "the select few who actually get it done." Three out of four of the big health care firms lobbying on Capitol Hill have former members of Congress or government staff members on the payroll – more than 350 of them – and they’re all fighting hard to prevent a public plan, at a rate in excess of $1.4 million a day.
Health care policy has become insider heaven. Even Nancy-Ann DeParle, the White House health reform director, served on the boards of several major health care corporations.
President Obama has pushed hard for a public option but many fear he’s wavering, and just this week his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel – the insider del tutti insiders – indicated that a public plan just might be negotiable, ready for reengineering, no doubt, by “the select few who actually get it done.”
That’s how it works. And it works that way because we let it. The game goes on and the insiders keep dealing themselves winning hands. Nothing will change – nothing – until the money lenders are tossed out of the temple, the ATM’s are wrested from the marble halls, and we tear down the sign they’ve placed on government – the one that reads, ‘For Sale.’”
After watching these programs, I did the only thing I could do on a Friday night at 10:00. I sent an email to President Obama. I urged him to do the right thing for our country: support universal health care. It is not just the moral choice, the ethical choice, the financially- sound choice, the logical choice, the humane choice… it is the ONLY choice.
The people that cut and color your hair, the people that serve you at your favorite restaurant, the people that take care of your kids while you work, the people who wash your clothes at the dry-cleaners, the people who scrub your toilet and mow your lawn. They all… WE all elect public officials to do what is in OUR interest, not the interest of Wall Street, not the interest of Washington. When will we be dealt a winning hand?
In one of the interviews, one of the guests quotes Winston Churchill who said something to the effect that “you can always count on Americans to do the right thing… after they have exhausted every possible alternative.” How long will it take to do the right thing?
Read another commentary here by Mrs. G. at the Women’s Colony.