Taboos preventing universal health care for Americans

Ten years after World War II had ended, as the US was exercising economic hegemony over much of the world, Will Herberg came out with his book, “Protestant-Catholic-Jew.” A book which socio-politically went a long way defining the American Way of Life as a recipe of two lofty ingredients mixed in equal parts: democracy and free enterprise. Something that today we are more inclined to call by its appropriate name: materialism.

Accurately or not, the American way of life was presumed to be not just individualistic but humanitarian as well; and, to many, a religion of sorts, becoming part of the trinity that historically rules the American psyche: America’s Exceptionalism; the American Dream; and the American Way of Life. Today, half-century after the book’s publication, those who do care to look beyond anachronistic symbols of a bygone era are seeing a harsh reality much different from that which existed in 1955 White America.

And although “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” has always appeared as a proprietary triad for the citizens of these United States, such a lifestyle seems to apply more and more to other modern societies… and less and less to our very own. Where more enlightened nations tend to identify and meet the needs of their citizenry as a whole… we, obtusely and catatonically, refuse to accept the rights of “the commons;” rights which supercede the rights of any one individual for a just society to function. It applies to the basic needs of food and shelter followed by health care and education.

It is in the background of a deteriorating economy that the inadequacy of our health care system is being placed at the legislative table as a key problem, one long postponed; now requiring immediate attention as it affects the entire nation, not just the uninsured.

For all the talk and discussion filling the airwaves these days, whether coming from the right of the political spectrum or the moderate left, there are dirty little secrets that no one is willing to touch; dirty little secrets that really hold the answer to universal health care; and how the government should, and could, provide it to everyone living in this wealthy nation we call the United States.

Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican Party, just summarized yesterday before the National Press Club, the view from the Right as to what the overhaul of health care in America would be: Socialism. An inane way, yet very effective in a thoroughly brainwashed society, to portray this needed overhaul as yet another risky experiment by Obama that this nation cannot afford.

Meanwhile the $1.4 million a day ad campaign by insurers goes on to enlist support from the majority of people that now have health care coverage; a campaign of scare tactics that worked well for them in the early 90’s against Bill Clinton’s intended reform. To counter that, the voice from the moderate left, soft and without funds to match, decries the profit motive in something as important as the people’s health, something that is part of “the commons” to be regulated and controlled accordingly, and not left in the hands of predatory capitalist enterprise.

But the criticism from this moderate Left does seldom, if ever, go beyond the insurers’ profits, or the outrageous salaries their CEO’s get. At times, if infrequently, criticism will also be directed to the pharmaceutical industry, but little else is said as to why 14 to 15 percent of our Gross Domestic Product is dedicated to a health care system that barely covers the needs of 85 percent of the people. That, while the rest of the industrialized nations spend proportionately half to two-thirds as much to cover 100 percent of their people. Are all these nations so much more efficient than we are, or is the US victim of predatory capitalism at its core… even in the area of health care?

The bottom line is that we shouldn’t be looking for additional sources of revenue to pay for the millions now uninsured. The two-plus trillion dollars a year we are now spending should be ample to take care of the health needs of our entire population with billions to spare. It is not about the billions ending up in the coffers of insurers as profit; nor is it about a pharmaceutical industry preying on us under the overblown pretense that they need all the profit for research; nor is it about the compensation that doctors and nurses receive relative to those in other wealthy nations (25 percent more as an average). It’s about all of these things, and how when left helter skelter on their own, they’ve helped create the most expensive and exclusionary health care system in the modern world.

The American Medical Association (AMA) claims to support the achievement of “a meaningful health system reform.” Yet it is the AMA that put this nation where it is today, an organization serving the needs (desires) of its membership and not the health and well-being of the American population. Had the AMA placed its advocacy with the people, both pharmaceutical and insurance costs would have been contained; instead, its own restrictive vested interests have created a monopoly for the training of physicians, creating doctor shortages in the most blatant ways, and the corresponding high compensation. [IE: In 1994, JAMA, its official journal, predicted a surplus of 165,000 doctors by 2000… yet the shortage turned out to be close to 50,000.]

For all practical purposes the AMA has become as effective a lobby for its monopolistic views on health care – and all its constituent parts – as AIPAC is for Israel in critically determining US foreign policy. Any public criticism of either organization is taboo; and, since we are not anticipating any major changes in America’s foreign policy, why would we expect any significant changes in the health care system of this nation? Haven’t we yet learned how our legislators are elected to Congress?