Columnists

Jerry West
U.S. health care reform: A better bad system

| March 24, 2010

The U.S. Congress finally passed a health-care bill, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. As health-care programs go, it holds no candle to the Canadian system or some of the other public systems around the world. However, compared to the free-market nightmare that the U.S. was suffering under, it is a step forward. The insurance companies and other big corporations still rule, but now with a bit more government restraint on their rapacity.

What is amusing about this whole affair is the rabid reaction of the opponents to the bill. One wonders about the intellectual level of a great number of Americans, and about the disingenuousness of some who do have more than average intelligence. One friend sent me a cartoon from the U.S. showing an American flag with the maple leaf sewn over the stars. How uninformed are they to think that the U.S. program resembles anything remotely comparable to the Canadian one.

I read a wide variety of news stories every day, from right, left and out there somewhere. The so-called conservative information sources are often a hoot. Rabid frothing at the mouth and inane fantasies pass for news and commentary. One commentator on the health-care bill said that the Democrats "decided to ignore the citizens and pass the legislation that furthers the road to socialism and communism." Wow! Passing a bill that still leaves a private, for-profit health-care industry in place, albeit with a few more regulations, is hardly a sign of impending socialism or communism. This tells us how far off the deep end on the right that the commentator is.

The day before, the same commentator said "Even though a majority of Americans are against the health-care bill, and an even larger majority think it should be scrapped and started over from scratch, the Democrats think they can pass this obscenity." One must either come to the conclusion that this is propaganda spin a la Joseph Goebbels or the commentator is operating under the influence of some mind-bending substance.

A majority of Americans, barely, may have been against this particular bill, but the inference the commentator would have you make is that they opposed any health-care reform other than that which the conservatives might put forward. Fact is, earlier in the year a majority supported the bill in its initial stages, and dwindling support may be more a case of people believing that it was not progressive enough, particularly without a public option.

The rabid right may have all the press with their Teabagger shenanigans and hate-filled demonstrations, and they may want to lay claim to being the voice of a majority of Americans, but it isn't so. A CNN poll conducted this month found that 72 per cent of those polled favoured increasing the federal government's influence over the health-care system. A number of polls taken by various organizations over the past few years have returned results that favour a government single payer system. States are considering this, and in some districts ballot measures were passed overwhelmingly, instructing elected representatives to support a cost-effective single-payer system.

It is pretty plain to see that aside from the corporations that have a lot to lose if a cost effective, universal public system is created to replace the private one, and the mindless rabble that they can motivate to agitate for their cause, most people in the country want something better, and public. If wealth did not speak so loudly and vested interests didn't have so much power, Americans would have had it years ago.

Today the regressives are predicting that passing the current bill will be the death of the Democrats in the next election. That could be, or if the public starts to perceive benefits from it by then, it could be the death of the Republicans as people decide not to risk what they have gained.

Watching all of this from here makes one glad to be living in Canada.

Jerry West is the publisher, editor and janitor for The Record, an independent, progressive regional publication for Nootka Sound and Canada's West Coast.