Thursday, December 17, 2009

When Corporations Run Government This Is What You Get

When corporations have undue influence on government you can count on one thing: the interests of the corporations will always be placed before the interests of individuals. Never has this been more true than in the devolution of the Senate version of H.R.3590 - The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act aka the health care reform bill. And regardless of your political party affiliation or whether you are for or against the bill, you should find the handling of this bill by the Senate and the White House deeply troubling.

Obviously no one really believed that in just one year after an election, albeit an historic one, the world of Washington politics was going to dramatically change. However, I suspect that most people did hold out hope that our elected officials would finally realize that the American people were no longer naive and/or clueless about the influence peddling that occurs in our nation's capitol. I believe that most Americans, at least the progressives that I know, held the hope that their elected representatives would respect their intelligence and realize that while they may have been fooled more times than they care to count, they can't be fooled all of the time. Yet sadly it appears that a lot of people in Washington didn't receive that memo. Because now the American people are being asked to be happy about a proposed Senate health bill that throws them a few crumbs but leaves the most vulnerable in society at the mercy of the insurance industry.

Yes, there are a few good things in the current version of health care reform bill but let's all be honest. If an insurance company is allowed to charge a senior citizen three times as much for their health care coverage does it really matter if there is no longer a doughnut hole in their prescription coverage? In fact, the amendment that would have made a significant difference in the the cost of prescription drug costs, the Dorgan/Snowe amendment, was rejected in order to protect the interests of Big Pharma

Here's what we are now being asked to cheer. A bill that opens for the door for a senior citizen who currently pays $200/mo ($2,400/yr) for supplemental Medicare coverage to now see the possibility of that rate jumping to $600/mo ($7,200/yr). In that scenario, the Senate's bill would, at best, guarantee that that senior faces extreme financial hardship or, at worse, force them to choose to forego medical care that they may desperately need.

In another scenario, a young person, with what is currently considered "a pre-existing" condition, could be forced to purchase an insurance plan at an exorbitant rate. That certainly wouldn't leave much money left over to spend on the other items that help fuel our economy, would it?

In both of these scenarios, the only entity that is really benefiting is the insurance company. Surprise, surprise!

As physician and former Gov. Howard Dean wrote in his article, Health Care Bill Won't Bring Real Reform, for the Washington Post:
"Real health-care reform is supposed to eliminate discrimination based on preexisting conditions. But the legislation allows insurance companies to charge older Americans up to three times as much as younger Americans, pricing them out of coverage. The bill was supposed to give Americans choices about what kind of system they wanted to enroll in. Instead, it fines Americans if they do not sign up with an insurance company, which may take up to 30 percent of your premium dollars and spend it on CEO salaries -- in the range of $20 million a year -- and on return on equity for the company's shareholders. Few Americans will see any benefit until 2014, by which time premiums are likely to have doubled. In short, the winners in this bill are insurance companies; the American taxpayer is about to be fleeced with a bailout in a situation that dwarfs even what happened at AIG."

In an interview with MSNBC's Keith Olbermann former Cigna executive Wendell Potter calls the current version of the Senate health care reform bill, a big gift for the (insurance) industry.

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This bill is a travesty. Even worse, anyone who has the courage to speak out against this sell-out to the insurance industry is being labeled as "irrational" and their dissent is being misrepresented.

During an interview with Keith Olbermann, Lawrence O'Donnell touched on why it seems that Howard Dean's comments are being taken out of context as well as why the White House seems to be more upset with Dr. Dean than the obstructionist Sen. Joe Lieberman:

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In a post for The Hill, Alexander Bolton quotes Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) as saying: “This bill appears to be legislation that the president wanted in the first place, so I don’t think focusing it on Lieberman really hits the truth." And that takes me back to the heart of this post.

As long as election campaigns involve obscene amounts of money, then corporations will have undue influence in politics. And when corporations have undue influence in politics you can count on one thing: the interests of the corporations will always be placed before the interest of individuals.

So who is to blame for this madness? Sen. Lieberman, Pres. Obama, Harry Reid, Congress, the lobbyists? Or maybe we should all take a look in the mirror. Because if we quietly sat by while our government was sold to corporate interests we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Related posts:

An Appeal for Real and Comprehensive Health Care Reform

Health Care Reform - How Bad Do We Want It?

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