Thursday, August 13, 2009

Rationing, Death Panels and Takeovers, Oh my!

Is it a lack of determination that keeps me at this? There are times I just want to sail away into the sunset and forget about our idiot's Republic that seems hell bent to destroy itself in an orgy of irrational anger -- but I don't. Sometimes it takes only a word to start me off again and this time the word was "rationing."

On thing that's consistent about American politics is the practice of hiding your worst vices by preemptively accusing your opposition of it. If your practice of rationing health care to maximize profits hangs around your neck like a decomposing albatross, if you let people die because your top executives need their 20 million dollar salaries and the lobbyists and Congressmen need to be kept rich and happy, you make up a story about Obama and rationing and you stage public events where people pretend to be furious at it until eventually people do become furious enough that they stop thinking and start screaming.

Ask Wendell Potter, former vice president of CIGNA quit his job at Corporate Communications because of the company's decision that the life of 17 year old Nataline Sarkisyan was not worth saving: the liver transplant cost too much so the CIGNA Death Panel refused, calling it "experimental." Although outcry from the public and organizations such as the California Nurses Association caused CIGNA to re-focus on how much the bad publicity was costing them and relented, it was too late and the girl died.

Now rationing is the thing with transplants. The supply is severely limited and systems are in place that attempt to make distribution equitable, but it's not based on the cost. That's not the case at CIGNA nor is it indeed in American health care. Our "system" if you can call it that, will decide how much your life is worth to them and whether or not you've paid your premiums, they will refuse treatment if it will eat into profitability. They will do so even though profitability is growing rapidly. Rationing of health care: it's nothing personal, it's just business and it's just about profits.
"I know from personal experience that members of Congress and the public have good reason to question the honesty and trustworthiness of the insurance industry."
testified Potter to the Senate Commerce Committee last month. He related how unprofitable companies were purged, to maximize profits and he's now telling CNN that the buzz words and hackneyed phrases being shouted at Town Hall meetings come straight from the wordsmiths of the Insurers.
"People talk about the government takeover of the system ... that's a buzz term that comes straight out of the insurance industry," says Potter.

Rationing of treatment is not new, nor has it anything to do with who's providing it. When resources are limited, it has to occur, whether it's because there aren't enough organs or operating rooms or surgeons or equipment. Indeed when kidney dialysis was developed in the early 1960's, a committee was set up in Seattle's Artificial Kidney Center for instance, to ration the use of their machinery. I hesitate to call it a death panel, but if you needed time on the machines, a group consisting of a minister, a banker, a labor leader and a housewife picked by the Center would ration it based on such criteria as your record of Church attendance, net worth and marital status. In other words private parties could decide what your life was worth and factor their profit into the equation. It wasn't until the "government takeover" which was Medicare that opened up access to almost everyone in need and perhaps lessened the ability of insurers to indulge in profit based rationing. They sure as hell don't want much more of that at CIGNA.

A great deal of thought goes into choosing words like "death panel" and "rationing" and "takeover." They are chosen with surgical precision so that using by them as accusations, the corporate death panels, the corporate rationing of health care and the monopolistic trusts that indulge in them are protected from the truth.

Now contemplating just how dumb are the people plugged into the corporate matrix, I'm back to wanting to give it all up and let the country sell itself deeper into slavery and dependency on those who see the American People as sheep to be fleeced.

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