OPINION: MARY WILDFIRE - Parasites Threaten Our Health

(12/11/2009)

OPINION/COMMENT By Mary Wildfire

While my dog was being spayed at the animal clinic in Ripley, the vet also took a look at the swelling under her foreleg and removed a warble, which is the larval form of a fly.

They put the fat, black thing in a little jar so we could admire it. Ugh! Now we have to keep the wound clean while it heals.

While the vet took care of the parasite bothering my dog, I am quite worried about another parasite threatening my own health care.

Amid all the shouting about health-care reform, one thing has not been said enough: the health insurance industry consumes about a third of our health-care dollars, but it provides no health care.

It's a useless middleman to be blunt; a parasite.

But this parasite, unlike that ugly thing removed from my dog, has lobbyists.

It can spend $1.4 million a day to persuade us all that it would be a terrible thing to adopt the kind of government system every other developed country has - the kind that has put 36 countries ahead of us in life expectancy while all are much lower in costs per person.

For the insurance companies, of course, it would be a terrible thing to lose this big, highly profitable chunk of business.

What happened to the warble in my dog yesterday was surely a terrible thing, for the warble. I feel no regret about this.

But because the health insurance industry has deep pockets to pay lobbyists, and because "our" members of Congress primarily serve whichever interests pay the best, it looks like once again we can get no genuine reform.

The simple, single-payer system other developed countries have had for generations was off the table from the beginning.

Instead, we were to get a "public option" added to our already complex system.

At least it would allow the uninsured to opt into a system something like Medicare.

Medicare has only 3 percent overhead, while private insurance has many times that.

So it's probably true that they wouldn't be able to compete. (What was that about government being less efficient than business?)

And so now the push is on to remove any public option from the so-called reform bill.

What's left is a promise to force everyone to buy private insurance, presumably with a government subsidy for the poor.

I have no health insurance. My primary approach to this problem is to avoid doctors, to eat right, not smoke, get plenty of exercise, avoid chemical exposures and so forth.

But if this bill passes in the form that would best please the most lobbyists and campaign contributors, I will be told that I must buy insurance, or be fined.

If we were talking about the public option I wouldn't mind, because it would be a smaller and less efficient version of what people in first-world countries have, in which we would all share the risks so that those among us who got horrible, expensive conditions would be taken care of.

But I'm afraid I'll be told I must purchase a private plan, designed to make money for shareholders and CEOs by finding ways to deny care.

In other words, while veterinary medicine removed the natural parasite from my dog, the government will be trying to hold me down while the insurance industry inserts a parasite into me.

I plan to fight back. I hope you do, too.

- Wildfire is a member of the Concerned Citizens Coalition of Roane, Calhoun and Gilmer Counties.


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