Health Care Scare

Ezra Klein talks about “zombie lies that will not die.” He links to a ridiculous Bloomberg article by Amity Shlaes, who raises the dreadful specter of “government-run health care,” which I assume is a system in which heartless government bureaucrats decide what medical treatments you will receive. This would be a huge departure from our current system, in which heartless insurance company employees decide what medical treatments you will receive.

Shlaes writes,

The administration seems almost to relish the sinister aspect of government-run health care. Otherwise it wouldn’t have created a position called “National Coordinator of Health Information Technology.” That’s a title worthy of Rhineheart, Neo’s boss, who tells him, “This company is one of the top software companies in the world because every single employee understands that they are part of a whole.”

Ezra writes,

This idea that the stimulus bill “created a position” called “National Coordinator of Health Information Technology” got its start in another Bloomberg column written by Betsy McCaughey. She called the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology a “new bureaucracy.”

But this just isn’t true. It’s not sort of true or arguably true or caught in arguments about the nature of truth. George W. Bush created the position of National Coordinator of Health Information Technology in 2004. Five years ago. The current director of the office is a Bush appointee by the name of Robert Kolodner. He has served there since 2006. He exists. If you prick him, he will bleed. If you touch him, he will recoil, because he is subject to our laws of space and time and as such was not somehow created by President Obama back when George W. Bush occupied the Oval Office.

What passes for “opinion” in wingnut world comes from the Pan’s Labyrinth dreamworld they live in. Don’t even try to make sense of it.

Elsewhere in Bloomberg News, John F. Wasik writes a nice piece about single-payer.

In a “Medicare-for-all” program, care would be publicly financed and privately delivered. You would keep your own health- care providers and hospital. The government wouldn’t dictate who your doctor is or choose your hospital. It would be acting more like a huge purchaser bargaining for the best treatment and drugs at the lowest price. …

…There would be a national market and regulation for health policies and no one could be denied affordable coverage. No more “cherry-picking” of only the healthiest people and rejection of the sickest or those with chronic conditions.

Wow, think of that.

Of course, even if their ideas are absurd, the fact that the Right is proposing changes means that we’ve progressed from the position they held as recently as the 1990s, and probably into the 2000s, which was that the health care system we have is just fine the way it is, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I believe George H.W. Bush used those very words in his re-election campaign against Bill Clinton.

With wingnuts, things have to get this bad before they acknowledge there’s a problem. On the other hand, they are grand at making up phantom problems (e.g., Saddam Hussein is going to nuke us) and flogging them ceaselessly. But real problems are uninteresting to them.

In other words, they get worked up over imaginary monsters under the bed and don’t notice the roof is coming off the house.

That’s why Tom Friedman shouldn’t be surprised. He writes today about the financial crisis:

Friends, this is not a test. Economically, this is the big one. This is August 1914. This is the morning after Pearl Harbor. This is 9/12. …

… Yet I read that we’re actually holding up dozens of key appointments at the Treasury Department because we are worried whether someone paid Social Security taxes on a nanny hired 20 years ago at $5 an hour. That’s insane. It’s as if our financial house is burning down but we won’t let the Fire Department open the hydrant until it assures us that there isn’t too much chlorine in the water. Hello?

See also Paul Krugman, “Can America Be Saved?”

12 thoughts on “Health Care Scare

  1. maha, once again you’ve done a terrific job of contrasting opinions that are way off-base against opinions that are right on the mark, resulting in (for me) greater clarity of understanding.

    Thanks especially for that snip from Ezra, disparaging Shlaes. Oh, the indignation of those who do their homework, toward those who don’t. Ezra gets A+ for that wonderful second paragraph. Amity Shlaes gets an F.

  2. maha,
    Let’s put this in a conservative context:
    Listen you ____________(fill in the blank – idiot’s is optional), health care is killing American business. Foreign companies chose to go to other countries beause health care is NOT something the company has to pay for there. So, they build their plants in Canada or Mexico.
    Our jobs are outsourced because it’s cheaper to pay an English-speaker in a foreign land that has health care than to keep the job here.
    So, here it is in a nutshell conservatives: If you’re against health care, you’re against growing American companies and business. You are traitor’s to the American economy and way of life.
    *If we could outsource pundit’s and conservative think tanks because of this, we’d have single-payer in a NY minute.

