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Bush Is Buying the Insurance Companies' Propaganda

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In his State of the Union Address, Bush spoke, for the first time in his six years in office, of the urgent need to take some action that would enable 45 million uninsured Americans to obtain affordable health insurance coverage. As we all listened intently to this portion of his speech, we realized that, while the concept was a newly minted missive from Bush, it was filled with the prospect of gains for the same old beneficiaries of earlier policies.

When Bush begins to take note of the need for access to health insurance, we need to question why he now has taken notice of the need, when he has been in office for six years with no mention of it. Perhaps there is something in it for his biggest campaign contributors, or those from whom he intends to profit after he leaves office. What is in it for the insurance industry?

Under the Medicare drug coverage legislation, the insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies were the major beneficiaries of the policy. Does anyone think that Bush was truly thinking of the plight of the uninsured? Giving tax breaks to those who purchase health insurance does not help anyone who can't afford to buy it in the first place, but it does make those who can afford it more willing to pay it and lessen the amount of tax they pay--putting more tax money into the pockets of the insurance companies. It also makes more prescription drugs affordable to the newly insured, and thus maximizes their pockets.

Why would anyone believe that Bush is trying to help the lower middle class, or even the middle class, with this new plan--he is still calling on Congress to pass legislation that stops "junk law suits" against doctors and hospitals. What he does not say is that the legislation he wants is a measure that would limit non-economic damages for victims. In other words, if a homemaker, an elderly or a child is killed or significantly hurt by medical mistake, they would be limited in what they could legally recover from the insurance company of the negligent doctor or the hospital. Yet, high wage earners who are injured are not limited in what they can recover. If a stay-at-home mother is killed or paralyzed, the maximum recovery is so limited that she or her survivors would be left with less than $100,000, after court costs and legal fees--no matter how badly hurt she is and no matter how wrongful the conduct of the doctor or hospital. Yet Bush values society's contributions of the high wage earner without any limitations.

We have been told by Bush and his conservative supporters that "the value of life is limitless." That was said when it served his purpose--to deny federal funding for stem-cell research on the tortured logic that such research would take the lives of the single cell that should be allowed to blossom. This logic was faulty then, since those cells would be trashed even without the research. Yet, when it serves his other constituency, the business and insurance lobbyists, Bush disregards the "limitless value of life" of a mother, a child or a powerless senior citizen whose life is destroyed by a negligent medical provider.

It is not as if people do not get severely injured by hospitals and doctors. Every year there are 190,000 people killed in this country by hospital error. An additional 90,000 are killed by hospital-acquired infections. There are 1.5 million injuries each year attributed to medication error, and 700,000 people have to go to emergency rooms as a result of adverse drug reactions. These are the ingredients of the increased cost of healthcare, not the claims of injured victims. When over 500 people die in this country every day from hospital error, can't their loved ones ask why? It is certain that hospitals will not fess up to the husband whose wife was killed by a medication overdose, or a mother can find out on her own why her baby was brain-damaged in the delivery process.

The insurance industry knows that it is only 5% of the doctors who are responsible for over 50% of the money paid to victims of malpractice. So, the good doctors are paying insurance premiums to cover the deeds of the bad doctors--and it comes out of the pockets of the consumer. That is why Bush wants ultimately to cover the uninsured--the money for the coverage would go to his friends, and those same friends would not have to pay for the misdeeds of the offensive and negligent health care providers. Sounds more like a neat little package rather than a compassionate, consumer-oriented new policy!!

 

www.stopmedicalerror.com

author of America's Tunnel Vision--How Insurance Companies' Propaganda Is Corrupting Medicine and Law.
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