Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Ask a Stupid Question . . .

Barbar Ehrenreich asks, "Why does everyone bow down to the health insurance industry?"

Bow your heads and raise the white flags. After facing down the Third Reich, the Japanese Empire, the U.S.S.R., Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein, the United States has met an enemy it dares not confront -- the American private health insurance industry.

With the courageous exception of Dennis Kucinich, the Democratic candidates have all rolled out health "reform" plans that represent total, Chamberlain-like, appeasement. Edwards and Obama propose universal health insurance plans that would in no way ease the death grip of Aetna, Unicare, MetLife, and the rest of the evil-doers. Clinton -- why are we not surprised? -- has gone even further, borrowing the Republican idea of actually feeding the private insurers by making it mandatory to buy their product. Will I be arrested if I resist paying $10,000 a year for a private policy laden with killer co-pays and deductibles?

Why can't we just hunt them down and defeat them? Aetna isn't hard to locate, after all. I think Ms. Ehrenreich already knows the answer, although she slyly invites us to provide it rather than spelling it out. We don't live in a democracy, and our political system is not presently constructed to produce public policy in the public interest. As Ehrenreich points out, the "health insurance" industry took in about $776 billion last year. That pays for a lot of legalized bribery campaign contributions, scaremongering TV ads (remember Harry and Louise? This article, from 2000, actually provides an important hint about the genesis of the new Hillary Clinton proposal.), and phony scholarship.

Hillary and John and Barack can capitulate in advance and make their concessions their negotiating position, but the rest of us don't have to. Write your Representative and Senators. If you live in New York, so much the better. You can automate the process with the link right under the Emperor Chimpoleon the First. Just enter your zip code.

We need universal, comprehensive, single payer national health care. Nothing else. Nothing less.

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