Sen.-elect Brown may be health care reform’s unwitting savior

By Barbara Power
Nashua (N.H.) Telegraph
Sunday, January 31, 2010

Do you have reliable, affordable, high-quality health care, guaranteed for life?

Do all of your children? Parents? Grandchildren? Friends and neighbors?

If so, congratulations.

If not, like many of us here in New Hampshire, you probably lie awake late into the night sometimes worrying about what kind of havoc an illness or accident might wreak on your family’s finances.

Next time you can’t sleep, do what I do and try running these numbers through your head:

  • $936,267,403: The amount donated to Congress by the health care industry.
  • $20,915,072: The amount donated to President Barack Obama by the health care industry.
  • 15,385: The average number of Americans who lost their health insurance each day in 2009.
  • 3,330: The number of health care industry lobbyists who played a role in writing the current health care “reform” bill.
  • 428 percent: The increase in profits at 10 of the nation’s largest health insurance companies between 2000 and 2007.
  • 72 percent: The percentage of Americans who support universal health care coverage, according to a CBS News/NY Times poll.
  • 51.9 percent: The percentage of votes won by Massachusetts’ newest senator, Scott Brown, as he took the late Ted Kennedy’s seat and eliminated the Democrat’s filibuster-proof margin.

Ironically, it’s this last number that stands the best chance of saving us from all the others. But only if we stand up right now and demand our rights as Americans.

Political pundits are struggling to make sense of the Massachusetts vote, which ended a 50-year winning streak for the Democrats and which by all accounts will jeopardize the passage of Obama’s health care reform bill.


Because I want health care reform. My friends and colleagues want it. My kids really want it. And 72 percent of Americans want it, too.

But the current bill is utterly unworthy of the word “reform.” Every life-saving ounce of real reform was either suppressed in advance, stripped from the legislation, or bargained away in the usual political haggling on the Hill.

Washington might think it can dress up this considerably flawed, deeply unpopular piece of compromise as “reform,” but the American people are far too smart for that. For starters, this bill:

n Relies on a rapacious industry to ensure that our quality of and access to health care are on an equal footing with their profit margins.

n Forces us to purchase health insurance without any safeguards against insurance companies dropping unprofitable patients or raising premium costs, deductibles and co-pays.

n And requires us to pay for this on “lay-away” with health care benefits kicking in only well after we start paying the premiums.

Congress and the administration are hurriedly considering a number of ways to get this bill passed into law before Brown – who may go down in history as health care reform’s unwitting savior – is sworn into office.

Their window of opportunity is a few weeks at most. Which means it is time to do or die – time to kill this miserable excuse for health care reform and create something that will truly improve this nation’s health and well being.

“Of all of the forms of inequality,” said the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

It is the right of every American – rich or poor, young or old, rural or urban – to have access to affordable, quality health care. Seriously, what’s the point of being the world’s most powerful and wealthy nation if we won’t take decent care of our people?

Universal single-payer health care will cut overhead and administrative costs, premiums, waste, duplication, lawsuits and the growing expense of insurance company liaison staff.

Most importantly, universal health care will once and for all cut off the control of our health care by the profit-motivated health care insur-ance industry and put it in the hands of a government of, for and by the people.

The current bills that have passed in Congress do none of the above. And no matter how they are mish-mashed together, the outcome will never come near to producing what a universal single-payer health care program guarantees.

We need to kill the congressional health care conciliation bill and demand that our elected representatives go back to the drawing board and produce what we sent them there to do, not what the 3,000-plus lobbyists bought with their $9 million-plus dollars.

Thanks, Sen.-elect Brown, for giving us another chance to get it right!

Barbara J. Power, of Deering, is co-chair of Granite State Physicians for a National Health Program.