Some of the Senate’s most vocal opponents of a public health care option constituents need it the most. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, best illustrated in his daily rants, is against any public health care plan or just about any reform for the American health care system proposed by the Democrats. In fact he and the Republican leadership has followed a typical and tired script written and directed by the lobbyist for the health insurance industry. It’s like a bad movie where one can utter the lines right before they are spoken.
Axis of Health Care Evil
On the Senate floor, McConnell has for the most part used the normal insurance company scare tactics like socialized medicine, government bureaucrats making health care decisions, long lines etc. He has also thrown out a new argument stating that Americans will not stand for (which what must be the health care equivalent of the axis of evil) health care like that is received in Canada, UK and New Zealand. Parents grab your kids. So he thinks Americans will not stand for health care that is better and cost less than what they currently get? Americans spend more per capita and as a percentage of GDP than the health care axis of evil. Child mortality rates are worse in the U.S. than the health care axis of evil as well as life expectancy. (See a great analysis from DailyKos Here)
According to the website StateHealthFacts.org, in Senator Mich McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, in 2006-2007 there were 597,950 of his constituents without any health coverage, representing 16.4 percent of the state. For adults 19-64 the uninsured rate is nearly 20 percent. (See: StateHealthFacts.org) These figures are before the disastrous economic end of the Bush administration and current economic conditions. The unemployment rate in Kentucky is at 9.8 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics April 2009 figures. In 2006-2007 the unemployment rate averaged about 5.5% in 2006-2007. Therefore due to the rise in unemployment it is reasonable to assume that the uninsured, uncovered and those who would benefit from a public health option has also increased in Kentucky.
Follow The Money
The insurance lobby’s financial grip on the U.S. Congress is real and they are cashing in their chips on the Hill and within the national media, who they support through advertising dollars. The financial influence of the insurance lobby exposes who the real constituents of some members of Congress. The only constituent that matters is the one that pays for the campaigns and that is the big insurance companies. During the 2006 Congressional election cycle the health insurance industry gave over $100 million to the two parties. 62% to the Republicans and 37% to the Democrats. In 2008, perhaps sensing a political tidal wave, the health insurance industry gave over $166 million to the two parties this time 54% to the Democrats and 46% to the Republicans. (See: OpenSecrets.org) Given the vast amount of money given to both parties it remains to be seen what major reform can take place.
The Public Option
The health care plan being formulated by the Democratic Congress and the Obama administration must provide for real change. Not change along the edges. Democrats have the numbers, and if Minnesota would seat future Senator Al Franken the numbers would be even greater to pass a comprehensive bill, with a public option for all Americans. At a minimum Americans should be able to get the same coverage received by members of Congress. Congressman Conyers’ H.R. 676 providing for a Single Payer Health Care System should be considered. The bill essentially expands Medicare to cover all Americans. A reminder that Americans already have a public health care option for citizens 65 years and older the aforementioned Medicare.
There must be a public option in any health care reform bill. The public option is necessary because nothing else has stopped health insurance companies from screwing American citizens from the coverage they have spent years paying. Denying benefits. Denying a test. Denying a procedure that could save a life due to cost concerns. What’s funny is that some Senators and members of Congress who oppose reform would find it difficult being covered in the private sector they love so dearly because of preexisting conditions.
Americans want real change despite what the Republican party, insurance industry and their media sympathizers communicate. This is why Americans voted for President Obama. A recent NBC/Wall St. Journal poll indicated that 76% of Americans support a public health care option. Obama has a Democratic majority and three quarters of Americans supporting a public health care option and therefore should not give in on this monumental issue. A compromise bill that covers all Americans supported by both parties would of course be welcome but it is difficult to compromise with a Republican party that can barely acknowledge that there is a health care problem at all. Even if 16 percent or more of their constituents have no health care and would benefit from a public plan. In this respect they simply do not care about their constituents health.