Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Nothing's Over

I took a few days and posted pieces I had saved up so that I could mull over what's happened to the public option in the last week -- after the Obama administration hinted that it was willing to drop a public option as part of a health reform bill and then said that nothing was settled yet. I didn't want to flip the hell out without really thinking about it.

And I'm not flipping out. It's U. S. politics. We didn't suddenly get a better political system once President Obama was elected, and I've never doubted that if he was Imperial Lord, we'd probably already have a health insurance guarantee for every American. I've looked at questions about whether the administration is working hard enough on our behalf, and tried to figure out, but I just don't know.

Here's what I can answer, though. Am I working hard enough to be able to say that I've done everything I can to ensure that all American children have health insurance? That my friends and neighbors don't have to put off doctor visits or lose their homes over medical bills? The answer to that would be no.

One thing that has held me back a great deal was the assumption that what proponents of a public option have been working against is the attitudes and beliefs of other citizens, but this isn't entirely true. This statistical analysis at fivethirtyeight.com makes an argument that should be familiar to most of us: insurance company PAC money and direct donation have had a significant impact on health care reform votes in the Senate. Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia has raised $69,000 in health insurance contributions in the six months since he entered the U. S. Senate -- that's $10,000 a month, and he's not up for reelection for another five years. This article breaks down contributions accepted by the Gang of Six, the bipartisan committee that called for a slowdown of public option legislation in July. Republicans accept health insurance corporate funds across the board -- and that certainly has strengthened their resolve to oppose a public option -- but what is surprising is that Democrats like Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Ben Nelson of Nebraska have each, over the course of their careers, raised more than two million dollars from donors in the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries. This is more than a debate between people who want a government option for health insurance and those who want an unrestricted free market; all citizens who want what they feel is best for their nation are pitted against corporate interests who are attempting to purchase favorable policies for themselves.

If you aren't convinced that health insurance companies intentionally and aggressively court industry-positive policies in Washington, check out this interview with a former executive for CIGNA who helped end reforms during the first Clinton administration, and is now speaking out about the excesses and cruelties of the current US health system.

So no basic principles, for me, have changed -- I support affordable health care for every American, and a competitive government option for the provision of that health care. I oppose profits earned by encouraging human suffering, and the disproportionate voice that monied interests have in our government.

What has changed is that I no longer trust my elected officials to make good law without the energetic oversight and intervention of people like me and you. So let's get to intervenin'.

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