Aug. 31st, 2009

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This is in response to a guest editorial in today's Bangor News.

Republican spokesperson Josh Tardy makes up an exaggerated and completely fictional combined version of the various Democratic proposed health care bills, then tries to claim the sky is falling because of it.

Guess what, folks. The sky is already falling, because the employer-based healthcare insurance model just doesn't work. Maybe it used to work, when most people stayed at one company for most of their career, and companies could be relied on to paternalistically look after their employees. News flash - that scenario went the way of the dodo quite a while ago. And even then, it only worked for people employed at those companies.

Right now, few of us have any choice in healthcare. We are forced to go with the insurance company chosen by our employer. We are forced to go to a doctor on their list, and undergo only the treatments that company approves (with or without medical consultation on their part). We must use only the drugs they approve, in the dosages they designate. It's no better from the doctor's end - I know doctors who now refuse to work with any insurance companies, because the insurance companies restrict their treatment options and require so much paperwork that it it simply not worth it.

We cannot shop around to compare prices - the one thing that is the foundation of the free-market system.

Imagine if restaurants first got your credit card, then fed you. You would have no idea what the individual items on the menu cost, or if the cost was reasonable. You would have no idea if "steak" meant a $5 Bonanza special or a $150 Kobe filet mignon. You might have meal insurance which would cover certain ingredients, but not others. Neither you nor the restaurant would have a clear idea of what was covered; they could only submit their bill and wait to see what was covered. But the restaurant would get paid eventually, and the rest would be billed to you. Could you imagine anyone in their right mind using a system like that?

The current health insurance system is badly broken. Patients don't like it, doctors don't like it, hospitals don't like it. Only the insurance companies, which get to pick and choose who to cover for what, and make immense profits, like it. But they have successfully brainwashed the Republicans into believing that private insurance equals free enterprise, when in reality nothing could be further from the truth. Our current private insurance system eliminates the informed choice necessary for a free market.

Fascism occurs when a government, instead of regulating business, is controlled by business. (Check it out - that really is the definition). If the government is reluctant to perform its regulatory duty, then only the free market - the economic voice of the people - is left to rein in business.

The Republicans fear governmental regulation, preferring to use the free market. I will not say they are wrong in this. But in this case, they do not see that the free market has been hamstrung. Either the government must step up to the plate or the free market must be restored or both.

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