The Health Care Debate

Oct 7th, 2009 | By | Category: Featured Articles, Lead Article, Medicine

(Illustration by Chris Rummell)

There really isn’t much to debate.

The US healthcare system, in its present state, is a failure. It fails those with and without coverage. We spend more, care for fewer and are sicker than the citizens of any other industrialized nation.

We’ve studied it. Americans of all socioeconomic strata are less healthy on every measured basis than their UK counterparts–before or after adjusting for the less healthy lifestyles of Americans. Putting it even more bluntly, the richest Americans, lavished with the finest private health insurance our nation can muster, in the epicenter of global medical and biological research, have more diabetes and higher blood pressure than the poorest of English citizens. Even within our country, Americans within the Veterans Affairs system, a little socialized corner of our healthcare system, are similarly healthier than their privately insured doppelgangers.

As far as the uninsured in this country, an unprecedented phenomenon in the industrial world, allow the independent Institute of Medicine to state the case:

Lack of health insurance causes roughly 18,000 unnecessary deaths every year in the United States. Although America leads the world in spending on health care, it is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not ensure that all citizens have coverage.

The case for socialized medicine in this country has been made, and it has won. Back in June of this year, an overwhelming supermajority of Americans were in favor of a public health plan option. After the long summer–filled with hideous farces of Town Hall meetings, Teabaggers and endless anti-reform propaganda–support remained at supermajority levels. The Senate vote on the package seems to be a fait accompli.

The core of the opposition is an all out appeal to selfishness. Think of the taxes you’ll pay. Seniors, think of what you’ll be forced to share with those younger than you. You might have to wait in line for care if anyone can get it. The hideous core throbbing at the center of all this summer’s hysterics is the toddlerization of Americans as selfish and self-centered consumers–relentlessly stripped of any sort of adult notions of empathy, responsibility for others, investment in the future or delayed gratification. The whole movement has been lead by paid-for shills for the moneyed interests endangered by healthcare reform.

The mob of mooks compelled by these appeals to selfishness–capable only of braying about ‘socialism’ and ‘the constitution’ with no sense of what either really represents–are the rhetorical equivalent of suicide bombers. This summer’s protests reminded me of nothing less than Kermit Roosevelt‘s handiwork, undoing Mosaddeq’s attempt to nationalize the Iranian oil industry. The intent was to drive terror into the hearts of the elected representatives Democratic supermajority–to generate the illusion of mass discontent. The absurdity of the arguments posed at the Town Halls–Death Panels! Marxism! Obama is Hitler for trying to provide Americans with healthcare!–was the entire point. The feeling of being strapped to a bomb generated by having these cretinous and credulous fools
as countrymen is best diffused by ignoring it as bad theater.

It’s worth considering why American doctors are so expensive, where the costs of drugs and medical devices arise. Healthcare reform is, astonishingly enough after nearly a century of struggle, about to happen. These are the points we should be debating and struggling with as the end details are being written.