Saturday, June 5, 2010


You Want Death Panels? You Got 'Em!

by Jim Abbott

Recently former (love the sound of that!) Alaska Governor Sarah Palin made the statement that President Obama’s health care reform would lead to the creation of “death panels,” with the government making life and death decisions for us. Well, here is some news for Mrs. Palin. Those death panels are already here, lurking in plain sight. We just call them by a less menacing name: health insurance companies.

A friend of mine has a son, who unfortunately got leukemia, an insidious disease that is often successfully treated by giving the patient a bone marrow transplant. If successful, the healthy bone marrow begins producing healthy blood cells and the patient will live a normal life, providing they don’t get hit by a truck.

The family had what they thought was a good family insurance plan with Blue Cross. Twelve hundred dollars a month, but they felt it was worth it for coverage for their entire family. You can probably figure out where this story is going: Blue Cross would pay for the procedure itself, but not for the doctors or anesthesiologists. It’s like getting your car fixed but not paying for the mechanic’s labor. In the end the family had to cough up over five thousand bucks in deductibles and co-pays.

This is just one of a million horror stories about our current health care system, where private insurance companies are the real death panels. They use the generic term “pre-existing condition” as an excuse for not paying your claim. With a simple stamp, “CLAIM DENIED,” they often sentence curable people to death, or worse. Realize this: the primary job of insurance companies is to take in as much money as possible and to pay out as little as possible. This they do to perfection.

All of this blather about socialized medicine and other services being close to communism is a scare tactic. It is the right’s way of trying to create yet more fear in the land, and that is just WRONG, people. True socialism (look it up) is something that this country will never embrace but certain aspects of it are already here, and most people have never given it a second thought. When you visit your local library, when you pack your kids off to public school, when the police arrest the guy who stole your lawnmower, when the fire department puts out your burning house…these are all forms of socialism. Why should your health not be as important as your house, your belongings, or your kids’ education? These are services you pay for with tax dollars. Raise taxes a little more, cover everyone. No more “haves” versus “have-nots”.

If, as my colleague Ralph Watson stated last week, “the primary role of government is to protect the citizens under their care,” then I can think of no more basic protection than providing us all with a health care option that is available to every American, regardless of status. How to pay for it? It will pay for itself. Approximately thirty percent of the money that goes into insurance companies for health care coverage goes straight into the pockets of its executives and employees. Confusing and unending paperwork (due to there being so many different insurers, all with different forms) costs doctors and healthcare providers an estimated three hundred billion dollars annually in time and expenses. Having a single payer (the government, who would definitely be a more compassionate source than for-profit insurance companies) would dramatically reduce the waste and cost. A healthy population makes for a healthy workforce, which makes for a healthy economy. Who wins? We all do.

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