By Sharon Dooley.
Soon Senator Max Baucus from Montana will re-open the long dialogue on health care in the United States. He is known to be averse to continued in-depth discussions on a single payer National Health Plan. He has claimed to be interested in providing a bipartisan solution to this problem of the uninsured and ever more expensive health care costs. However he had protesting physicians thrown out of recent hearings where current industry lobbyists were the featured presenters.
A Maryland physician and my friend – Margaret Flowers was among the protesters arrested at this hearing; she was jailed for several hours, as were many of those who were with her. The purpose of this protest was to request the inclusion of advocates for single payer in his schedule of hearings. As a long time advocate for healthcare and a member of the profession, I do not understand why these ideas cannot be discussed in the Senate. Is this not the place and time to have all ideas presented and examined to see whether or not they can stand on their own merits? Could the single payer idea be such a dangerous one that it should be quashed? Does not the fact that many national physicians and health care leaders are behind this movement give it credibility?
Are we, as a nation, going to allow this most important discussion to be controlled by industry lobbyists?
Have others not noticed the baby steps being taken by the insurance executives to undo some of their past excesses? In recent months there has been willingness voiced to cease the excess fees charged for women (as they might have pregnancies), to increase COBRA (but not forgoing the excessive fees that make it difficult for many to afford) and other possible roll backs for some fees. But does this not sound like a teenager wanting the car keys vowing to take out the trash and mow the lawn despite broken promises in the past? Have there been any lobbyist promises to reduce the excessive salaries paid to industry executives, even as they are denying claims in order to protect shareholders interests? Medicare works well and has no preexisting clauses, yet these greedy companies insist that this prohibition is necessary to their survival as an industry. Medicare has not taken away the local physician option, so why have these companies thrown out the threat that patients will be denied services and cannot see their choice of providers. The specter of “Harry and Louise” looms behind the scenes and according to recent news reports is being raised in small markets across the country already. The single payer advocates are apparently unaware of just how strident some of the voices will be against their plans. But perhaps the arguments are both more singular and sinister than they expected. The sight of 47 million uninsured Americans means little to these powerful groups; the loss of income and power is more real to them. And – as history has shown over the centuries – those in power (for example the Blue Shield lobby) do not surrender this power easily or gracefully.
Another group claiming fiscal conservatism is already mounting media campaigns against expanding the health care models available in this country and raising the ghost of socialism once again. The question of getting government out of the business of health care is again voiced, but with Medicare and Medicaid both serious and significant options for an ever growing number of residents here, it is obvious that Federal interest is strong and staying. President Obama was seen as a supporter of a single payer plan; many hope that those in his own party do not try to dissuade him of this idea. Many Americans do have good healthcare and as a country it spends a lot, but we need to look at all practices to determine if we are spending these dollars wisely. Medicare is already examining outcomes to determine which decisions produce the healthiest patients. However, debates are again lining up along political lines even though disease sees no such boundary – this should not be a discussion that ends up with the least palatable choices – but with one that looks at all suggestions and chooses the one that reaches the most people in America and truly provides healthcare for all.
MPW readers need to follow closely the votes of our elected representatives in these important arenas in the next few weeks. I urge that each of you share your most informed opinions with these officials during this process.
Sharon Dooley is a healthcare consultant and former nurse.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
By Sharon Dooley.