The insurance companies can’t change the fact that advertising and lobbying expenses and profits don’t go to improving health care anymore than they can change the fact that two plus two equals four.
Therefore they use hype and distraction techniques to convince the public they’re getting a good deal without actually giving it to them.
The following was first posted on tripod on 9/5/09; it is followed by an update that reviews the health care bill that was passed briefly and why we are heading back to divide and rule tactics over this again.
Violent health care town hall meetings
In order to understand how to reduce or eliminate the violence or uncivil behavior going on now at the town hall meetings about health care it is important to take into consideration things that are not happening as well as things that are. In fact the things that aren’t happening may be as important if not more important than the things that re happening. What should be happening is a discussion about how to improve health care that starts with the simple basics because that is where some of the biggest problems are. The reason people are getting upset is because their health care needs aren’t being fulfilled and for the most part as far as I can tell the high profile debate being presented on TV isn’t changing that.
In order to provide the best health care at the lowest cost one of the most important things is preventive medicine. There are many things that can be done to prevent people from getting sick in the first place without much cost to the public. Anti-smoking programs, weight loss programs and nutrition advice can be done mainly by better education the public. Some things like exercise can be done by the individual for nothing contrary to what advertisers want you to believe you don’t have to spend money to exercise. Some people think that buying equipment will help motivate them, this isn’t new but it has never worked before. Advertisers have been pushing this idea for years but most of the equipment they sell just winds up in the basement ore being used as an expensive clothes rack. The media has spent very little time discussing preventive medicine and when they do it isn’t always as productive as it could be for example CNN recently mentioned preventive medicine in relation to diabetes. It is important to mention a lot of different diseases and how to prevent them but they shouldn’t present them as isolated cases and ignore the rest. In this case they just mentioned one disease and addressed just that one, what they could have done is mention that there are many and started with on example providing a source to a longer list of other examples. This could have involved telling the public where they could go for more details on each subject.
Another important way to cut health care costs is to improve health care for children. This is where preventive medicine is most effective. If children get regular check ups and advice about preventive medicine they are much more likely to lead a healthy life with much lower medical bills throughout their lives. Good health care at the beginning of life is more important than at any other time, this should start before children are even born.
The health care debate seems to be spending little if any time reminding the public of the most obvious basics about how insurance works. The way insurance works is people who buy insurance pool their money by paying premiums to health insurance providers. The insurance providers pay their own expenses make some profit and put the remainder to pay for health care. This way if you have a sudden large health care expense you are covered in theory but if you are healthy you still pay even though you don’t need medical attention. This means the healthy help pay for the medical costs of the sick. It also means that insurance companies don’t actually provide any health care at all. What they do is organize the financing. The more expenses they have the higher premiums have to be to cover costs. This means that when they spend money trying to convince the customer that they are covered they may actually be taking away from the money available for treatment. Once the public understands this they will realize there is a serious problem with the way health care is currently being handled. This is important to consider when trying to cut costs. If the objective is to provide better service and care for the customer at less cost then expenses for the insurance companies should be kept to a minimum. The insurance companies spend an enormous amount of money to influence the way this is interpreted but their objective is to maximize profit not look out for the best interest of the customer. Once you understand this it may be clear that the capitalist way may not be the most effective way to accomplish this goal.
Another thing that is hardly being mentioned about health care is the patent laws. Part of the reason the cost of health care has sky rocketed is because when the public wasn’t paying attention the drug companies and politicians extended the length of patents to an unreasonable period of time. In many cases the research may have even been funded partly by tax dollars and the patents are still being extended. This is similar to what they did with copy right laws. Robert McChesney wrote about this in “The problem with the Media: U.S. communications politics in the twenty first century” It would be helpful to read a similar study on what they did with the patent laws, right now I don’t even know what they are just like most of the public which is part of the problem. It would be helpful to know what is happening in other countries where there are better patent laws. There was plenty of talk about people going to Canada to get their drugs much cheaper. It would help to know what Canada’s laws are. There was an attempt to make it sound like there was greater risk of bad drugs if people went to Canada. I doubt if there is much truth to this it was probably done by the same media that is misrepresenting the health care problem and gets advertising money from drug companies. This is part of the problem with the media that McChesney wrote about.
An important part of the health care debate will always include seniors of course. They are the ones that require the most health care. This is where some of the toughest choices need to be made and it doesn’t help if demagogues are trying to raise the emotional content of the debate. Like it or not at this point in life there may be a tough choice between the length of life and the quality of life. Making the most accurate information available to the public ion the most effective way possible is important to this situation. If important information is withheld for political or emotional reasons then decisions will be made based on a false sense of reality and this almost always leads to unnecessary mistakes. We need a serious discussion about hospice and how to make the end of life as pleasant and peaceful as possible. Demagoguery will not help this. Another thing to keep in mind is that excessive discussion about this will only distract from more important aspects of the debate like prevention and child health care.
