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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/21/09

A "FACT" is an f-Bomb 4-Letter Word to the GOP When it Comes to Healthcare.

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In the year and months leading to the showdown, the battlements of the Right--nearly the entirety of the Republican Party, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the American pharmaceutical industry, the health insurance industry, and the American medical equipment manufacturing industry--were arrayed against the program. Industry and association dollars flowed like a swollen Mississippi following a spring thaw to shut it down. It was going to be too expensive, too cumbersome, too complicated, and it would be the very end of medicine and medical care in America, we were assured, ominously. 

But on July 30, 1965, on the back of an overwhelming Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law "The Social Security Act of 1965"-; more popularly known as Medicare. At the bill-signing ceremony, President Johnson enrolled former president Harry S. Truman as the first Medicare beneficiary, and presented him with the very first Medicare card. 

In 1965 the average life expectancy for Americas was 72.5 years. As of 2004, for all races and genders, the average was 77.8 years. But, once one actually reaches the age of 65, that person's life expectancy grows to 83.7 years. (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr56/nvsr56_09.pdf) 

And when it came his turn to make an opening statement in the June 17 Health Committee mark-up, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown recalled a letter from one of his constituents, one that was similar in tone and substance to many he'd received on the topic: "Please keep the government out of heathcare; it's socialism, it's too expensive, it's too complicated. I've been on Medicare for 15 years and it works just fine."- 

One of the truest facts of life that adhere to each and every one of us is that the status of our health is a game of chance.

Some folks lead a charmed life. They actually experience what the late comedian George Burns said was the way he wanted to go: "Be shot at the age of 100 by a jealous husband."- In other words, these folks have never known a sick day in their lives, or a day when they weren't in perfect health.

Including me, my own family hasn't been so lucky. We're like most Americans, living one day to the next hoping we won't come down with some debilitating and financially crippling setback; an illness or an injury. Every day for most Americans we play Russian Roulette. The wheel is spun, and we just hope there's nothing seriously perilous in the chamber when we pull the trigger, when we turn off the alarm and wake up. 

But what do we do, if and when, the cancer round hits us in the breast, or the prostate, or the colon, or the brain? Or, perhaps it's a sudden, crushing blow to the heart. Maybe what is etched on the round is a fall or other accident that leaves us with a spine injury, or a shattered pelvis. You never know. And that's one of the rules in the game of life, this version of Russian Roulette that all of us play. 

A few days ago, June 17, the Senate Health Committee began their mark-up of whatever healthcare reform bill it intends will leave the committee. Part 2 of the Day 1 session began with opening remarks (speeches) by the committee members. Immediately follows is the link to that session: (http://www.c-spanarchives.org/library/includes/templates/library/flash_popup.php?pID=287096-2&clipStart=&clipStop= ). In attendance were Acting Chair Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Ranking member Mike Enzi (R-WY). Others attendees included John McCain (R-AZ), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Orin Hatch (R-UT).

At the bottom of the video are controls for start, pause, stop, volume, and a slide-triangle that will progress or regress to the specific point in the session the viewer wants to access.)   

That the "conservatives"- were quite well represented is the reason I cited them up front. As you could guess, however the Republican members all acknowledged the need for reform and saluted the idea that all Americans should have access to healthcare, all their recommendations were to proposed programs that would leave the present scheme largely as it is. Except the health insurance companies would have a lot more customers.

Chairman Dodd was patient and generous. There was no gavel sounding to signal when one member spent excessive time expounding a philosophy. Eventually the alternation of Democratic and Republican found its way to Senator Bernard "Bernie"- Sanders (I-VT). Sanders' opening remarks began at 00·39.43.03·33·36 and ran through 00·54.48.03·33·36, or for a total 15 minutes. Perhaps on the premise that beliefs not constructed on a solid foundation of facts entered as evidence, he divided his remarks into three parts, each of which began with an extraordinarily provocative question.

The first question posed by the senator is the most important question all Americans must answer concerning this debate. "Do you feel Americans should have healthcare as a fundamental right?" Until you are able to answer this in the affirmative, nothing else matters.

I see the question as where the Golden Rule posited by Jesus--"Love thy neighbor as thyself"---really gets answered. It breaks down to not how much you think your neighbors should be expected to spend on your healthcare, but how much you are prepared to spend of your own resources on behalf of a neighbor you likely will never meet. That's a tough one. And there's only one answer for all who genuinely follow Jesus of Nazareth.

Sanders pointed out that over a hundred years ago, the states and the federal government concluded that ". . . every kid in America had a right to public education."- At the time, nothing convincing was included in the debate posturing education should be restricted to the landed gentry. And the decision to move forward without regard for economic status made of this country the most incredibly powerful and wealthiest nation the world had ever known.

Buttressing his suggestion that basic health ought to be a fundamental right of all Americans, Sanders went on to observe that when one calls 9-1-1, the operator never inquires whether the caller is of a particular economic class, or about the sum of the taxes the caller pays. Emergency personnel are sent to the scene, and no qualifying economic considerations ever enter the discussion.

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An "Old Army Vet" and liberal, qua liberal, with a passion for open inquiry in a neverending quest for truth unpoisoned by religious superstitions. Per Voltaire: "He who can lead you to believe an absurdity can lead you to commit an atrocity."
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