The missing topic in our ridiculous health care debate

For the rest of the world, our present arguments about health care reform must be a source of amusement, if not confusion. How can America, of all places, pretend that health care is a commodity, and not a right? Who else (except US corporations) would dare try to profit by denying coverage to those who already “paid for it?” Sigh. “Inane” does not even come close as a descriptor.

Most of our news coverage has centered around a Baucus plan that seems intent on maintaining the worst parts of both the status and the quo. Every day we see Democrats caving in to the slightest, weirdest, and most offensive GOP slight and complaint. So far, the only thing that is guaranteed is that no one will be happy with the final result.

My concern is not about the political process. Legislation (especially its birthing process) is always messy. My concern is how small minded and irrational the Democrats have been, and continue to be. It is as though they set aside their brains, and simply looked at the history of health care, trying to minimize past problems.

Back in Thomas Edison’s time, today’s Congress would be concentrating on gas-based lamp lighter legislation, and how to best insure lamp lighter companies’ market share and profits. Electricity? Electric lights? Bah.

Ever since Watson and Crick stole some x-ray images from a far more talented female scientist, the vacationing Rosalind Franklin, science and medicine have been moving ever closer to each other. They may eventually meet, probably in our lifetime.

For many generations, medicine was merely an art. In fact, the very first medical guidebook is a lovely tome, filled with allegory, fear, incest, rape, murder, and much more. Some people call it their bible. I call it mostly fiction. Still, the bible does present the best thinking about medicine and health issues of its time. Blood transfusions, shell-fish born illnesses, limited hygienic understanding, and much more were discussed, because they could at least identify some cause, if not actually solve the problem.

Over the past 25-30 years, we have jumped from guesswork and experimentation, to true insights into the genetic basis of disease, heredity, illness, and how to prevent, cure, or at least alleviate the worst symptoms of many conditions. While future medicine may not fix drunk driver-based, back injuries and broken bones, (then again, it may), most other conditions are prime candidates for cures or at least, major league fixes.

Here’s where the Democrats are ineffably stupid. (Forget the GOP. They are too busy orbiting one of Saturn’s more distant moons to have any serious input on real legislation)

NOT ONE PROPOSAL takes into account the obvious future of medicine, diagnosis, treatment, prevention and cures. Even now, stem cell treatments are being tried, to prevent a future illness or condition. Given that our current state of genetic science is akin to homo-apians knocking together two piece of stone in hopes of starting a fire, many early results have been less than stellar, while continuing to show promise. I wonder how many years it took our distant relatives to find that flint worked the best. Well, our growth curve is far shorter. The future is truly within our grasp. Unless you work in Congress.

Any reasonable future health care program must include a well-defined path for the ethical, appropriate, and effective use of genetic diagnosis and treatment. Genetic medicine holds incredible promise, just as it contains huge traps, and worse. During my last semester of college, the guy next door was the biggest drug dealer on campus. As far as I could tell, he never slept. He also once claimed to “taste” everything he sold. His only goal? To get into medical school, then concentrate on making genetic monsters. I gladly lost track of him after he graduated, having been admitted to a California med school. Nuts? Yup. Dangerous? Sure thing. Brilliant? He was, bar none, the smartest people I ever met. Which makes him and his ilk even more dangerous.

The danger exists. But so does the promise. That makes Congress’s failure to even consider genetic engineering, cloning body parts for transplant, and finding cures for deadly conditions even more ridiculous.

Wait. It gets worse.

If we are stupid enough to continue with private, for profit, health insurance for our conceivable future, we must ban any exclusions, rejections of coverage, and denial of claims based on a person’s genetic potential for illness. The idea that an insurer can demand a blood test, and 10 minutes later write a specific insurance policy that excludes every genetic malfunction that your body will eventually have is more than scary. It is ineffably stupid.

To date, after reviewing every page of legislation that I could find, not one pol has even raised a question about genetics, stem cells, or the related sciences, much less propose legislation that takes into account our most promising biological and medical science.

Are they that dumb? (sorry. bad question) Or has the insurance industry thrown up so much dust, that legislating our near future scientific findings is just too difficult for our mentally and ethically deficient senatwhores and congresscritters?

Frankly, if corporations and insurers effectively control our lives for the foreseeable future, it will lead to the death of our great American experiment.

Corporations and “for profit” insurers once served a good purpose. Today, their power and concentration of wealth is no longer an advantage, but a threat. Does anyone think that today’s health insurer will ignore genetics, and voluntarily refuse to exclude “pre-existing conditions” from your policy? When such an exclusion will guarantee an increase of their own profits?

Hell, every day we learn that C-sections, domestic violence, and other common situations are now being defined as “pre-existing,” and therefore not covered under health insurance policies. In view of today’s reality, Washington’s silence on genetics is deafening. And depressing.

Worst of all, few congresscritters have shown any interest in being educated. They are too busy getting all those K Street contributions.


  1. almandine

    Vaccinations? Disease running rampant is the upshot of choice vs. mandation? Broken arms? Infectious disease? Where did all that come from?

    OK, enough already. you’ve got some serious issues I don’t have either the time or the inclination to address.

    Have a good one.

  2. Sandra Price

    You are absolutely correct and that if the American citizens would learn more about genetics with respect to healing their bodies, our health care costs would decrease significantly. Our Congress critters should stress healing over the cost of insurance coverage. Stem cell research could stop the diabetes and proper diet could stop the obesity. I can only hope research is still being done on spinal injuries. Just healing out soldiers should be top priorities but somehow they slipped through the federal programs.

    The emphasis should be on healing and prevention and absolutely on genetic stem cell research. The Republicans call this ungodly and the Democrats talk about pubic options over research costs.

