It is interesting watching the debate about health care reform, especially because it is hard to tell who is actually trying to reform the US health care system, and who is just looking out for their own interests:
- One of the most ironic things is how the government and the media (even including those people who are leading the charge for health insurance reform) are conspiring to eliminate any mention of a single payer insurance system. This, despite the fact that a strong majority of Americans favor single payer, and it is the most common system in other first world nations. The main reason they give for this (when they are asked at all) is that it is just not “politically possible”. Which to me means “the insurance companies are just too powerful and won’t allow it”. Indeed, the insurance industry ranks second in money spent on lobbying (the number one spot is held by the pharmaceutical and health products industry). Two other health related industries — hospitals, and health professionals — are on the list of top twenty lobbyists. Together, those four health-related industries spent a combined $4.2 billion over the last ten years on lobbying alone.
- Second, even though the Republican Party has been working overtime lately to take obstructionism to a new level, they have been curiously silent about health care reform, and sometimes even supportive. A new light was shed on this with the publication of a set of talking points from Republican consultant Frank Luntz on health reform, which seem to urge Republicans to co-opt the language of health reform in order to sabotage any actual or meaningful reform. In other words, Luntz says that Republicans should say they are for health reform, but qualify that by using feel-good phrases like “we need a uniquely American approach”.
- Likewise, reading the writing on the wall, the health insurance industry is promising to reform itself. This is the same thing it did in 1977 to prevent Carter from imposing reforms on the industry. And they did it again as part of the defeat of health reform during the Clinton administration. Look how well those reforms worked. The industry hopes that it can kill any choice of public insurance, so they can retain their stranglehold.
- But the most bizarre thing is that while the Republican Party itself has been relatively silent, other groups are springing up to fight health reform. For example, the group Conservatives for Patients’ Rights is launching a $20 million campaign to kill Obama’s efforts at health reform. Who are these people? Well, the group that is coordinating their campaign is PRC Public Relations — the same group that Swiftboated John Kerry back in 2004. And the leader of the Conservatives for Patients’ Rights is Rick Scott, the former CEO of the largest hospital chain in America, who was forced to resign after his company pled guilty to the largest health care fraud case in US history. Ironically, even though the Conservatives for Patients’ Rights are against any public insurance plan, Scott’s company made their money by falsifying their Medicare claims. Stunningly, Scott is using $5 million of his own money — dollars he earned by cheating Medicare, which is government insurance — to fight against government insurance.