It would also help to provide a list of other health care systems and let the public know where there are descriptions of them so they could compare them. In the USA there is a common assumption that we have the best system in the world but this is clearly not true and it would be foolish to automatically assume that socialist systems are bad without looking at how they work. The more organized the foreign programs are the easier it will be to understand and pick only the good aspect of these systems.
The media has contributed to the tension by simply not even trying to cover the subject well. All these simple basics could have been covered much better by the media if they wanted to. Instead what seems to be happening is that people are being divided into groups supporting different complicated plans that no one understands and they are being played off against each other. This is a classic divide and rule tactic being implemented by the politicians and media commentators. The people in the lower and middle classes are fighting amongst themselves and the corporations are making all the money while providing inferior health care at excessive costs.
Since I first posted this they passed what they call a historic health care bill which the Republicans call unconstitutional and against the interests and desires of the American people. They haven’t addressed any of the most obvious basics that I mentioned and as far as I can tell there is little if any difference. I haven’t had any firsthand experience with the health care system myself; however there are many signs to indicate that they haven’t done much to improve things. These signs consist primarily of what they haven’t done. They haven’t done anything to inform the public that the ads that continue to flood the airways are being paid for with money collected from premiums and this cost isn’t going to improve health care. They haven’t informed the public about many other expenses the current system charges their customers that don’t go to health care including administration costs, lobbying that includes efforts to prevent real reform, and profits which are surely much higher than they need to be and are in many other countries around the world that hold their corporations accountable better than in the USA. They haven’t done much if anything to educate the public about preventive medicine so they can cut the need for health care and reduce costs dramatically. They haven’t done much if anything to discuss how patent laws are driving the cost of health care up. As far as I can tell they haven’t done much if anything to improve the system at all. There may be some small improvements but when I hear about penalties for those that don’t buy health insurance from one of these confusing plans I can’t help but wonder if this was put there by the corporations that would love to have the public feel they’re required to buy their plan which is grossly overpriced.
This doesn’t mean that I agree with the GOP version of repeal and replace as they say. They had a chance to pass their own bill when they had control of both houses and the presidency and they chose not to. They had a chance to work with the Democrats when they lost power and they attacked any consideration of a public option and managed to keep it out of consideration despite the fact that a majority of the public wanted to have this option according to many polls. The GOP hasn’t made any attempt to discuss these issues which would have been a big step towards implementing them, since part of the issues should involve educating the public and discussing it would have helped accomplish that. Instead they’re doing what they can to attempt to cut off whatever little funding the government is providing for health care; they don’t do this when it involves funding for the big businesses they collect campaign contributions from although they may pretend to with their rhetoric. When it comes to cutting funding they do this only for those without political connections.
The media hasn’t done any of these things either! If we had a free press that was looking out for the best interest of the public or a press that allowed a large variety of viewpoints to get the opportunity to address the majority of the public many of these issues would have been discussed much more widely. We clearly don’t have a free press based on the views that are presented to the public. This is even clearer when you look at the incentive plan for those that do control the Mass Media plus the fact that it is controlled by a small percentage of the public that is virtually unaccountable. The media has always been controlled by those with enough money to do research and pay for the presses but it used to be a much larger segment of society with a variety of papers from many people. Robert McChesney wrote more about the history of the media in his books and how and why it s controlled by the wealthy and he tries to find ways to resolve this so that the public could have more say and academic experts from a variety of fields including health care could get their views across. The Media is controlled by the same multi-national corporations that are making profit from health care one way or another. They have many of the same stockholders and board members and the Media collects an enormous amount of revenue in advertising dollars. The fact that the advertisements haven’t slowed down a bit since the passing of their bill is evidence of its ineffectiveness. The purpose of these ads isn’t to improve health care instead it is to convince the public they’re getting a better deal without actually giving it to them. In other words like many other ads the purpose of it is to commit fraud. I’m not saying they should outlaw these ads although some reasonable regulation might be worth considering; instead they should do more to educate the public then once the public understands how this works they will be less likely to fall for this fraud. No good businessman would continue to run these ads if they no longer succeeded in manipulating the public; so they would chose to stop on their own once the public was educated and no longer falls for their hype.
Instead of doing anything to educate the public both parties are trying to promote their own versions of health care which few if any people can understand which is part of the point. Then they try to divide the public among the two parties and convince us to keep going back and forth between the two parties both of which are collecting massive campaign contributions from the health care industry. It is no wonder they aren’t doing anything to educate the public; that isn’t their goal although they pretend it is. This will continue to happen until the public takes the initiative to educate themselves starting with the basics. This can’t be solved with the current system; if it could they would have already done so; therefore the public will have to implement election reform in a manner that they can control the interview process and ask the applicants for public office what their positions are starting with the fundamentals of any given subject.
To read follow up on this post see Health Care Premiums and where they go
For additional information on alternatives see “Single-Payer National Health Insurance” at Physicians for a National Health Program which was pointed out by Liberal Libby in her blog about “Jesus Would Be an Advocate for Single Payer” along with other links and her input on the subject.