The Health Care Debate in the Times or “Live from New York – It’s Saturday Night!”

December 20th, 2009

How does one debate the subject of life and death? Really, what are we pretending is happening here? Either access to medical care is a basic right of citizens in a civilized society or it’s a privilege restricted to middle and upper income level consumers (until such time as it’s withdrawn by those conferring the privilege). Journalists like Gail Collins and David Brooks keep showcasing the misrepresentations and excuses of those proponents of retaining privilege for a select few (getting fewer by the day). However, life tends to be rather uncompromising. The heart beats or it doesn’t. If we don’t offer access to even basic health care now to the millions lacking it or about to lose it, there won’t be another chance to do so for decades to come. This is a defining moment for America. The deficiencies in the bill will certainly highlight the fact that America stands for it’s corporate citizens but that will only help the citizens with the beating hearts to better understand the changes which have to be made. It is better to learn about that while being able to see a doctor so you can lower your blood pressure while getting acquainted with these truths.

Unfortunately, the media is just another form of ‘show biz’, further separating people from important direct and concise summations of issues. The NY Times demonstrates how little can be learned from participating in the pomp and circumstance of a 24 hour news cycle when journalists reiterate their diametrically opposing points in ‘counterpoint’. You don’t really have a conversation that way but just fill more space with the same signatures.

So, when this weeks NY Times Op Ed columnists, David Brooks and Gail Collins each posted their views of the current health reform nonsense – that bipartisan race to preserve medical care for the healthy and wealthy – it is impossible not to recognize how this country turns a basic philosophical premise about how we view human life into a comedy sketch. I keep expecting Brooks to address Collins as “Gail, you ignorant slut.”, in a parody of the old Saturday Night Live take-offs of similar debates to the ‘Conversations‘ of these two writers.

In her column this week entitled, “The New Perils of Pauline“, Gail Collins demonstrates the classic dilution of feminist theory and rhetoric as she competes for attention with male colleagues in this still mostly-male domain. David Brooks presented us with his ‘views’ in another colunm, “The Hardest Call“. Brooks is the Times’ resident conservative who continues to make abject apologies to the Republican party for breaking faith with them and voting for Obama.

Let’s get down to the basics. Women in this country are far more likely to be uninsured due to underemployment and therefore more likely to fall into unemployment and disability/homelessness than our male compatriots. Women raise children and are essential to the workforce. How is depriving women of health insurance contributing to the economic stability of the United States? As far as looking for equity in medical care for women (e.g. reimbursed for birth control or coverage for abortion as men are covered for Viagra prescriptions), we have to start with a woman’s right to coverage for a simple appendectomy. The rest will come through legislation or litigation by healthy women in active pursuit of that goal.

Don’t ask David Brooks for answers, Ms. Collins. He cited his fears that a vote to allow another thirty million Americans access to health care will lead to overconsumption of services which will then raise health care costs. Should we assume Mr. Brooks is going to forgo health care when he gets sick in order to prevent such a rise in costs? Never mind, that’s another ‘conversation’ which shouldn’t take place.

Health care costs cannot be studied in the same manner as other relationships between goods/services and consumption. This is because consumption of health care services is not dictated by a positive leaning towards a product like that second TV gracing so many households. It is dictated by a problem which likely shouldn’t exist – that of enormous rates of sickness in the population. The mapping of health care provided to the population is a map for understanding the nature of illness itself and the actual key to reducing need, and therefore demand, for medical services.

Legislation to ban smoking in workplaces and public places was based in the high costs of medical services to people with tobacco-related ailments. The controversy surrounding this landmark legislation meandered around the block many times into the land of ‘free choice’, Big Brotherdom and loss of income to bars and restaurants where smokers gather to, well, choke together over coffee or gin and tonics.

Even physicians were among the doubting Thomases despite knowing how harmful smoking is to their patients. To everyone’s astonishment (okay, not mine but I’m an asthmatic who can detect cigarette smoke from a block away), passage of this legislation led to a reduction in heart disease/cardiac events in the population by one third! Non-smokers were dropping like flies because they became secondary consumers of tobacco products without such legal protections. Imagine the savings in health care costs, not to mention human suffering!

Here is my comment to Ms. Collins as she wanders through the labyrinth of corporate America’s road blocks with her fellow journalists.

368. B.R.
West Lebanon, NH
December 19th, 2009
3:04 pm

Ms. Collins,

Perhaps you are having too many ‘conversations’ with David Brooks. Your writings are becoming more ‘centrist’ than objective views of reality. America is owned by corporations. Corporate interests don’t want universal health care in the U.S. for two reasons:

1. Provision of health care is profitable when given to the privileged at high premiums. I call it a privilege since the corporations can revoke the contract seemingly at will.

2. Universal health care means accurate statistics regarding illness and better tracking of causation for those ailments. That has led the EU to implement such remedies as REACH in which new and untested chemicals must be studied for potential harm to consumers before marketing. The requirement for complete product labeling is also a huge aid to consumers there in making healthy choices. Our corporate owners need to retain their veil of secrecy about how the pollution of air and water, and our adulterated foods and other consumer goods taken into our homes has been responsible for driving up the need for health care services. Fears of overconsumption driving up health care costs (Brook’s position) is completely misleading to the public.

A third of adult Americans (16-64) have a chronic illness or disability according to the CDC; one in six children a developmental disability according to pediatrician, Dr. Phillip Landrigan of Mt. Sinai. Three of ten workers can expect to file for disability according to the Social Security Agency.

Overconsumption of services has its base in the need for said services, all courtesy of corporate America. Please address your sharp journalistic eye to the real underpinnings of our failure to pass health care in any form. There is no debate here and passage of a bill authorizing access to health care is the thin end of the wedge which will lead to further refinements/improvements over time.

Right now, too many are flat out of time. Women are disproportionately affected as well, being more prone to autoimmune diseases provoked by environmental causes. Let’s not pander to the predominantly male game players who are confident they will win while pretending ambivalence in the matter.

Thank you,
Barbara Rubin

Categories: NY Times, Published

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