28 December 2007

McCain's short circuit

John McCain's column on U.S. health care begins so well:
WE HAVE AN approaching perfect storm in health care, and no one seems to be watching the clouds gather.

More families are without health insurance as premiums increase beyond the affordability of our citizens and their employers. Our safety net programs of Medicare and Medicaid are headed to financial meltdown and draining dollars from critical programs such as education. Our companies cannot continue to compete outside the country because health care costs are so much higher in the United States.
Leave out that bit about Medicare and Medicaid, and you've got some truths (and of course, with the Big Pharma giveaway that is Medicare Part D — no negotiating with pharmaceutical companies over the cost of drugs for Medicare recipients — the Republicans did manage to make Medicare unsustainable). McCain then attacks the Democratic candidates for their "same old" solution of universal coverage, which really means, he writes, "massive tax increases, mandates and government regulation, and no solution to rising costs."

Fair enough, since that is indeed the truth to mandates — unless mandates are a back-door route to single-payer. That seems unlikely, given the dominance of the organized money behind insurance. What he calls instead is almost unintelligible. If I hadn't heard McCain's policy guy in D.C. earlier this month I would come away wondering if McCain might not be the Nixon to China conservative on single-payer.

Here's why. McCain writes:
I offer a genuinely conservative vision for health care reform, which preserves the most essential value of American lives -- freedom.

We should not attempt to substitute government coercion for the right of individuals to decide what is best for them. Our citizens should not pay for the collective sins of a failed health care system. We must use the tools that have served us so well in the past -- competition, American ingenuity and personal responsibility.
Exactly what we in the single-payer movement are calling for, and exactly what Canadians, the Japanese, French, Greeks, Brits, etc. all have: freedom (aka choice of physician and hospital; and the freedom to be treated for medical ailments), which leads to competition amongst the docs and hospitals, with a strong element of personal responsibility injected. We are each responsible for our health. It's our government's role to empower us to do that better, however, not to punish us for not doing it well enough.

What kind of society do we want to be, an empowering one or a punitive one?

McCain also sings the single-payer tune when he notes that we should all have to "pay for the collective sins of a failed health care system." So well put.

Unfortunately, he then turns to gobbledygook, advocating tax credits so that more people can pay premiums to the insurance industry protection racket. Too bad. Ideology and a long career in Washington have blinded McCain to the real way forward — the conservative solition, since it fosters freedom, competition and fiscal sanity.

p.s. McCain has taken a page from Bush, whose image guys have long stood him in front of graphics that make it appear as though he has a halo. McCain's is more like a victorious Roman general's armored head-dress. Appropriate — he's not depending on the Christian fundamentalists hoping for end-times.

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