27 November 2013: A move in the right direction

A move in the right direction

In her defense of George W. Bush’s War on Iraq, National Security Adviser and later Secretary of States Condoleezza Rice used the phrase “status quo ante” to describe the situation in Iraq during the Saddam Hussein regime before the American invasion.  By so phrasing the situation, one of her points was that even the biggest critics of the war would not support returning Saddam to power.

She was correct, which put us war critics in a bind once the invasion began and especially after Hussein was deposed.  Who would want to restore such a bloody tyrant to power?  While the options were not preferable and staying the course in terms of American involvement as reprehensible as it was, was arguably a superior option.

Now, the American insurance industry is not a corporate clone of Saddam Hussein and Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act is not comparable to a military invasion, but the metaphor works in this way:  Now that the old system (regime) has been deposed/upended, who argues we should return to status quo ante?  Does anyone want to put forth the argument that what we had before in terms of health insurance was such an ideal system we ought to fully restore it?  It would be equivalent to the French de-decapitating King Louis XVI and the Russians un-shooting Czar Nicholas II.

The current brouhaha over the clumsy opening for the ACA has two time aspects: immediate and longer term.  The immediate needs include policies being cancelled because of it.  There are real people suffering as a result, so it’s critical that we not diminish the stress and anger of those impacted.  We need to be careful, though, to ferret out those whose policies would’ve been cancelled anyway but are conveniently laying them at the feet of the ACA.

With regard to the longer term answer, there’s no going back to the way it was, the status quo ante.  When asked by pollsters about particulars of the ACA, such as no pre-conditions and keeping young adults on their parents’ policies until age 26, respondents give a solid thumbs up.  Now that we have a taste of what the civilized world—countries with single-payer systems—take for granted, we like it.

When it comes to corporate power, Big Health arguably wields the greatest amount of power over individual Americans, more than any other corporate bloc.  In short, we’re at its mercy.

Don’t like high gas prices?  Don’t drive, take public transportation, or drive a very fuel-efficient vehicle.

Don’t like processed foods?   Boycott McDonalds, plant a garden, cook more home meals from scratch, and include more fruits and vegetables in your diet.

Not satisfied with the performance of your current airline?  Fly another, drive to your destination, or utilize an alternative method: rail, bus, or boat.

For every product situation but one, there is choice.  There is little choice when it comes to health care coverage.  You can’t live with it, and you’re likely to die or become destitute without it.

The first trick is to be able to afford the monthly premium, comparable to housing—mortgage or rental—costs if one is not covered by his/her employer or is on Medicare or Medicaid.  The second is to find an insurer that won’t drop you on the slightest pretense, and the third trick is to never get sick.

Good luck on all that.

Our bodies and minds are all God or nature provided us with when we entered this three-ring circus called life.  How we take care of them goes a long way towards how little medical attention we need, but, as I pointed out in a recent column, each one of us is merely one accident or diagnosis away from losing it all.

One thing United Health, Aetna, and their fellow travelers are not in the business of peddling is compassion.  They are about one thing and one thing only: profit.  There is no Hippocratic Oath among them…just bottom line.

Nor do they really compete in a competitive framework.  Besides the law, reality mandates we buy one of their products.  But unlike all other insurance needs—auto, life, or business, e.g.—health coverage is not an option.

What’s left?

The ACA is far less than perfect, but it is one small step in the right direction.  Only a single-payer system will do the trick.

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