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The Dummy's Guide to Healthcare Reform


Nurses are worried that it might be time to call a Code Blue on Washington's healthcare reform.

What started as a response to the healthcare crisis has morphed into a full-fledged healthcare reform crisis. The worse these proposals get, the more likely it becomes that our "cure" will do more harm than good.

In just the last few days of Washington horse-trading, we've seen the following:

The Secretary of Health claims we'll have uninsured for many years.

Costs will continue to spiral out of control.

Many employees might lose coverage thanks to the deal. Those lucky enough to keep coverage will still face "recision," or retroactive cancellation of their policies, if they get sick.

The administration is pondering an outright ban on "single-payer" reforms

In other words, this healthcare bill is in full cardiac arrest.

But it's not too late.

Early on, the administration and Congress made a political judgment call: let's not go too far with healthcare reform. Let's tinker. Let's do what we can, while trying to keep the private, for-profit health insurance industry at the center of our system.

This fateful error left Congress with the same problem they faced in 1993,and in fact all the way back to 1933. How can you extend coverage to all people when you first act to protect the hundreds of billions of dollars of overhead and profits enjoyed by the insurance industry?

Or, as Sen. Bernie Sanders put it, "How do you get to the root of a problem when you fail to take on the private health industry?"

The simple fact is you don't. It's one or the other: insurance overhead or patient care. You can't cure lung cancer with more cigarettes--and you can't cure our healthcare system with more insurance industry profits.

But it's not too late.

Washington is considering a series of proposals to save this touch-and-go healthcare reform bill. This bill is hooked up to the heart monitors, and they're testing to see what will stop it from flat-lining.

Finally, all the options are on the table. One Senator suggested a series of local co-ops to compete against the insurance industry. Another one suggested every American simply be saddled with a mandate to purchase something, anything, so long as it's called health insurance--no matter the cost or quality. It's in this atmosphere that administration spokespeople are going around assuring the insurance industry that nothing in their plan is a Trojan horse for single-payer, and it might be banned outright. Kind of like the "Defense of Marriage Act" for healthcare: the Defense of Insurance Act.

All wrong, and all doomed to fail.

Can I suggest we re-read The Dummy's Guide to Healthcare Reform?

First of all, you're not going to get a single Republican vote for this bill, so stop trying. Pass a good, honest, workable, smart, humane bill--and dare them to vote against it. The GOP represents the insurance and pharmaceutical corporations who are rolling in money as a result of our healthcare crisis. Why would they want to solve it?

Secondly, pass a bill that actually works. Every other industrialized nation in the world enjoys better healthcare at a lower cost than us, because their care is privately-delivered, but publicly-financed. It's called the single-payer system, and it's not an experiment. Our system is, however, a unique American experiment giving unprecedented powers to private insurance corporations, and this experiment has failed.

We don't need any more placebos or toxins. If we want to save this process of healthcare reform, it's time to really put all ideas on the table, and call in the experts from the Congressional Budget Office and elsewhere to score and debate the numbers, including the single-payer reforms succeeding in nearly every other industrialized democracy. It's time to come to terms with the fact that because single-payer reforms are the most likely to work, they're also the most politically viable.

Otherwise, our healthcare reform will soon need healthcare reform.