04 February 2007

Huff Post turns hard right

It’s disappointing to see a piece of anti-single-payer propaganda on Huffington Post, one of the premiere progressive sites on the internet.

I say propaganda because it weaves in so many misstatements, false analogies, and because it is intended to inspire fear.

R.J. Eskow writes that there’s “no reason to believe” that "if we snapped our fingers and covered every person in the country today with Medicare, it would cost us way less than 20 percent of GDP," as Kevin Drum says.

There are actually dozens of reasons to believe that.

Every other industrialized country in the world has universal healthcare, most using
a single-payer system, and all of them see a smaller percentage of GDP — an average of 11 percent — go to healthcare than we do.

Why isn’t that reason to believe we could do the same?

For Eskow to then claim that Medicare and Medicaid are inexpensive only because private healthcare subsidizes them is also gratuitous. Is that also the reason why European universal healthcare is so (comparatively) inexpensive?

Or could their cost-efficiencies actually be in large part because they’ve eliminated that giant, sucking black hole of hundreds of insurance plans, all with competing profit margins, paperwork and duplicated administration?

Is it because they actually spend a far greater percentage of their healthcare dollars on… (drumroll followed by trumpets)

We could do there here, too. Single-payer healthcare transitions include retraining the people who now prevent care to instead give care.

Eskow frets that a single-payer system would bring hospital rates down and force closures.

He doesn’t mention that’s exactly what has been happening in American markets, driven by relentless downwards pressure from insurance companies. Also known as competition for profit — not for providing health.

He also doesn’t mention that European countries have more hospital beds per capita than we do.

Then Eskow makes the ridiculous assertion that prices under a single-payer system would eventually surge upwards. Just like they HAVEN’T done Europe?

This is pure fear-mongering speculation, similar to the Bush administration urging people to buy duck-tape and the need to go after Saddam’s WMDs.

This article, in fact, reveals that Eskow might simply be a plant from the right. He’s a guy with a long-term association with the health insurance industry, supposedly now feeling the need to now “give back.”

Great gift, R.J.

His plan for vouchers to buy private insurance, abetting the private health insurance industry’s bottom line, is nothing more than a last-gasp raking in of a few more billion dollars.

The industry’s own greed has painted it into this corner. Its situation isn’t that different from the effects of a virulent new virus. On the one hand, such a vigorous virus could be seen as being spectacularly successful, as it has thrived by completely colonizing its host. On the other hand, it’s unsuccessful, because it dies when its host dies.

Eskow is wrong to say that we don’t know how a single-payer system would work. They work very well in a variety of styles around the world. Everywhere but here, actually.

Transitioning to a single-payer in the United States would have been easier in the early part of the twentieth century, when it was first proposed. It would have been easier under Roosevelt, — or any of the other times its obvious benefits were championed.

Powerful special interests have always been able to drum up fear against it, though, and put off the day of reckoning, leaving too many people dead, crippled, widowed, orphaned, bankrupted and homeless in its hardhearted, inefficient wake.

That’s not hyperbole. The rationalists just don’t like being reminded of it. Collateral damage, you know.

Eskow's nonsensical theories about the healthcare system potentially becoming more “two-tiered” under a single-payer system (what on earth does Eskow think we have now?) are almost obscene.

The past five years have proved that we are easily led into fearing the wrong things.

Eskow’s argument is exactly the same as the one that says we shouldn’t do anything about global warming, because it might disrupt the economy.

Both changes — for an efficient, equitable, and sustainable healthcare system, and for an efficient, equitable, and sustainable energy policy — would invigorate the economy.

Staying the course is what’s deadly.

1 comment:

RJ Eskow said...

Kriten, I'm very sorry for your loss and I enjoy your blog. But I'm disappointed with your mischaracterization of what I wrote, and by your personal attack on me.

I would like nothing better than to see a European-style system implemented in this country effective immediately, but there would be considerable problems and unforeseen consequences if we didn't consider the full impact of planned changes before implemented them.

Like it or not, the other countries you mentioned haven't developed the distorted system we have in place right now, and any transition that doesn't take that into consideration could lead to chaos.

My plan is virtually identical to Edwards's, except that it looks like I take the employers out of the equation much more than he does. That's a better approach, I think.

As for Medicare and Medicaid and private health subsidizing them, there's a lot of evidence that inefficiencies in the system are being propped up through private payers. Take that away without a plan, and chaos could result until the inefficiences are repaired.

And those inefficiencies shouldn't be fixed by accountants closing down hospitals where they're desperately needed, as recently happened here in LA.

I agree with you about eliminating all the insurance plans and paperwork. That should be our long-term goal. (I say that even though you suggest I'm a 'hard right' plant being paid to shill for insurance companies, because of my background ...)

For the record, nowhere do I say that prices will surge above what they are now under a single-payer system.

I don't know why you need to be so vituperative, since we share a common goal. My "plan," in fact, includes buy-ins to the Medicare/Medicaid system. The goal would be to eventually phase out private insurance - unless it can actually do a better job than the private system, which would be a radical change.

You make some good points and raise good questions. I don't know why you took such a personal tack. Maybe, as you said in your Edwards post, the word "voucher" triggered something in you.