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Archive for Friday, December 4, 2009

Congress should do the right thing on health care

December 4, 2009

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In Phoenix, the bougainvillea is blooming red against a landscape of buttes and rocks outside my hotel window and interesting cacti that look like cell phone base stations or Modigliani sculptures. Midwesterners who came here long ago slapped grass down on the desert, hoping to make it more like Indianapolis, but Phoenicians have come to accept aridity. If you enjoy rocks, you will love Arizona. But for me, it’s weird to walk outdoors and hear “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” from little speakers hidden among the cacti and “Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh.”

The clerk at the front desk looked at my Minnesota driver’s license and chuckled, which I found annoying. “Pretty cold up there, huh?” he said, implying that any sensible person would leave the frozen tundra for the sunny Southwest. We Midwesterners get this a lot, especially from ex-Midwesterners who’ve deployed to the Sun Belt and now talk as if a light frost would break their hearts and the thought of arising on a 10-below morning and starting the car is simply unthinkable, like dying and going to hell. These poor deacclimated souls have come disconnected from their own culture.

Christmas is supposed to be white. Dashing through the snow does make your spirit bright. You put Santa in Speedos and a tank top and you’ve ruined the whole thing.

Christmas is one of the bulwarks of Life As We Know It, and in these parlous times we cling to its classic truth, which is: Rejoice, be not afraid, and show mercy to the poor and outcast, for it was through such people that Jesus came into the world. Dickens’ ancient novella, written in a big rush because he was low on cash, is on the silver screen again, and Scrooge is moved by the Spirits to share the wealth with his downtrodden clerk.

Meanwhile, the truth of Christmas is tested in Washington as we move toward some sort of semi-universal health care against the near-unanimous opposition of Republicans. Given the chance to be shepherds or angels, they chose instead to be Herod. Spooked by the victory of Barack Obama, they decided to fight him on all fronts, even though Americans will die as a result.

A new study, “Health Insurance and Mortality in U.S. Adults,” published by the American Journal of Public Health, tells us what everyone already knows — the uninsured are in a dangerous place. An estimated 45,000 deaths a year are associated with lack of health insurance. Uninsured Americans of working age run a 40 percent higher risk of death than those of us who are covered. If you have diabetes or heart disease, and you can’t afford to see a doctor, you’re in deep trouble.

The big lie that Republicans have inflicted on us, starting with St. Ronald, is that government is a morass of inefficiency, and private enterprise is the Enlightenment. (Republicans have practically disappeared from the Snow Belt. I just point this out.) My own experience is that when I go to get a new driver’s license in St. Paul, or deal with the city inspector when a sewage line breaks, or walk into a post office to mail letters, or talk to the police when our house alarm goes off, I find public employees to be cheerful and competent and highly professional, and when I go for blood draws at Quest Diagnostics, a national for-profit chain of medical labs, I find myself in tiny, dingy offices run by low-wage immigrant health workers who speak incomprehensible English and are rude to customers and take forever to do a routine procedure. An hour in a Quest office will ruin your whole day.

If the government took over this miserable operation, paid the people decently and trained them to smile and speak softly to the clientele, civilization would be advanced. If we simply extended Medicare to anyone who wished to sign up for it, the vast Kafkaesque bureaucracy of for-profit insurance would come crashing down, and the public would be healthier.

Instead, Democrats fashioned a patchwork plan, trying to meet the objections of Republicans, who then opposed it anyway as socialistic. As long as any sort of reform is going to be attacked as socialistic, why not go ahead and be socialistic, just as Social Security is. It is Big Government and it runs pretty well, and I don’t see many Republicans calling for it to be privatized. Mr. Obama needs to learn that it is a foolish goose who attends the foxes’ church. Don’t worry about bipartisanship, please. Just do what’s right.

Comments

JHOK32 4 years, 4 months ago

Great article by Mr. Keillor, Republicans should take note that peoples live's are literally at stake in this debate. If all of these Republicans who GLADLY accept us taxpayers paying for their cadillac insurance plans, had to lay in an emergency room intensive care ward & were told that they HAD to die because THEY had no health insurance, I bet things would change.......................FAST! Of course if we were debating to give all the Millionaires in the country a huge tax break they would be all for that! (like they really need something to keep them alive like another vacation house).

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opposeobama 4 years, 4 months ago

Ever seen "Regarding Henry," the movie in which Harrison Ford played a real jerk who, after being shot in the head, recovered from brain damage to become a decent human being?

I was sad to hear of Keillor's stroke a few months ago, but hoped that he would go through a similar experience as Henry. Alas, Keillor has only become more of a jerk.

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funkdog1 4 years, 4 months ago

TomShewman: I love this myth that you "old timers" perpetuate that the youth in this country are spoiled and feel "entitled" to health care. In your youth, people paid a reasonable amount to see the doctor, and if they couldn't afford it, they could work something out, pay in chickens or handiwork or maybe the doctor would just wave the fee to see a patient who didn't have a lot of cash.

A visit to the doctor these days is a small fortune for many WORKING Americans.

