Tuesday, September 30, 2003

No Kidding, What A Surprise 

Damn that NYTimes, always looking for the bad news:

The number of people without health insurance shot up last year by 2.4 million, the largest increase in a decade, raising the total to 43.6 million, as health costs soared and many workers lost coverage provided by employers, the Census Bureau reported today.

The increase brought the proportion of people who were uninsured to 15.2 percent, from 14.6 percent in 2001

But I sure wish that Joe Scarborough would stop accusing the Times of never reporting the good news.

The figure remained lower than the recent peak of 16.3 percent in 1998.

Here's the reason for that peak in 1998:

The number of uninsured increased each year from 1987 to 1998, even when the economy was booming. Small businesses accounted for many of the new jobs then, and such businesses are far less likely to provide insurance.

And not because those small business owners are heartless. Even mid-sized employers are having trouble keeping up with the explosion in the cost of insuring the health of their employees, even through those supposedly "cost-effective" HMOs.

Ronald F. Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a liberal-leaning consumer group, said: "It's hard to grasp the magnitude of the number of uninsured. It exceeds the aggregate population of 24 states."

The number of full-time workers without health insurance rose by 897,000 last year, to 19.9 million. Kate Sullivan, director of health care policy at the United States Chamber of Commerce, said the increase was alarming and predicted it would continue this year.

"Workplace coverage is becoming unaffordable for many employers and employees," Ms. Sullivan said.

And whenever some Republican tries to tell you that the economy's expanding growth rate will cure all this, remember, they're lying.

On Friday, the Census Bureau reported that poverty rose in 2002 for the second consecutive year. The poverty rate generally declines when the economy expands, but there is no guarantee that the number of uninsured will also decline.

Not that this administration wasn't ready with its usual impressive response to the new statistics.

Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, said the numbers showed that "the nation must do more" to help the uninsured.

And you can always trust this administration to come up with an inadequate answer whose only guaranteed beneficiary is one its own contributor groups.

Mr. Thompson said, for example, that Congress should provide tax credits for the purchase of private insurance

Not that there isn't some good news.

But no action is imminent. Congress is preoccupied with efforts to help a large, politically potent group that already has insurance, the elderly, by adding drug benefits to Medicare.

Remember when the SCLM was obessed with the degradation visited upon the nation by the Clintons and their Lincoln bedroom-loving minions?

This health care crises, and that's what it is, not merely a health insurance crises, as folks like Fred Barnes like to slice the Viagra, as if a health insurance crises wasn't also a health crises, has gone unnoticed in mondo punditcano. And you know why? Because Chris Matthews, Howard Fineman, Margaret Carlson, Juan Williams, Mara Liasson and et their fucking al, which includes wives, children, parents, grandparents, friends, children's friends, colleagues, probably just about everyone not in a service capacity with whom these folks come in contact all have health insurance.

Of course this is all the fault of the Clintons. Let's take a moment now to remember what a disaster they made of health care. Isn't that how their attempt to find a way to insure the health of all Americans is usually set up for discussion? On both the left and the right?

I've always had a problem with the way the liberal/left has been so ready to trash the Clintons on this issue. Granted, the failure of support for their efforts by key Democrats, many of them DLC members, their own mistakes, and the lethal mobilization of a campaign of lies on the part of the right wing and the health industry, both of whom were determined to forestall any changes that might limit the status quo of their own highly profitable mismanagment of the way health care was being distributed among Americans, resulted in a political disaster for the Clinton administration.

But the real disaster was that nothing was done then, in the early nineties to change the trend lines that have led us to where we are. That was the message the Clintons were trying to get across to Americans. Do something now, or be even sorrier later. Some on the left seem to think that had the Clintons gone with a single payer system, a grassroots groundswell would have successfully developed to counter the charges of socialized medicine. To which I would say, "huh?" The charge of socialized medicine worked with a proposal that didn't even take on the role of the privitized health industry, that, instead, only tried to manage it to provide all Americans with health insurance coverage; why wouldn't it have worked with a proposal that would have been a variation of the European/Canadian model, which are, arguably, forms of socialized medicine?

Isn't it time for the liberal/left not to take so much pleasure in trashing the Clintons' attempt to do something about the inequities of the American healthcare system, and I include in this plea, the Clintons themselves; Bill and Hillary, enough with the mea culpas. The people who should be mea culpa-ing are the Gingrichs and the Bob Doles and TNR and the Manhattan Institutes and the health insurers and the HMOs, and the AMA, and yes, the DLC. To those of you who asking yourselves, why am I fighting this old battle, my answer is because this background is affecting the foreground of our healthcare discussions.

Ask yourself why none of the Democratic presidential candidates are willing to breath the words, "single-payer," at a time when it's appropriate to be at least considering that option. One did. Al Gore. And he framed the issue perfectly when he said that reluctantly he'd come to the conclusion that single-payer was the only way to provide health insurance to all Americans . Why has no other candidate taken up Gore's challenge?

Now ask yourself why Al Gore is no longer a candidate? (to be addressed in an upcoming post)

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