Senator Max Baucus paid his debt to the health care industry yesterday, and the profiteers are practically dancing in the streets. The prurient politician from Montana shamelessly unveiled a proposed health care bill that would vastly enrich the health insurance companies at the expense of customers and taxpayers. In Jamaica, they would say, “puss bruk coconut in him eye.” Sorry, I can’t explain why pouring coconut water in your eye would make you shameless, but apparently it does – at least in Jamaica.
Here in America, they use less colorful language. But the reaction to the Baucus bill is still incredulous. Wendell Potter, a former Cigna vice president, said in testimony before Congress that – if adopted – the legislation should be named “the Health Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act.”
How blatant can you get? Baucus (photo at left) has taken a total of $3,902,785 from the health insurance industry, pharmaceutical companies, HMOs and the like. And he has not been shy about paying up in the past: He helped President Bush pass the Medicare Part D bill and voted to prevent Medicare from seeking lower drug prices from pharmaceutical companies.
I am not going to go into the lousy pay-to-play political system in America. It is what it is, and it looks as if the Supreme Court is about to shred even those flimsy restrictions that currently exist (in the case concerning “Hillary, the Movie” www.cnjonline.com/opinion/court-35122-supreme-case.html). So we, the public, have to figure out some way to combat it.
And it is not going to be in Congress. Too many politicians on both sides of the aisle have gorged at the health care industry trough. As the Jamaican song goes, our Congressional representatives will “wiggle and waggle, not a recompense.” Brave souls like Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio will fight on. Rockefeller refused to put his name on the Baucus sell-out. And as I write this, Kucinich is holding hearings of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Domestic Policy. He is airing testimony about patients whose insurers refused to pay for care.
By now, everyone should know what a pack of ghouls the insurance profiteers are. But they are such rich ghouls that they have been able to buy huge support in Congress and fund PR agitators to whip up opposition among the nation’s nitwits. More hearings are a waste of time. (See the letter to the editor and accompanying Atlanta Constitution cartoon that appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, above.)
President Obama has said the time for games is over, and I hope he means it. In my view this entire legislative process has degenerated into an ugly game. Let’s call a halt and put the issue to a vote of the public at large. Here’s how.
The President should draft a real health care reform bill, with a strong public option, a ban on refusing customers on the basis of pre-existing conditions, and a mandate that no one’s coverage can be dropped because of illness.
Then he should let Congress vote on it. The names of those who oppose the bill – Republicans and Democrats – should be widely publicized, and when it is defeated, as it would be, the President should make the 2010 elections a referendum on its defeat. It goes without saying that not one Republican would vote for the bill. And every Democrat who votes “nay” should be vigorously opposed in the primary elections.
Let’s find out once and for all whether the voters of this nation really want health care reform.