A healthy population can compete in a global economy. Why do you hate America?

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cato_the_elder 4 years, 4 months ago

Taking a cue from the headline, Congress should indeed "do the right thing" and throw all 2,000+ pages of this obscene monstrosity into the nearest trash can.

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SettingTheRecordStraight 4 years, 4 months ago

Thankfully Garrison Keillor never lets his Far Left bias and his love affair with all things government show on his taxpayer-funded National Public Radio program.

Errr...

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Pilgrim2 4 years, 4 months ago

Doing the right thing would be to back the bus up and start this whole thing over again. Barry Joe takes 11 months to "get it right" on Afghanistan (and still fails miserably supplying only half the manpower requested and inserting his "we surrender" date), but by God we have to force feed this health insurance reform abomination by Christmas, and "getting it right" be damned!

Pathetic.

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leedavid 4 years, 4 months ago

How (word for less than intelligent)..what government agency would you like your health care modeled after? F.B.I.? C.I.A.? How about the Department of Education? I got it....Border Patrol. Garrison Keillor says: "My own experience is that when I go to get a new driver’s license in St. Paul, or deal with the city inspector when a sewage line breaks, or walk into a post office to mail letters, or talk to the police when our house alarm goes off, I find public employees to be cheerful and competent and highly professional, and when I go for blood draws at Quest Diagnostics, a national for-profit chain of medical labs, I find myself in tiny, dingy offices run by low-wage immigrant health workers who speak incomprehensible English and are rude to customers and take forever to do a routine procedure." He is a celebrity what did he think was going to happen? The average American is not a celebrity. When we go to the places he sites we get; "You brought the wrong form", "You need to take this to the other office and get that signed, then bring it back to me", "We are closed now." Government run offices are so ineffective, how about the way they check to see who is allowed to go to a state function with the President of the United States? If the government is so good at running things....why isn't congress taking this health care plan?

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notajayhawk 4 years, 4 months ago

merrill (Anonymous) says…

"Let ME pay for National Health Insurance with MY tax dollars for MY National Health insurance."

By all means pay for your healthcare with your money, mertle. Keep your hands out of my pocket.


Ol' Garrison wants national healthcare because his 'efficient' government is emptying his Medicare to pay for the college kids' healthcare. No wonder he's such a bitter old moron.

[Countdown to boohoozo defending his idol in five, four, three ...]

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Tom Shewmon 4 years, 4 months ago

I suppose we all just give in. Our future: today's youth, and those in their 20's, feel they are entitled anyway. I suppose we'll see what happens when America finally becomes a nation of dependency. I hope I'm long gone by then, and with this mysterious intended-to-confuse 2000 page healthcare bill, I probably will be. That 38% gains tax my wife and I just paid on a substantial stock trade will be put to good use for the entitled generation.

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thomasgonsalez 4 years, 4 months ago

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barrypenders 4 years, 4 months ago

It's time for the "old ones" to move on. Let them expire. Once the "old ones" have been replaced, training their replacements will be much easier. It is important to train the "new ones" to do the work that is needed to make the system work. SS and Medicare needs to be reduced and removed from society to increase the expiration rate of the "old ones".

Stimulus and Posercare lives unprecedented

Darwin bless you all

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Richard Heckler 4 years, 4 months ago

Thanks Garrison I'm with you 100%. Everybody in nobody out. And we all get the same Cadillac plan 24/7.

Meanwhile:

Let ME pay for National Health Insurance with MY tax dollars for MY National Health insurance.

Here's the deal. National Health Insurance is not a free ride and never will be perhaps with few exceptions.

You see my tax dollars will pay for my portion therefore no one else would be paying for MY National Health Insurance coverage. A 3.3% payroll tax is doable.

However if you listen to the republican party NOT and Max Baucus you would be led to believe that my tax dollars are not my tax dollars. How can that be?

The fact that National Health Insurance would come from the rather substantial tax dollar cookie jars simply means that no monthly or weekly deductions would come out of my pay check per se..

Since federal, state, and local governments collect trillions in taxes of all kinds—income, sales, property, corporate etc etc this is how medical bills would be paid as it is now.

You see as we speak the government tax dollars support medical insurance payments to the tune of at least $1.2 trillion which is quite a gravy train I'd say. Next year this will increase by changing nothing and not passing the National Health Insurance Act.

In essence MY tax dollar amount to pay MY portion of National Health Insurance would be about $2700 annually for the entire family.

What coverage would this buy the family:

long term care such that cancer demands prescription drugs hospital surgical outpatient services primary and preventive care emergency services dental mental health home health physical therapy rehabilitation (including for substance abuse) vision care hearing services including hearing aids chiropractic durable medical equipment * palliative care

National Health Insurance http://www.healthcare-now.org/

Doctors for Single Payer http://www.pnhp.org/

A good deal that would free up more expendable cash to be spent elsewhere thus creating new jobs. Things like birthdays,christmas,home improvements,taking better care of my lover and investments would benefit.

Social Security and Medicare are two very smart insurance plans.

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