Letter to a Republican friend regarding the health care debate.

Posted: February 13, 2012 in Healthcare
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

If people don’t want nationalized health care, will they be willing to give up Medicare or, if they are service men and service women, the VA? At the risk of sounding preachy, never underestimate the American people’s propensity to argue against their own interests. Often, they do so because they have been manipulated; the ideological right has it down to a science. Just mention the word “socialism” and rightees conjure up images of the Soviet Union or worse. Frankly, I think that the most vocal of those pushing back against the so-called public option wouldn’t know socialism if it hit them in the head.

Months ago, when the health care bill was in its infancy, I said to my son, Mike, wait until you see how the right plays this thing. The debate will not be on the merits of providing healthcare to more people; it will be about process…capitalism versus socialism…God fearing people versus the godless (aka secularists)…the founding fathers versus Karl Marx. And, sure enough, the debate ducked the moral imperative of providing for the least among us. Rather, it was about political ideology (or the misunderstandings associated with those competing ideologies).

As I said before, most people don’t know what socialism is beyond what they hear from the fear mongers. That can easily be expanded to include capitalism, too. After all, if capitalism runs the current health care system then capitalism doesn’t work, because the health care system doesn’t work. In fact, I would argue that the whole idea of for-profit medicine should be questioned, because profit and caring for the sick and infirm are at odds with one another. To make my point, a physician’s oath says nothing about economic systems, profit or anything of the like. It only defines the relationship between doctor and patient. Yet, standing between the physician and his or her patients is an insurance company whose responsibility is not to patients, or the doctor, but to stockholders and investors.

If that isn’t troubling on its face, let’s say your physician’s practice became so big that she sought an infusion of capital to make it even bigger. Being a good promoter, her capital needs were met by a few wealthy investors…you included. You were attracted by what you believed was a reasonable expectation of capital growth. Well, as it turned out, the projections were not met. During a visit to her office…you were desperate to get relief from a recurring nightmare in which you had to go to an emergency ward of an inner city hospital to seek routine treatment instead of going to your own family doctor…you voiced your disappointment in the financial performance of your doctor’s business. “What do you intend to do about it,” you demanded to know. The good doctor thought for a moment, and then offered two choices. She could either cut costs, thereby allowing a greater share of revenue to hit the bottom line. Of course, patient services would have to be cut, and people let go but, as she said, “business is business.” The other option would be for investors to simply accept the lower level of profitability.

With the options laid out, she then asked what you would do if you were in her shoes.

Well, the ideological right often talks about the founding fathers as if they could have anticipated the mess we are in. Of course, they couldn’t. Nor did they address things that are often attributed to them by some of the more outspoken right-wing manipulators. But, what the right fails to discuss is the concern that several of those founding fathers had about the inherent unfairness of capital aggregation at the expense of the common man. But that’s not why I brought up the Founding Fathers. I did so to ask if, given what we do know about the philosophical underpinnings of the Constitution, the founding fathers would approve of our current health care system. And, to take it one step further, if were they around now to start another nation somewhere, don’t you think they would include access to health care in with “promote the general welfare”? I do. In fact, I think that the founding fathers would expand greatly on the checks and balances that they built into our Constitution. And I think that they would be sickened by the influence that corporate money has on their political system, let alone our dysfunctional health care system. And I think that they would be angry as hell at those on both sides of the aisle who claim to hold the ideological high ground when all they are doing is holding on to their corporate benefactors.

The health care debate has never been about caring for the sick, or the needy, or the new moms, or the unborn, or the elderly, or the millions of children who have never had a well-care visit with a physician. It has only been about profit and greed and status quo. America, I fear, is ungovernable. While I believe that the things that divide us are more imagined than real, even imagined differences, when fueled by enormous sums of money, cause otherwise good people to lose their humanity.

Brian McCabe

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