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Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

For once I thought Pollitt was a little off--especially in her final point. The blame for this emerging fiasco lies squarely in the Obama camp, not in the implied juvenile narcissism of his supporters. The fact that the Obama presidential campaign magnificently utilized grassroots support didn't make it a grassroots movement; the movement was galvanized from above by a spectacular cheerleader-in-chief, Barack Obama himself. But the Obama administration is not approaching healthcare reform like an election campaign: they're sticking, for whatever bizarre reason, to the preposterous fiction that change in the healthcare system can be achieved by a friendly collaboration between partners acting in good faith--as if that's possible with an industry whose existence is parasitic at best and vampiric at worst.

The gloves--which should never have been on at all--should have come off with the first mention of "death panels." The fact that the climate has been allowed to deteriorate to the point where professional politicians feel safe airing this vicious blood libel is not the fault of the people who worked so hard to get Obama elected: it's the fault of the administration, which has not utilized its position to set the pararmeters of the debate. If no one in the Democratic power structure wants to talk frankly about the insurance industry, the Democrats are going to wind up playing defense. And although it's a truism, it doesn't make it any less true: defense is not a winning strategy in politics.

Valentine Frey

Brooklyn, NY

Sep 2 2009 - 3:47am

Web Letter

How did we allow the health insurance industry to make the rules about how we access the care and advice we need to be healthy and productive? Doesn't it strike you as weird that status in marriage or employment determines health insurance "benefits"?

The healthier we all are, the healthier we all become. People carrying disease because they can't get the healthcare to cure them are spreading more disease. People chronically too ill to work leave what they would have done to overworked others, or left undone to all of our detriment. Children too sick to learn do not become our hoped-for future. When older people are too sick to care for themselves, the subsequent loss from our lives of what they have to pass on is incalculable and their subsequent depression brings us all down. We find ourselves with a system creating much more pain, hardship, loss, despair, erosion of values, sickness.

Itis a whole lot easier to control costs by insuring all and making the process easier and cheaper for everyone through sensible incentives like funding medical educations, standing up to Big Pharma with big numbers of consumers, keeping electronic records easily shared with all the doctors dealing with the patient, discussing/researching/determining best practices, encouraging lowering of mal- or less desirable practice, including open access to knowledge of doctors' history, freeing medical personnel from the extra chores and headaches of dealing with cutthroat insurance companies, and encouraging people generally to be more conscious of personal responsibility for their health.

If we were to devise a national attitude toward providing healthcare based on the true goals of optimizing the health of the people while assuring their freedoms of choice, the ultimate result could well be far less costly in the bottom-line sense, while tremendously value generating in the larger sense.

How will having a public option (that's option, not taking away anything anyone likes now) prevent any group from forming their co-op to their liking as yet another alternative? In a real market system, the point is to have a great diversity of options from which the consumer can choose. The consumer gets to be the evolutionary architect of what ultimately they will buy. If the consumer prefers the public option, it may go all the way to single-payer over time. If the consumer prefers the co-op options, they will eventually dominate the market. Consumers seem to be fairly unhappy with the oligarchic system that has evolved from corporate/government collusion. Why not try a more capitalist/socialist collusion based on what actually keeps us healthy?

People seem to be afraid of the word "socialized." The government option is actually based on capitalist theory's idea of competition to create a more broad-based market of choice for the consumer. If the private insurance industry doesn't want government competition, they ought to provide what the consumers actually want, like proper capitalists. But why go through all the trouble of creating business models that serve the consumer when you can pay Congressional reps and clever ad agencies to get the consumer to be your foodsource: suck 'em dry and throw 'em away.

Where are the modern-day protest singers/organizers?

