Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Talk about "out of touch", an open letter to McCain

Oh how original, McCain would 'put families in charge' of health care. Don't you get the picture you old fart? RIGHT NOW we are virtually in the following scene:
The doctors, their lawyers, the HMO and their lawyers sit on one side of the negotiating table. I and my family sit on the other. In the distant background, a gaggle of senators is strolling toward the putting green on the 7th hole, hosted by a lobbyist for the Pharmaceutical industry. My employer has just gotten up from the chair beside me and moved over to an empty chair on the other side of the table because [1] it IS costing them a pretty penny to buy their share [even though it is a declining share] of my health benefits and [2] they are getting encouraging signals from the administration and each other that depressed labor market forces me to be less picky and unable to just get up and go talk to some company that DOES offer what was once a standard attraction in the competition for talent: a comprehensive and fully paid health plan. In some cases, the picture includes a union representative, his dentures loose, sitting beside me in his wheelchair and weakly piping up now and then that a "living wage" minus modern health care premiums is now a starving wage and having no coverage for catastrophic illness assures that I risk at some point having to choose between dying and knocking my family from precarious middle class security into the economic gutter.
THAT is the picture you should have in mind. Families that have any health coverage at all, are already being abandoned by employers to fend for themselves against the big guys unless they have a union. Once in a while a John Edwards sits on our side of the table. McCain's parroting of the Bush nonsense spells out a policy that could only exacerbate the situation: it is a position based on nothing but republican faith and ignorance. Why would it appeal to any working class family?

Did you perhaps mean you wanted to put families in charge of their own living wills and life insurance plans? Health care costs more each year because there is more of it and much of it is devoted to remedying preventable but increasingly prevalent health problems of a fat, sedentary nation. Health care costs go up with the number of middle men between me and the physician...the mighty bureaucracy for obscuring responsibility. Health care coverage choices are shrinking toward nil even as we speak.

Even USA Today found it difficult to write unsarcastically. Their two lead paragraphs:

John McCain spent much of last week emphasizing how he's a different kind of Republican. This week, he focuses on his plans for health care, which are more aligned with President Bush and other Republicans.

McCain, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, wants everyone to get a tax credit to either buy insurance or offset the taxes on health care coverage obtained through work. The Arizona senator says variety and competition will help bring down costs. Bush has a similar tactic, offering tax deductions for health care costs.

Oh great! A yet bigger federal budget deficit! In exchange for what? We will get only the dissolution of the last vestiges of collective bargaining power on the part of health care customers, leaving the HMOs as the last corporate powers and the monopolists of health services. The dumb dream of individual families "shopping" for health care is the same old neoconservative market magic unctuously chanted in the face of yet another mounting catastrophe. Those who are awake may know that TODAY most families will be lucky if they can find one provider through their employers. Those employers leave a growing portion of the premium to the worker. When it is even possible to sign up for coverage outside of a group plan, we pay a significantly higher premium or get less service.

I will illustrate the unreality of McCain's imaginary world with an anecdote from someone I know. He is a 50-something engineer paid quite well for his services by one of the worlds largest defense contractors. Like its brethren in the Military Industrial Complex, it is enjoying boom times with several recent years of yet greater profits and stock price growth in each successive quarter. AND YET, last year the menu of health plans was cut from three providers to two. On top of that, a set of hurdles was instituted, via an outsourced agent who is to verify employee's marital status, to deny coverage of spouse if sufficient documentation of marriage is not provided. It will allow them to peel a tiny handful of people off its coverage eligibility rolls. I don't wish to finger the guy by the particulars but despite nearly three decades of Married-filing-jointly IRS returns, he doesn't actually have the documents they want. Why would McCain's borrowed and tired ideas even appeal to an upper middle class professional family?

Your advisers are idiots, McCain. But you are stuck with them since you have no idea what it is like out here in the real world. You should watch Moore's Sicko if you want a hint what it is like on the outside of your limos and jets. Did Bush teach you to stand in front of shuttered factories to console the suckers? Were your feet clean when you got back to the motorcade? You looked as out of place as the helmeted Dukakis peering from a tank. Go back to your own side of the tracks and waste someone else's time.

We already are in charge of our health you republican fool: We don't DARE get sick any more.

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