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December 7, 2009

My Turn: Don't be fooled by 'lipstick' health care


This week's "My turn" column is by Stuart Anderson.

Washington is up to its old tricks, putting lipstick on a pig and calling it reform.

The Senate's discussing a public option that states can opt out of, so people who really need that public option may have to move to another state to get it.

It's considering a mandate that everyone should have insurance, with subsidies for those who can't afford it, and surcharges on everyone who can afford more than the basics.

It's the way the system works now _ those who pay premiums fund the system by paying bills that are inflated to cover the system's losses incurred treating the uninsured.

The new plan will give the insurance companies more clients and let them cut their one-third slice off a bigger pie.

The House bill squeaked by, and the fact that supporters had to surrender to extortion by the anti-abortion lobby seems to have been shrugged off. The right of women to make their own health care choices, without interference by religious and political groups, was set back 50 years with the Stupak Amendment.

Now the left is licking its wounds with "we'll straighten it out in the conference committee," while the right plans to harpoon both abortion and the public option in the Senate.

As it stands, the current plan has no protections for women's rights, no coverage for illegal immigrants, no public option, a mandate that everyone needs to buy insurance and public assistance for those who can't afford insurance.

What more could the insurance companies have asked for? They're getting moral approval, scapegoats, protection from competition, millions of new customers and access to the public coffers _ it's a great time to be in the health-insurance industry! The last CEO of Aetna's health insurance business made $220,000 per day, 365 days per year, and things are looking up.

The root of the entire problem can be traced back to one simple issue: Is health care something that we as a society think should be provided to everyone, rich and poor, young and old, citizen and visitor?

Or should we as a society decide that some classes of humans do not deserve the protections we afford pets and livestock by law? If that isn't the ultimate involvement of business and government in our private lives, I don't know what is.

Don't squawk about costs _ we already spend more per capita on sick-care than any other nation on Earth. We don't need to spend more, we need to spend more wisely.

Don't be surprised if the final bill comes out with no public option, slashes women's rights and produces only a ban on pre-existing conditions and a mandate coupled with subsidized payments granting insurance companies access to public coffers.

Such a catastrophe would further entwine both the insurance industry and the religious right into the federal government, and let all the politicians off the hook with "we gave you health-care reform, just the way the public wanted it."

With their snouts in the trough, insurance companies will get fatter and more uncontrollable. With their morals anchored between our mothers', wives' and daughters' legs, the religious right will be a big step closer to bringing back wire coat hangers.

If this is the shape of the final bill, then voters who can remember what real reform could have been will face a test of their faith and be forced to withdraw their support.

Doing NOTHING is wiser than handing over more control to the greedy and the true believers. Voters who want real reform will have to do an about-face and tell their representatives that we are not fooled by this lipstick plan. This will be a very bitter pill to swallow, but better a bitter pill than the poison being cooked up in the Capitol.

The anti-reformers will cheer at the death of reform, but their euphoria may be short-lived. Mainstream fence-sitters who watched this debacle will realize what's been taken away from them and by whom. They may come out in force in the next elections and seat a substantial pro-reform majority, a Congress that quits making sausage and brings home the bacon.

Our worried sick-care industry is spending record amounts on lobbying and scare campaigns while routinely denying legitimate claims.

This is no time to lose your nerve and settle for a phony solution, America. The founding fathers declared your inalienable right to life, so defend that right. The founders had the self-confidence to embrace change and were bold enough to upset the status quo.

If we cut out the morals-Gestapo and profit-mongers and their cancerous grip on Congress, we can all have comprehensive and affordable health care. Call, write or e-mail your people in Washington and tell them you want complete health-care reform, not just more hogwash. Your life may depend on it.

Anderson can be reached at andersonboatworks@gmail.com.

To write for "My turn," contact Daily Star Publisher Tanya Shalor at tshalor@thedailystar.com or 432-1000, ext. 214.