As our first JFK told us: “Life is unfair.” Barak Obama is not only our newer JFK, but is also a believer in delivering bad news. Along with his penchant for operating in the midst of an ever-expanding forest of American flags, the President-elect is now signaling that the victims of America’s deficit spending on wars without end and corporate bailouts will be- Ta-dah!- shlubs like me, present and future pensioners, Medicare and Social Security recipients.
Universal single payer health care is “D.O.A.,” just like the luckless out-of-towner in the great Film Noir movie. No need for Harry and Louise this time around to kill universal health care. Obama and friends in the private insurance industry on his team are smarter than that. Michael Moore, meet (again!) the guy who challenged “Sicko”’s facts on CNN and Larry King, Sanjay Gupta. Obama’s telegenic Surgeon General will play both Harry and Louise. Bad health will be redefined, like the mortgage crisis, as the victim’s fault. Only stupid people get sick.
Back to the Youtube tape of the Moore and Gupta debate on “Larry King Live”. Dr. Gupta’s “ factual attack” on “Sicko” centered on the relative comparative costs between Cuban and American health care. Does American health care cost $7100 or $5000 per free American and does Cuban cost $25 or $250 per comrade? Who cares, already? Anyone with insurance (or without) knows that the American estimate is darn close to the truth and more than the ninety miles from the Cuban estimate. Try at least a twenty-five to one ratio for private v. universal insurance in both countries. Gupta cited the lower health ranking for Cuba (avoiding European comparisons) by the World Health Organization. We know Cuba’s excuse for a lower rank than Northern Europe, but, what’s ours?
With cuts in Medicare in the offing, according to the New York Times, what my mother used to call “sweet talk” from the personable Dr. Gupta as Obama’s Surgeon General will avoid radical talk about national health care comparable to France or Canada. After all, Dr. Gupta reminded Moore, health care is not really “free.” If neurosurgeon Dr. Gupta carried his own private, high deductible, policy as I have for an unemployed friend, he would learn how many thousands of dollars one pays yearly for nothing at all by way of routine health care. But that is apparently outside of his experience. Shorter waiting times in the good old USA are his selling point, unless your option is an emergency room, assuming you have an option. The hours spent fighting the insurance companies over your claims aren’t counted as time waiting for medical service.
After 9-11, I had a dream. Had Bush and Rove been opportunistic progressives instead of opportunistic neo-cons, they could have elevated universal public health care to a national security priority. Not just inspections of imported food, but an agenda to prepare for any plague introduced by terrorists. Why? Because epidemics are democratic and don’t ask for proof of insurance before they sicken and kill. Couldn’t the Democrats have made the same pitch after 9-11? They didn’t for the same reason universal health care has not been trotted out lately as part of the bailout of the domestic auto industry in competition with foreign corporations whose employee health costs are nationalized: it’s great to have friends in high places, and American insurance companies have that with the Obama administration, just as they did when Bush ruled the roost. It’s not only in Chicago that you pay to play.
The future, fellow and sister shlubs? Your right to health care might be eroded, but your right to die with dignity will be elevated to a civic duty because it just costs so much to keep very sick (old) people alive. Why? Because “Life is unfair” So is healthcare.. If you can’t work anymore and your retirement has been obliterated, there will be always a piece of ice floating by or a tall bridge.
STEVE CONN lived in Alaska from 1972 until 2007. He is a retired professor, University of Alaska. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org