If Dick Cheney were anyone else, he'd probably be dead by now. That's the headline of an ad we - the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee - ran in ten Iowa newspapers this week.
Imagine if you had the Vice President's health history. Four heart attacks, quadruple bypass surgery, angioplasty, an implanted defibrillator, and just recently, an emergency procedure to treat an irregular heartbeat.
Take that chart to Blue Cross, UnitedHealth, or Aetna and try to get coverage or even continued care. If you already have one of their policies, they'd probably drop you like a hot potato or raise your premiums - or if you are part of a group plan, your group's premiums - to an amount higher than the national debt. Or perhaps they'd just demand you re-pay them for your last bypass surgery because they discovered you once chipped a tooth you'd never disclosed on your application form.
Not that we're wishing him more misfortune. We just think everyone should be entitled to the same guaranteed, first-class health care that Cheney and other government officials receive today.
Now it's true the Vice President and the Administration he helps run do have a lot to answer for when it comes to health care.
On their watch, the number of uninsured has ballooned by 17 million, one in six adults who are privately insured now have substantial problems paying their medical bills, and the U.S. has fallen to 37th in the world in healthcare barometers while spending twice as much per capita as anyone else.
What's been the response of this administration? A veto of children's health funding, even though uninsured children admitted to the hospital with injuries are twice as likely to die as kids with health coverage. And a call for more unleashing of the market. We need more unleashing of the market in healthcare like we need more global warming.
In denouncing healthcare for kids, President Bush railed against "government-run healthcare." Perhaps he's unaware that very system may be what's keeping his Vice President alive.
France, Canada, and the United Kingdom, all have a lower mortality for cardiovascular disease. They also each happen to have some form of a government-run healthcare system. Bush and Cheney don't have to move to Canada or France, because they already receive that level of care. Do the rest of us deserve any less?
Here's what the system our elected officials get looks like:
Everyone is covered. No one is denied care because of a "pre-existing" condition or because a claims adjustor called treatment recommended by their physician "experimental." Everyone is guaranteed any doctor of their choice. Skyrocketing deductibles, co-pays, hospital or drug charges that do not threaten them with bankruptcy. They don't have to watch 30 percent of their healthcare dollar skimmed off the top so that an insurance CEO can buy another 200-foot yacht.
It looks a lot like a bill now in Congress, HR 676, which currently has 88 co-sponsors, more than any other healthcare legislation. And it looks a lot like an expanded and improved Medicare for all, without the slicing and dicing of our Medicare now being performed by the Bush-Cheney administration.
A new poll out this week in the Economist, hardly a bastion of liberal thought, found that half of all voters would like to see "the government guarantee health insurance for all its citizens even if that means higher taxes", with only 36 percent opposed. And more Americans would rather see a "government-funded single payer plan" like HR 676 or Medicare, than a "mixed individual/employer-funded plan" as the top tier Democrats are proposing.
There is only one genuine, cost-effective, humane solution for our healthcare nightmare.
Forcing people to buy insurance does not provide better or more universal care. Tax credits for people who can most afford it does not expand or improve healthcare. And a special message for Rudy Giuliani, lying about healthcare statistics in other countries doesn't move us any closer to fixing our healthcare crisis in this country either.
That's the point of our Iowa ads, and the message we're going to continue to raise in Iowa, New Hampshire, and across the campaign trail.