  3. This argument I hear from the wingnuts constantly about, “I sure don’t want government running my healthcare,” has always just flabbergasted me. I always turn around and say, “you do realize that you are your doctor aren’t running your healthcare today…right? And you do realize that the insurance company that is running your healthcare operates under a primary legal requirement, not to keep you well, but to increase shareholder value? And they fulfill their legal requirement by collecting as much as possible from you, and paying out the least possible…right?”

    I don’t know if I’ve ever changed a mind, but I’ve left more than one person with their mouth hanging open.

  4. Indeed, how does one reason with a 3-year old. One doesn’t. Give him a cookie, buy him a toy, leave the hall light on. Republicans, some anyway, are obsessed with the innate evil of government. They suffer from a phobia which, last time I looked, is a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it.

    That said, a lengthy and probably expensive study of various operating government run and financed health-care systems concluded that the French of all the other operating systems have devised the best one. And hell, we survived their version of fried potatoes what’s to say that we won’t survive if we adopt their version of a health-care system – once we rename it, that is.

  5. Apart from the central thrust of your piece, which is to contrast Wingnut World with Reality, Obama’s often promised computerization of medical records via a “National Coordinator of Health Information Technology” scares me a bit. Until we have a philosophy in place where everyone can get treatment, regardless of past conditions, and cannot be turned away or find themselves suddenly uninsured, such an efficiency will only make it easier for insurance companies to cherry pick. It strikes me as being in the realm of a tweak – a cost savings to the current insurance-centric system we’re now encumbered with, but one with the side benefit that these same companies can now data mine for the best customers, and reject the rest. Their underwriting departments kind of do the same thing today, albeit in a very inefficient, labor intensive way.

    And lets say we do get to that day when the government is running health care – this efficiency will better enable them to ration it. And so while I support whatever costs savings can be obtained by computerization, I’m very leery of who controls this technology.

  6. Under any just (yeah, I know…) system, pre-existing and genetically inclined conditions would have to be something that is covered. If the system does not cover these, then it is NOT the proper system.
    This is what we, the people, must insist on. And if it takes voting out every single SOB in Congress, then, so be it. If it takes more, well, so be it…
    A lot of us are tired of getting screwed around. Especially at a time when a lot of us have nothing to lose. No jobs, no health care, no pensions. Take a look at the Bushville’s around the country. Give people and their children health care, and you go a long way to keeping the peace. Otherwise, I don’t know.
    I’m not advocating violence by any means. I’m just saying you can only keep people down for so long before they reach the point where they feel that they have nothing to lose. And that point is drawing nearer and nearer…

  7. Actually, when you think about it, Republican critics of health care reform are half right. When Republicans like George W. Bush are in charge, the government indeed is heartless. Solution: stop hiring right-wing Republicans.

    The same pretty much applies to insurance companies whose rules and ethics in the last thirty years have been approved and legislated wherever possible by right wing Republicans (with far too many friendly judges appointed). Corporations should be able to make a profit but only if they do no harm. That’s a principle that all too often has been forgotten. Corporations, by law, are a part of society, not exempt from it.

  8. c u n d gulag,
    My daughter and son in law, (along with my 2 grandchildren) live in Spain for exactly the reason you address. My SIL tried to start a business in the States 4 years ago and when he realized he could not offer insurance to employees and still grow a business, he moved to his native Spain. His Spanish conscience could not do anything else. His business is doing well and Spain collects the taxes.

    I think one reason people are not demonstrating in the streets over this (in addition to have 2 jobs_ is that they don’t know what is possible. I have developed a truth in labeling explanation of US National Health Care put forth by HR 676. I would love to share it. It may be on a web site I can send you to after tonight.

  9. dyedinthewoolliberal,
    I’d love to see it. Perhaps maha can give you my e-mail address.

  10. For every healthcare talking point that contains the word “government” just substitute “insurance company” or “insurance company exec”. Then comes the hard part — realize that we can elect the fools out of office but we have not a single drop of influence over others who constitute our shadow government.

    And they like it that way. All the power without any of the obligation.

    And our mission, if we decide to accept it is to rid the halls of Congress of their syncophantic henchmen, because we can.

  11. It’s as if our financial house is burning down but we won’t let the Fire Department open the hydrant until it assures us that there isn’t too much chlorine in the water.

    That *is* silly.

    Now if we were talking about fluoride – you can’t be too careful there.

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