Laurie Corzett

Cambridge, MA

Aug 31 2009 - 5:27pm

Web Letter

Competition in insurance is impossible with a government healthcare option because one of the competitors gets to make all the rules and regulations. Want to lower insurance costs? Quit allowing our legal system to make cash cows of the medical industry and escalate malpractice insurance costs. End the war on a capitalist system that has made this nation the greatest in history. Quit the blind support of labor unions whose motives are no less selfish than the companies for which they work. When Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex, he should have also advised that over-regulation will kill it and place millions on the uninsured and unemployment rolls. Government cannot be everyone’s keeper, and no one will remain to pay the bill. Don’t believe me? Try running a business. After a few years dealing with government bureaucracy, tell me how you feel.

Dennis W. Brandt

Red Lion, PA

Aug 18 2009 - 5:43am

Web Letter

Barack Obama is primarily concerned about success in his presidency. Success does not mean real accomplishments for the benefit of most American citizens. It means the appearance of achievements. With regard to healthcare, his major concern is the mounting cost of Medicare and Medicaid (M&M). It is not a "public option." He has tried and, from reports, now abandoned that substitute for single-payer. He has to get something through Congress for the appearance of success. Probably, it will not be successful in stemming costs--the real problem--unless the legislation cuts back on M&M. He would accept such a bill rather than nothing.

President Obama is not a fighter. He is not even a good negotiator. He is looking towards his future and wants to keep in good standing with future sources of employment, big corporations, including healthcare.

In eight years, if he has two terms, he will be still a young man not near retirement. I don't think he will want to spend his future only on speaking tours and authorship.

If we do not collapse from the decline of the dollar, we shall just continue in our decline as a corrupted nation, an overstretched military power trying to preserve its shrinking influence in the world. Sorry!

Alvin D. Hofer

St. Petersburg, FL

Aug 16 2009 - 11:44pm

Web Letter

You could just as easily ask why homosexuals aren't out in the streets supporting civil unions.

Because it's a watered-down half-measure compromise that has excited almost no one and inspired even fewer to action.

That's how progressives feel about the health plan the Obama administration is supporting.

Before he had even stepped into the discussion, single-payer had already been taken off the table and the public option had already been deliberately crippled to be "competitive" with private insurance.

Meanwhile, Obama's team sat around trying to astroturf support from their e-mail list for a hypothetical plan they hadn't even revealed yet. That's about when I canceled my subscription to the Obama e-mails.

Does that answer your question about why Obama's young campaign volunteer force isn't being good little monkeys and supporting anything and everything the Democrats say?

Rory Woldring

Ypsilanti, MI

Aug 16 2009 - 1:22pm

Web Letter

Why not do what Rush Limbaugh and friends have done, and publish your own analysis of the bills?

I've read Rush, I want to read the other side of the story, and your mushy editorial is the only thing I can find on the subject.

Read the bill, analyze it and let us know your thoughts. Few of us have the time or intestinal fortitude to read 1,000-page bills, so you can gain real influence this way.

Unless you are admitting you have neither time nor fortitude?

Nor courage, since you might find the bill is a genuinely appalling mess?

I'd really love to hear your thoughts.

Read the bill!

David Dennis

Monongahela, PA

Aug 15 2009 - 3:08pm

Web Letter

There is a simple answer to all your concerns, universal single-payer healthcare. Yes, let us get on corners and send letters to the media to inform the public who are woefully ignorant that there is a solution to the healthcare crisis. Any information is being hidden from sight by the administration for such a possibility.

There are people in Congress who have sponsored resolutions to this end, namely, Congressman Conyers's Bill #676 and other amendments to that end.

If Canada can run a successful, strongly supported universal healthcare system, so can we. However, we need a president whose heart and soul should be sponsoring such a bill. Obama is out to lunch on this with his deals with the pharmaceutical representatives and pandering to the Republicans.

Come up to Canada, Mr. Obama, and talk to our healthcare officials as to how it is done, and ignore the false accusations of the private sector in the US about our healthcare system.

I am a US citizen living in Canada who is fortunate to have myself and family covered for all and any health needs.

Pearl Volkov

Burlington, Ontario, Canada

Aug 15 2009 - 8:27am

Web Letter

Katha Pollitt nicely identifies many of the things wrong with the current health care reform process.