  3. ojisan

    Robert, while I agree with most of your post, I do believe the GINA bill signed by President Bush last year does address many of your concerns. Your readers should be aware that the Health Reform legislation does not have to rewrite GINA.

  4. Rob Kezelis

    Given the cave-ins we’ve seen from a democratic majority to a very squeaky, rusty, minority derailed wheel, I fear that the industry will sneak in changes when we least expect it.

  5. AustinRanter

    Last night I watched an Ex-major executive of Signa Insurance, who recently resigned. He stated that “most of the versions of a health care bills in Congress that exist today…were written by the insurance industry”.

    Is that so hard to believe?

    He left a very high paying job and is now working as an adocate for “public Option insurance”…because he said the the current system is immoral.

    Makes sense to me.

    Thanks Yall…


  6. giving-up-in-nc

    The person you are talking about is Wendell Potter. IMHO he is a national hero. He is an insider/whistle blower who knows where all the bones are buried. Anybody who wants the straight story on health care reform should check him out via google. And I agree with Mr. Potter the current system is immoral.

    I’m not going to put a bunch of stuff here to support my argument. If you are reading this you have access to a computer so you can read Mr. Potters writing on the subject. But I’ll just give one example of a REAL death panel in action. This isn’t a fictional government one but this is a private insurance one. Which I realize for ideological reasons is perfectly acceptable to some of you out there.

    The article in question is shown below. So basically the thing that some feared the government might do to us is already being done to us by the insurance companies.

    We finally have a local example showing how health insurance company “death panels” work.

    Gordon Hazel, of Plattsburgh, NY has been sentenced to death by his health insurance company. Mr. Hazel has stage 4 pancreatic cancer. While the prognosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer is not good, Mr. Hazel points out that the treatments he has been receiving from Cancer Treatment Centers of America have been working for him. He has thus far lived 2 years longer than either his doctors or the insurance company predicted.

    No matter, enough is enough says Mr. Hazel’s insurance company.
    “(The insurance company) sent me a letter that said they were going to stop paying for those treatments because there was nothing to prove that those treatments were safe, effective or contributed to my quality of life,” Hazel said.

    Forget about the so-called “death panels” in the health care reform bill. We already have death panels and they are called health insurance companies.

  7. sherry

    Public option. What a giggle.
    My mother was told she could not buy Medicare A & B
    direct (whopping lie), but had to sign up for an HMO, which she did. That also includes the drug option.

    My mother is being charged full retail for her drugs because Medicare is prohibited from negotiating drug prices. The HMO however, DOES negotiate drug prices and in turn, bills Medicare full price. Sweet, huh?

    The drug companies wrote the bill. AARP and their ilk signed on, knowing they would make a killing.

    The only loser of course is anyone who incurs more than $2500 in drug bill. Then they hit the dreaded donut hole. The amount one has to incur in order to get out of the donut hole goes up every year. This year it’s over $6,000. Once the donut hole is covered, Medicare will give you another $2,500.

    You Cigna man is wearing a lamb’s costume my friend. Pull up his skirt and look underneath. :)

  8. Nogood

    This whole issue about health care has been from the start controlled by insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies. The American public is being played for a damn fool. Personally, I see any bill that might become law be written by the insurance industry.

    People are dying every day because of high medical costs and outrageous drug prices. And the pathetic thing is that no one in Washington gives a shit!
    The only thing that matters is lining pockets of politicians by the insurance companies. Who cares about the family down the street that can’t afford to go to the doctor or get a prescription filled. Who cares about the kid with bad teeth that his family can’t afford a dentist. JUST LINE THE DAMN POCKETS OF THOSE “WHORES” IN D.C.

  9. Sandra Price

    If we continue to argue over who insures us we will never bring this issue to a close. When I was 65, I attended a number of supplemental policy holders and signed up for any sickness that would hit my body. I do not have dental coverage or physical therapy coverage. I have good supplemental coverage over hospital and surgical procedures with copays of around $300 per hospital stay. The Supplemental coverage runs about $600 a year. Pacific Care was my supplemental in California and has covered me in Arizona. I have no disease except for Arthritis and old age. I take complete responsibility for my blood work, weight and diet. I am the lucky one.

    Many of my friends my age are in and out of assisted care and costly medicines that financially ruin others.

    The question is who do we want to carry the financial reponsibility for our healthcare? How much responsibility are we able to take to keep our bodies healthy and able to get through the last years? If I were in my 40s, I would be furious that stem cells were not fixing the horrors of spinal injuries and Parkinson’s and M.S. and AIDs. Many if not most of my senior friends here have Diabetes.

    Before I hit Medicare, I fell over my dog on the back hill and broke my right leg. I called a friend who drove me to my old doctor who set the bone, put on a cast and I went back to work. Several casts and several visits and finally my bone healed. It cost me $550 without any insurance necessary. I missed 2 days work and did not have to take a loan on the house. What would that have cost today?

    I needed coverage when the pain of arthritis in my joints forced me into replacement surgery. No way in hell could I have afforded this. I am a member of Death with Dignity and there are thousands of old folks like me who need Medicare and a Supplement and we are all scared about you younger kids who will go through this as well.

    We need to discuss systems of coverage and of course systems of repair such as stem cells. Why does this take an angry mob to discuss the problem? When I see how the GOP tries to stop the discussions on this coverage even I am beginning to feel a deep anger at these jerks.

  10. woody188

    It’s too bad we are talking about insurance for all, not health care for all. I used to think if health care was government subsidized there would be no need for health insurance.

    Congress is elected to represent, not to direct, the people.

  11. Warren

    I remember when my “health care provider” was my local doctor. Not some multi-billion dollar corporation. Not the federal government.