June 10, 2009

Single Payer for the Single Citizenship Citizen

A college buddy of mine just left for an extended visit to Europe, including a stay in his new country of citizenship, Ireland.  He's become a dual, courtesy of the ancestor-based invitations from such countries as Ireland, Italy and Greece, which recognize lineage as a basis for naturalization. Probably part of a family feel in those places, plus Italy and Ireland, at least, suffer from chronic depopulation problems and brain drains, so recruitment of those nostalgic about the Old Sod (and who might have some money to spend during their legally-unlimited stays) is not a bad investment. The dual citizen gets an EU passport, recognized in 27 countries as a basis for residence and employment.  So maybe the new Irishman will stay indefinitely if he finds work. The odds over there can't be a lot worse than here.

Meanwhile, back on the New Sod, I was listening yesterday to the Big Ed Shultz Show on "progressive" radio.  Big Eddie's been whipping his listeners into a frenzy about the Single Payer issue that may or not be on the table for discussion by Congress.  Ed used to host a fishing and hunting TV show in the Midwest somewhere, sort of a Marlin Perkins in a motor boat thing, I guess, with lots of closeups of Ed netting a bass.  I don't really know.  Big Eddie doesn't know much about health insurance, or national politics for that matter, but he has very strong opinions.  He's one of those guys whose career in opinion-flogging was given a huge boost by George W. Bush.  That, at least, must be said for W - he was so outrageously bad and incompetent, so disgraceful, that millions of Americans had their consciousnesses raised politically, and half-assed bloviators like Big Ed rushed in to fill the vacuum.

Yesterday Ed let a guy rant and rave for about ten minutes on the failure of Congress ever, ever to do anything for the "little guy," by which I think he meant (in the midst of his hyperventilating) a middle class American, that vanishing species.  This is true, of course.  If you're in your prime working years, earn any kind of living, are not a government employee or in the military, you will essentially receive nothing from the government other than the basic services (roads, infrastructure, public education) received by everyone else.  I am personally a piece of evidence for this truth.  I'll receive Social Security someday (a vestige of the Roosevelt Administration) and qualify for Medicare (from Johnson's Great Society), and that's it.

My medical insurance premiums are $718 per month with a $5,000 deductible.  The premiums have doubled in the last two years, although I have never submitted a claim for medical treatment at any point during the last twenty years or so, and I use twenty because I can't remember back any further than that.  To receive an insurance "benefit" I would have to go out-of-pocket $13,000 during a calendar year.  This is my biggest monthly expense.  

It's the way we do things here in our Darwinist Sparta.  The caller was right, of course, that Congress does not do any thing for the little guy, but it never has. If you're poor or disabled, you can receive benefits under some circumstances.  If you're middle class and get sick, you may go bankrupt whether you have medical insurance or not.  Medical bills are the cause of 62% of all personal bankruptcies in the United States, yet in 75% of those situations, the bankrupt is insured.  I'll do the math for you, since other blogs don't necessarily do so: that means that in about 46.5% of all bankruptcies, medical bills incurred by an insured person cause the b/k.

Thus the clamor for Single Payer, or Socialized Medicine, to call it by its real name.  Naturally, such a program cannot arrive on the scene full-blown; it must be introduced by stealth, in the form of the "public option" which Cigna/Aetna/Blue Cross and Senator Max Boughtman (I hope you're reading this every day) are desperately trying to ward off.  Obviously, a public option could probably match what amounts to a yearly $13,000 deductible, and since most people hate their medical insurers (I know I do - just reading their nauseating, shameless, cloying, disingenuous, dishonest letter explaining the latest rate hike was almost enough to send me to the emergency room, which may actually be covered despite the deductible), insureds would abandon Blue Shield and Aetna in droves at the first opportunity.  Thus, the $20 million annual salary of some of the CEO's at these big companies would endure a kind of "stress test."

The stakes are high and corruption is likely to kick into even higher gear.  I don't think Prez O will succeed in any kind of meaningful reform this time around, and his presidency will begin to fade some time later this year because of this failure.  It's just too easy for the Senate, in particular, to block him, loaded up as it is with pro-insurer Republicans and corrupt Democrats. Johnson was able to get his monumental Great Society through Congress because he played the hardest kind of hardball - famous for saying that a solon's "pecker was in his pocket." That's the only way to get a corrupt politician to move - scare the hell out of him.  This is not Obama's way, and since he actually only spent two years in the Senate (unlike Johnson, who had been the Majority Leader), I don't think he knows how to play the right games or knows enough about where the bodies are buried.

We'll get something, a "public option" that no one, unfortunately, qualifies for, in much the same way that "foreclosure" relief was unavailable to any "little guy" who actually needed the help - that is, if you were behind on your payments, you couldn't get government help, which is to say, you could only get foreclosure relief if you weren't in foreclosure.  This public option will have some devilishly clever small-print detail, rather like the "donut" in the Plan D Medicare benefit, which makes it functionally useless and defangs it as a threat to for-profit medicine.

But at least we're "safe," sort of, or at least we're led to think so. If you die because you can't afford treatment, at least you'll do so behind fortress walls, and not in some place like Ireland or Italy, where they would take care of you but can't protect you from the jihadi.

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