by Walter Brasch
Marie Antoinette, contrary to popular opinion, never said a solution for the starving masses of revolutionary France in the late 18th century was, "Let them eat cake." But, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) apparently said something close to it.
At a public meeting, one of Grassley's constituents asked him, "Why is your insurance so much cheaper than my insurance and so much better than my insurance?" He then asked, "How come I can't have the same thing you have?" Grassley's response was a flip, "You can. Just go work for the federal government." Grassley, who opposes universal health care, is happy with health care programs paid for with tax dollars and available for every member of Congress, all Congressional staffers, everyone in the executive and judicial branches, and the military and their families. He doesn't even oppose Social Security and Medicare. He just doesn't want the masses to have the same quality of medical care that Senators have.
In response, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who has led the fight for universal health care for more than four decades, writing for the July 27 issue of Newsweek, argues that "quality care shouldn't depend on your financial resources, or the type of job you have, or the medical condition you face. Every American should be able to get the same treatment that U.S. senators are entitled to."
The liberals, and most Democrats, are outraged that 46-48 million American citizens still don't have health care coverage, and millions more have such minimal coverage that they often decline to get medical help when necessary. About 62 percent of all bankruptcies are the result of extraordinary medical costs, according to a report to be published in the August issue of The American Journal of Medicine. Of those who declared bankruptcy because of medical bills, "78 percent of them had health insurance, but many of them were bankrupted anyway because there were gaps in their coverage like co-payments and deductibles and uncovered services," Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, the study's senior author, told CNN. "Other people had private insurance but got so sick that they lost their job and lost their insurance," she said.
Liberals complain that the problem has become even more acute during the Recession when every day about 12,000 workers are losing health insurance, either because of forced layoffs or because a company cuts back on its insurance coverage for its workers. They question why the same drugs sold in Canada are significantly less expensive than ones sold in the U.S., and why the conservatives have blocked all attempts for Americans to go to Canada to buy the less expensive drugs. The liberals also point to a scientific study by the Commonwealth Fund that concluded, "Despite having the most costly health system in the world, the United States consistently underperforms on most dimensions of performance, relative to other countries." That study also concluded that the U.S. "fails to achieve better health outcomes than the other countries [Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom], and as shown in the earlier [studies], the U.S. is last on dimensions of access, patient safety, efficiency, and equity." Of the top 50 economies in the world, only the U.S. doesn't have universal health coverage.
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