Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama and health care

I'm feeling perplexed by my country. We desperately need to reform our health care system, but I fear all that will happen before Congress goes into recess is some small thing. Some issues seem not clear to folks...maybe because they aren't. We should not charge by the procedure, for example. That is a money generator, leads to excessive treatment (and probably deaths). But it is also prompted by our equally dangerous rules on medical malpractice. Doctors do more than they should (a violation of their oath in my view) partly to avoid lawsuits.

Perhaps 7-14,000 people are losing health insurance every day due to the Great Recession. As a result, ur capacity for economic innovation, for small businesses, and for job creation is hurt. People lose their homes and what little fortunes they have to make family choices (ex: a home v health; food v insurance) inconceivable in Malta or in most other "advanced" (post)industrial states. Our capacity and often genuine desire to assist each other seems thwarted somehow.

We worry about the cost of the change, but not enough about the costs right now. Congress decides it is too extreme to add a bit of tax to those earning $300,000 and up and move the tax point 1 Million (and are they talking salary or wealth or both?). It's absurd. Our income inequality is starting to look positively third world, vastly different from how it looked in the 1950s and '60s. Even so, I'd be for everyone getting a tiny tax--rich and poor--a citizenship duty to protect each other tax.

I'm teaching about health care a bit in my summer US govt class, but in a distant, poli sci sort of way--how things get on the agenda, alternatives, get decided. I talk about how, probably, only some small change will be passed before Congress heads out and then, as everyone knows, the 2010 elections will mean inaction. I can show them this pattern going back decades and so on and so forth. But, I've gotta tell you, my heart is just breaking on this one. We surprised ourselves by voting for Obama another step on the road to heal an ancient wound. But now, in the world of public policy, we are too scared to keep trying to rebuild and rejuvenate our country. We are going to walk away from the single most important thing we need to do for ourselves and our future.


Christie Stacker said...

Mary, very well said. I had such high hopes when Obama was elected but he is, after all, just one man. He may have the vision, but he is surrounded by Cretans. < sad :( >

Mary said...

At least now I really understand FDR's statement that "all we have to fear is fear itself."

It's just strange to me that we are imploding like we seem to be. Most of us have jobs, still. We could help each other.

All of us would be better off with some core health care. It is in no way going to look like the British system.

Sam said...

Im overwhelmed - I guess it takes hearing it from people themselves in the US. Dr Durfee, your governor - Granholm - seems to have good progressive ideas - I saw her last time on an MSNBC panel all discussing healthcare- she was being interrupted by someother members that sought to ridicule her suggestion that "we take what is good from other countries". Still I don't think its right that somehow Canada and some european countries are ridiculed for their welfare systems. Nothing is perfect, but 46 million uninsured is no joke. In Malta I feel you have a good choice.
You said it in a nutshell when you wrote "We worry about the cost of the change, but not enough about the costs right now." I remember what you once said in class - "We support the right to life, but not the universal right to sustain it". Yet afterall I really want to understand the ideology of those that don't want to allow healthcare reform and are scared. I guess large companies would loose thousands of dollars? Wouldn't being socially-minded mean respecting your fellow citizens? A 'tiny tax' is ok - afterall the US itslef is a government entity - so you have to pay some money to whoever is protecting you etc.
I remember speaking about all this to a lady from Virginia recently in Washington as she showed me one university hospital, and I said that the saddest thing about this (not only in the US) is that health has become an economic issue.

Mary said...


The odd thing, at least at first, was that firms were in favor of it. It would make our goods MUCH more competitive--knock a few thousand off a US car. It would encourage more small businesses. In past efforts to reform health care (back with Carter and with Clinton), the support of business was not so strong. The support from business was one reason I thought it might fly this time.

I think Maltese don't do much to keep costs down, however. You go to Mater Dei at a drop of a hat, it seemed. In other EU countries there is a small fee and often people don't go to the main hospital but begin with a regional center and get referred. Some of this is size, of course.

But, I sure did like the very inexpensive, prompt, and good medical care I got in Malta! It was so cheap for me that I didn't even turn my bills in to my insurance. Hardly worth my time.

Sam said...

Actually, in Malta we have the polyclinics ('regional centres'), but I think most prefer to go directly to MATER DEI (it cost so much money, afterall) or simply the private hospital of their choice. In Malta there is a good choice- if you can pay for something and you see it as necessary, then you pay. If you cannot, but still require care, you must wait abit longer. Perhaps thats what the US system should look like? Consultants and top professors work in both private clinics/hospitals and in government ones (incl Mater Dei).

On a seperate note- What are/were those rowdy meetings about? Why are people crying and turning them into theatrical shows? Do you think that in the US the silent majority is being overrun by the autocratic minority? Of course we remember how the constitution sought to prevent an autocratic majority taking rule- but seemed to miss this. I saw an article online about this (

Mary said...

I'm not sure why people are being so, um, dramatic at meetings. Some say the Republicans are fueling the fire. Our media was moronically showing it over and over, so that encouraged it. Because it lasted more than a week, it isn't on the news as much. In everyday conversation, I'm hearing more joking about the absurd claims and about the silly news than I was a few weeks ago. I also saw a wonderful Jon Stewart where he compared the clarity and unity of Republicans talking on the need to invade Iraq v the wandering message on health care from the Democrats. It was mighty darn funny and pointed for American humor.

All countries are odd in one way or another. Mine is no exception.

Samuel said...

Dr Durfee It seems as though everyone is getting jumpy as Congress reconvenes. Did you see that heckle by Wilson? I was wondering why CNN presenters say that Wilson was 'right' in saying that Obama was lying in whatever he said the second he was heckled. Maybe it was the second he mentioned that illegal aliens will not have healthcare. Is that to discourage them from going to the US? On the contrary, what do you think of the messages on the signs in the DC protests? Mind you; protests are one of the highlights of DC!

Discussion programmes on AL Jazeera have said that they are making these false claims/adverts about the NHS (Britain) and the Canadian system. I wonder where they get those stories from to make these advertisement spots.

In true democratic style...Cannot the US have a referendum about this healthcare issue?

Sam said...

Re 'you lie' heckle - Where was Joe Wilson when they needed him ...JUST BEFORE the US invaded Iraq?

Mary said...

I fear the Republicans are race baiting in order to gain power again. It's sad and it is dangerous. We showed our best, most daring selves last November. Now a whole lotta ugly is with us.

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