The shifting, weakening content of the bills and undemocratic secret deal-making not only make it hard form a movement to support ...what?..as Pollitt says/ They also raise whether there's any reason to do so. The strongest remaining proposal doesn't allow workers who DON'T like what they have to switch. It prevents any public plan from using its competitive advantages. It will subsidize "affordable" plans if low wage uninsured people who aren't Katha Pollitt nicely identifies many of the things wrong with the current health care reform process.

The shifting, weakening content of the bills and undemocratic secret deal-making not only make it hard form a movement to support... what?...as Pollitt says. They also raise whether there's any reason to do so. The strongest remaining proposal doesn't allow workers who don't like what they have to switch. It prevents any public plan from using its competitive advantages. It will subsidize "affordable" plans if low-wage uninsured people who aren't offered insurance by employers, but not plans of similar cost offered by low wage employers. If those workers don't buy what they can't afford, they will be punished with a fine for having low wages. Oh, but they can get a "hardship exemption" granting them the Freedom to be Uninsured! Yay! Er... yay? Oops.

And all this is to be funded in large measure by taking needed money existing Medicare and Medicaid. Sweet.

Meanwhile, insurance will continue to get more and more expensive, with premium inflation slowed mainly by huge deductibles and co-pays. So people will continue not to get needed preventive and early-stage care and continue to go bust when they get seriously ill or injured.

It's lousy to see abusive politics by the right wing probably succeed. But I'm not going to try to help save something so ill-defined as to be indefensible and so rotten and whittled away as to be a step backward, due to cutting existing public programs. Obama and Democratic leaders excluded a single-payer system from discussion. They never defined or educated about the fundamental issues for the public. Now they are paying the consequences of bargaining against themselves in a dishonest, incomplete, paternalistic debate.

There is a single-payer movement. We've made significant strides in breaking down the media and political blackout against us. We have a clear set of ideas for how to provide equal quality healthcare for all affordably to the economy and to individuals, with greater choice of providers. Whether the current politics produce nothing, or something terribly weak, the basic structure of the collapsing system will not change and will continue to collapse. Reform will still be needed. Katha Pollitt should join us, she'd be more than welcome, we could use her sharp mind and clear writing. The issue isn't political realism, it's political will.

Chris Lowe

Portland Jobs with Justice Healthcare Committee<br />Portland, OR

Aug 13 2009 - 8:09pm

Web Letter

Instead of calling those who disagree with you names like "stupid" etc., why not engage on the issues? Why not call Obama out on his lies? Let's begin with the Dem claim that illegal aliens would not be covered. Yes, while its true that the bill under consideration contains that provision, it also provides no provision for demanding proof of citizenship when applying. The 47 million number comes from the census and does include illegals. Next we have the recent comments by Obama that he wants immigration reform or " amnesty" by year's end. Amnesty is just a Trojan Horse to insure illegals by making them legal.

Now let's examine the promise that you will be able to keep your private insurance. Yes, I did hear Obama make this promise. John Doe makes $50K per year. His family plan costs $10K per year, of which his employer pays 70 percent or $7,000. John's employer is given the option under Obamacare to opt out of private insurance and pay a 10 percent penalty on payroll. In John's case the penalty is $4,000, for a net savings of $3,000 per year for the employer. What will the employer do? You guessed it. Force his employees onto the government plan. Obama knows this .

Sarah Palin was wrong in calling them death panels. This is far to harsh for the left to accept. But we are speaking about people who support sucking the brains out of an unborn child simply because its inconvenient or doesn't have blue eyes or they don't want stretch marks.

Dennis Brown

Manalapan , NJ

Aug 13 2009 - 8:05pm

Web Letter

"Do people want reform?" That's like asking if people like food! Getting a consensus on what kind of reform in the rub.

The key to consesus is whether the Blue Dogs can save anything at the end.

John D. Froelich

Upper Darby, PA

Aug 13 2009 - 1:48pm