iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Anne Dunev

Anne Dunev

Posted: June 16, 2009 11:04 AM

Thank You, Bill Maher, For Asking Where in the World is Barack Obama and What is He Going To Do About Healthcare?

What's Your Reaction:

Just yesterday I asked my husband, "Who does Obama think he is -- Lindsay Lohan? Every time I look at the news, there is Obama -- having another Kodak moment." Then I find out Bill Maher noticed the same thing. And had the audacity to mention it on national television.

I think President Obama makes a brilliant President. In the sense of a corporate President, not the kind that runs a country. He is great at making speeches, shaking hands and should be the PR rep for our country. He and Michelle make Americans look their best. God knows we can use Obama in the bully pulpit to mitigate the damage by the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfield regime -- who were only bullies.

However, we have a couple of issues that need some attention. Our PR is not going to matter much if the Ship of State is rudderless and we crash on the shore of our own greed and stupidity. Americans have been fat, dumb and happy. Now they are now fat, dumb and sick. Not to mention broke. Our currency is going in the toilet as a result of printing money to spend our way out of debt. And more Americans are declaring bankruptcy over their health care bills than for any other reason because they cannot afford simple necessary surgery.

Not being a financial pundit, I will stick to my ideas on health care. I have practiced under socialized medicine in the United Kingdom and under the insurance-based system of the U.S. Which is better? From my viewpoint, as a cash based practitioner who is exempt from the system, I say neither.

As Bill Maher also mentioned, it is a given that we need to get rid of insurance. Take out the middleman and you have doctors and hospitals that have to deal directly with the consumer, and have to answer for their mistakes and get lauded for their successes. It makes medicine compete in a marketplace. And why not? Medicine is big business. A friend of ours just had his neck vertebra fused. The bill was $80,000. This is not charity, nor non-profit. $80,000 is 30% more than the median annual household income in 2007. Our friend's daughter had a premie baby a couple of years ago. For her family of four, insurance premiums are now $4000.00 per month. Annually that is nearly equal to the annual median household income. No one should have to pay that much money for health insurance.

What Bill Maher did not mention is that the other responsible party for the fact hardly anyone can afford to be sick in this country is Pharmaceutical. With socialized medicine the cost is shifted to the government, and borne by the taxpayers, but Pharmaceutical companies still make out like bandits.

But they need the money for research, right?

In The Cost of Pushing Pills: A New Estimate of Pharmaceutical Promotion Expenditures in the United States from the online Public Library of Science researchers Marc-André Gagnon Joel Lexchin concluded:

"From this new estimate, it appears that pharmaceutical companies spend almost twice as much on promotion as they do on R&D. These numbers clearly show how promotion predominates over R&D in the pharmaceutical industry, contrary to the industry's claim. While the amount spent on promotion is not in itself a confirmation of Kefauver's depiction of the pharmaceutical industry, it confirms the public image of a marketing-driven industry and provides an important argument to petition in favor of transforming the workings of the industry in the direction of more research and less promotion." http://http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050001

And here is where the financial crisis meets the health care crisis in this country. You don't have to be a financial pundit to know that any public company is responsible first and foremost to their stockholders. As a public company how do you meet your fiduciary responsibility? You ensure the price of your stock by increasing your bottom-line.

Does that require that you make up new "diseases" as you go? (Restless Leg Syndrome, for example.) Do you bend the rules of science in how you determine what constitutes disease so you can repackage old drugs that have lost their patent? Do you push dangerous new drugs on the market knowing that a little collateral damage is the price of making money, just as it is the price of making war?

According to USA Today in 2005, there were 1,274 registered pharmaceutical lobbyists in Washington, D.C. -- more than two for every member of Congress. In 2003, $143 million was spent on lobbying activities by the Pharmaceutical industry. There are more lobbyists from pharmaceutical than any other industry trying to bend legislators' ears. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/23518.php

This is big business, and that means that your health care is not in the hands of people who really want to help you, but in the hands of people who view you as a market.

Caveat emptor. You expect to beware in a used car lot. But buying a lemon auto is not nearly as likely to kill you as prescription medicine. Approximately 43,000 people died in car crashes in the U.S. in 2004, and the rate has been declining every year since. 100,000 people die in the U.S. every year from properly prescribed and properly administered prescription drugs, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. The Florida Medical Examiners concluded that three times more people die from prescription medicine as die from illegal drugs.

If prescription drugs weren't so dangerous, why would the pharmaceutical industry have to spend so much time and money on lobbyists in Washington?

That is why I say that neither socialized medicine nor insurance-based medical programs are the answer to our health care problems. The only answer is to make pharmaceutical not-for-profit and remove the greed incentive.

Anti-capitalism and free market, you say? I say that people are dying from an industry that is out of control and refuses to govern itself with any responsibility or ethics. The FDA is the fox guarding the hen-house because it is rife with former and future pharmaceutical executives apparently motivated by vested self-interest.

Most decent people cannot conceive that anyone would profit from knowingly harming others. That is the flaw in capitalism. And that is one reason that evil can exist.

We can create a new health care system, where people receive the help and care they need, at a price that is affordable. We can have dedicated doctors who earn a handsome wage for their hard work. But we have to confront the real issues before us. The system that now exists in all Western countries leaves us all slaves to greed and corruption. We can stop marketing illness and turn our attention to wellness. This means starting over with an entirely new model.

To food companies, restaurants, agribusiness, industry and pharmaceutical we need to say: The health of our children and our own well-being is more important than your bottom line.

We have to willing to unplug from the Matrix, because we are being bilked. If it were only money, let the games go on. But the cost is human suffering and death. We are eating, breathing and drinking man-made chemicals on an unprecedented level. We are Fat, because the food is engineered to make us over-eat. We are Dumb, because we are being lied to regularly. We are Sick, because we are consuming poisons faster than we can process them. We are Broke, because our only value has become the money others can take from us.

It does not have to be this way. It can be how we decide to make it. Are you listening, President Obama?