Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Democrats Have Already Drifted Off Course

During the tumultuous primary season for the Democratic Party's nomination for president, many a Democrat shied away from backing Hillary Clinton due to her draconian health care reform message. Mrs. Clinton had been calling for a mandatory medical insurance program for every American, one which you had to buy insurance or face hefty fines.

To be fair, there were provisions in Mrs. Clintons plan to provide funding to expand the Medicare and Medicaid programs and to add additional funds to help those who couldn't afford their premiums to maintain their private insurance. There would be a 'clearinghouse' set up for Americans to go and be able to pick a plan that best suited their needs.

It was pointed out during the primaries by many of us that the 'universal' health care package being proposed by Mrs. Clinton was nothing short of extortion on one hand, due to the fine enforced mandatory buy in, (or the possibility of garnished wages) and that there wouldn't be any money in the current economy to fund the plans of those who couldn't afford to buy in, but made a dollar a month more than the current Medicaid cut off levels. In other words, even more people may have ended up with no medical coverage instead of more. Furthermore, we pointed out that Mrs. Clinton's plan did absolutely nothing to cut the middlemen out of the Medicaid and Medicare programs. In short, it was little more than a massive give away to the insurance industry.

Barak Obama rejected the Clinton plan right up to the moment he won the election. He had his own vision to expand health coverage, and while not perfect, did not include anything that was mandatory, nor was the word fine included in any of his plan's language.

Enter Democratic Senator Max Baucus of Montana. The Senate Finance Committee Chairman has just entered the fray with his own version of nationalized health care. It is so far to the right of what either President (elect) Obama or Senator Clinton proposed that it rightly is being called authoritarian by conservatives. The Baucus plan has ALL of the provisions that the Clinton plan has, but also includes a provision from the McCain plan. Not only does Max Baucas want to force every American to buy health insurance whether they can afford it or not, but once you get it, he believes you should be taxed on your health benefits once they reach a certain amount.

What sort of hogwash is this? Baucus, a moderate Democrat, can't determine which side of the fence he is on with regards to this issue, and so he see-saws and includes elements of both? As Senate Finance Chairman, Senator Baucus has presided over the past two years of suffering by Americans who could not go to the doctor. Everyone loves making believe that 'only' 47 million Americans have no health insurance, when we all know that figure is closer to 65 million. And that number says nothing of those who have insurance with such high deductibles, that when they get sick, they still can't afford to go to the doctor. Baucus has also ignored repeated pleas to change the Medicaid and Medi-Care systems back to their original form.

Right now, millions of Americans are in possession of a worthless Medicaid card. Medicaid, the program that was designed to ensure that the poorest among us could receive health care was given away by Bush and the Republican Congress to private insurance companies. Divided into 'sectors of control', a different insurance provider is given big chunks of the Medicaid program to run in different areas of the country. When a person receives Medicaid benefits, they must choose between one of two insurance providers who are now their HMO. The person's Medicaid benefits are assigned to the insurance company, who then places ever higher deductibles for office visits, specialist visits, and medications.

What's that? Yes. You're right. Medicaid was supposed to provide free medical care to the poor, but right now, all it provides is a massive infusion of taxpayer cash into the pockets of the fat cats. The more the insurance provider saves the government, the bigger their bonuses are. So the incentive for the HMO's running Medicaid are to make sure people get LESS medical treatment so they can get more of your MONEY. Baucus knows this, and has done absolutely nothing to stop it. He is, after all, a politician first, and politics and big business could care less about constituents or right and wrong once the election is over.

The incoming Obama Administration is already showing signs of politicking. There were promises made of NO lobbyists in or around an Obama Administration. None, zero, zilch, nada. But we now have statements by the President (elect) that it's ok to have been a lobbyist and work for him, so long as it was at least a year ago in a different area. But, as we all know, once you open that door, the floodgates open soon after. Now we have those surrounding Obama pushing through Hillary Clinton's health care plan, one that would force more hardships on people than it would help.

Unless the Democrats are prepared to completely revamp the insurance laws, none of this will ever be viable, and has the potential to be the biggest boondoggle the Democrat's have come up with in a very long time. All of the talk of expanding the Medicaid and Medicare programs to include more of those who can't afford to buy coverage would only fatten the coffers of the insurance companies, and do absolutely nothing to really cover anyone. Unless and until Baucus and other Democrats obtain the political backbone to take the incentives to provide less coverage away from the HMO's, you can put everyone in America on Medicaid and no one would be covered. And in this worsening economy, the 'deductibles' should be banned also. It is of course only right to expect those who are able, to pay a small fee for Medicaid services. But not when it has gotten to the point where parents are not taking their children to their doctors or buying medications due to having to choose between health care and food. The Democrats should go back to the old system where the government actually controlled the programs, and it will save billions and billions of wasted taxpayer dollars per year. Cut out the middleman if you will.

This same rule should apply to those who can't get on Medicaid or Medi-Care. Imagine the frustration of those who pay $250.00 or more per month for health coverage only to find that nothing is covered when they get sick, the deductibles are way out of reach, and dental or eye care is many dollars extra. This ripoff and scam has been going on for so long that Americans just accept it as the status quo. But it doesn't have to be this way.

If Baucus pushes through his bastardized version of the Clinton health care plan, we're talking about everyone being forced to buy insurance, whether you can afford to or not. Choices will quickly start arising of having to buy food or pay your premiums. Because a sneaky little part of the penalty aspect of this plan dictates that you can be fined for being late on your insurance payment! That's not Socialism, that's Authoritarianism. Don't pay your fine? They'll snatch your tax refund.

Democrats need to go forward very carefully when it comes to health care reform. The things they're putting forth right now rightly have many right wing groups warily eyeing the entire issue, and has those of us on the left outraged that plans are being floated around that smack of a totalitarian state. Besides, it's not 'Universal Health Care' we're talking about here any way. If we were, we'd all pay a certain amount of tax and health care, prescriptions, and hospital stays would be covered by the government. So let's call this what it truly is. Let's rename the entire affair the Mandatory Human Insurance Program, kind of like mandatory car insurance, but for people. If you breathe, you pay. See, the politicians have to pay back the ones who donated to their campaigns, and surely we the People must understand that, right?
This and any other health care plans that don't include cutting the insurance companies out of the government programs is just another ripoff of taxpayers and an attempt to placate the People. We'll wake up a few years from now with people sitting in the new debtor's prisons who couldn't afford health coverage and the 65 million uninsured will be covered by a program that does little to alleviate the suffering that goes on today. The Democrats have an opportunity to change everything about our health care system, making insurance affordable for all, and making Medicaid and Medicare viable programs again while cutting costs across the board. But it's going to take bold moves. Any stutter stepping or baby steps will be fiercely resisted by both Corporate America and the right, so a massive effort must be undertaken quickly. Without lobbyists, and without the influence of corporate interests. Americans no longer care what's good for the Corporate World, we care about what's the best path for our nation. Democrats should keep that in mind, and act accordingly.

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