Profits over people
By Joseph Randolph
In touting his healthcare bill this past week President Barack Obama assailed medical insurance companies with a vengeance, charging that these unscrupulous businesses have put bountiful profits above besieged people. The guilty ones must now answer to the gargantuan-bucks-stop-here-President for their runaway profiteering. Such chastisement by the President of course sits well with that portion of the American people who seem to believe that healthcare, among other significant rights attendant to being human, dictates that payment for servicing them as humans must be picked up by Washington.
Sigmund Freud famously contended that God is the infantile projection of an adolescent adult imagining a heavenly father protector; these days one need not look to heaven—Washington will amply do. Evidence of this occurred when Senator Jim Bunning some days ago asked where Washington money for an extension of unemployment benefits could be found, and as a consequence he received a devastating rebuke akin to forces lurching toward Armageddon.
Apparently avoiding even the appearance of fiscal responsibility these days is a requirement of political sustainability in Washington; thus for Bunning to question the Washington frenzy of spending produces a savage response to Bunning for asking. Of course while Bunning wanted to reign in excessive and gluttonous government, the President demands the end of the excessive expense of healthcare by making government more gargantuan. Though rarely mentioned in discussions of expensive healthcare in America, previous financial illiterates in government are ultimately and significantly responsible for the healthcare problem in America today.
When decades ago businesses began providing their workers health insurance after government in its financial naivety placed a freeze on worker wages, this employee benefit prompted a rise in healthcare costs by distancing the patient from their medical bills. Because the patient was the beneficiary and the insurance company the one billed, escalating prices resulted, but with little notice from individuals who picked up little of the tab of the best healthcare in the world and therefore had little cause for concern. (Trial lawyers additionally looked out for wronged patients, thus adding another web of insurance for good health or sizable compensation.)
The insurance companies paid the bills, and the employer paid for the coverage the insurance company provided. Meanwhile, businesses providing for the health insurance of their workers began to understandably struggle under the increasing financial burden.
What happened is reflected in a story a friend told to me over twenty years ago about the birth of a son. In consultation with her doctor during the pregnancy, the expecting couple asked some pertinent questions about the forthcoming bill, and both were assured that the sum would not strain them financially. However, when their son was born and the time came to pay a bill noticeably larger than the amount the doctor had previously indicated, the couple inquired about the discrepancy, to which the doctor indifferently replied that it should be of no concern because their insurance would cover their bill and their worry.
Now we have the very unpleasant cumulative effect of irresponsible financial indifference and of finding someone to take ownership of a bill too long ignored because someone else was paying. The President has erroneously blamed insurance companies, but ignored the disastrous contribution of government wage and price controls to spawning a crisis brought about by distance between the patient and the bill. Now, however, the President is planning a colossally worse plan by preparing to have his monstrous-spending government, with all the appearance of righteousness, presume to be the solution.
Jim Bunning dared to be a voice in the wilderness of Washington over a question that is increasingly festering in the minds of many Americans. Are there any others like Bunning risking the tantrum responses of insignificant politicians and media and so prepared to give long overdue voice to citizen worries that spending in Washington is courting real disaster? I cannot recall a single politician who noticeably came to Bunning's defense. Thus, one reason the spending in Washington is continuing is that opponents—except for the likes of Bunning—are doing next to nothing significant about an administrator spending money as if there is no tomorrow.
Joseph Randolph is an academic and writer living in Wisconsin. His 2010 book Debilitating Democracy: Power From The People, is available from Wasteland Press and Amazon as well as Barnes and Noble. His email address is email@example.com.