08/07/2006 11:44 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Health Care Taboo Politicians Don't Talk About

If you don't live in the Washington Beltway, you've probably noticed that there's a major health care crisis unfolding in America. In the richest country on earth, roughly one in five of our citizens have no health insurance at all, and far more are forced to go without health insurance at least at some point over the course of two years. Additionally, you've probably noticed that few, if any, in Washington, D.C. are willing to seriously discuss this health care crisis. In fact, some of the highest-profile politicians in both parties - aided and abetted by an applauding pundit class - have tried to distort the health care debate. Part of that is because the politicians, pundits, lobbyists, and other assorted elites who control the political debate never have to face the real-world consequences of this health care crisis - they all have or can afford lavish health care benefits, so the crisis to them is theoretical, and the for-profit health industry seems to be working just fine. But, as I point out in a new op-ed in today's Washington Examiner, the real reason we get no serious health care debate from Washington about the immorality of America's profit-at-all-cost health care system can be found simply by following the money.

Poll after poll after poll shows the majority of Americans want a not-for-profit health care system, and one the government guarantees to cover all people, even if it would require sacrifices like tax increases. Similarly, the hard data shows a not-for-profit health care system would both provide better care and save taxpayers and consumers a huge amount of money.

Yet, what we most often hear from Washington politicians are either lies about a malpractice "crisis" supposedly driving up prices, or nibble-at-the-edges proposals such as the one to digitize medical records - proposals that are certainly decent, but that are fundamentally designed to pretend as if the proponent is serious about health care, but that are tailored to make sure they don't offend the Big Money health care and pharmaceutical lobbies that have created the health care crisis to begin with. Those lobbies have showered the highest-profile politicians in both parties with huge amounts of cash - and they have been rewarded with a health care debate that largely ignores the unfolding crisis.

Thankfully, as I note in the op-ed, there are courageous political leaders and grassroots groups stepping into the vacuum as this crisis gets worse. They are asking the taboo question: why is health care - the most essential, life-and-death service of all - a for-profit industry?

Undoubtedly, the elitists sitting in their comfortable Capitol Hill, New Republic, DLC, and K Street offices have made that question hard to ask - they made a cottage industry of berating those pushing for real reform with all sorts of politically-charged epithets. But even in America, the greatest capitalism the world has ever seen, shouldn't there be a few things that are not left to the "free" market fundamentalists and the profiteers? Americans strongly believe health care - that is, the ability to get the medical attention you need to stay alive - should be one of those. And the longer politicians bathe themselves in health industry cash and pretend there's no crisis unfolding, the more Americans will unnecessarily die because of their corruption.