Thursday, July 23, 2009

Not cool

If you're going to try to persuade me to continue to support the status quo for US health care (which you might have already gathered I find entirely unacceptable), this is not the way to do it:
On Sunday night, Dr. David McKalip forwarded to fellow members of a Google listserv affiliated with the Tea Party movement the image below. Above it, he wrote: "Funny stuff."

Now, Tea Party activists trafficking in racist imagery are pretty much dog bites man. But McKalip isn't just some random winger. He's a Florida neurosurgeon, who serves as a member of the American Medical Association's House of Delegates.

He's also an energetic conservative opponent of health-care reform. McKalip founded the anti-reform group Doctors For Patient Freedom, as well as what seems to be a now defunct group called Cut Taxes Now. Last month he joined GOP congressmen Tom Price and Phil Gingrey, among others, for a virtual town hall to warn about the coming "government takeover of medicine." And in a recent anti-reform op-ed published in the St. Petersburg Times, McKalip wrote that "Congress wants to create larger, government-funded programs for health care and more bureaucracy that ration care and impose cookbook medicine."

Asked about the email in a brief phone interview with TPMmuckraker, McKalip said he believes that by depicting the president as an African witch doctor, the "artist" who created the image "was expressing concerns that the health-care proposals [made by President Obama] would make the quality of medical care worse in our country." McKalip said he didn't know who created it.

Racist imagery is something that will only turn me off to your message. If you have to play the racist card, it's probably because you don't have a coherent message to begin with. As for Obama's message last night, within the ideological confines that characterize US politics, I'll have to say that his health care message is not bad at all. Let's just say that if a public choice option becomes available, my family is being put on that pronto (especially since I'm looking at no payraise this year, and an increased bite taken out of my paycheck when health insurance deductions increase in January). There aren't many areas in which I think well of Obama or the Dems, but healthcare is potentially one of them.

Apparently, since a refresher course is needed, let's look at the healthcare situation in the US as it currently stands (in other words, the status quo). I've mentioned before that the US is a multivariate outlier when it comes to healthcare costs and quality of life indexes. It's not so much that our life expectancies are much worse than elsewhere on the planet, but rather are extremely low compared to what they should be given the amount we spend on healthcare (often to the point of bankruptcy). To put it in perspective, if you lived in Portugal, you would have the same life expectancy as someone living in the US at about one third the cost in health care expenses. When we look at other quality of life indexes, it becomes readily apparent that those of us living in the US have fallen way behind other industrialized nations, and are instead quite comparable to what would be found in much of third world. There's even reason to believe that the public sector seems to have its act together regarding to health insurance to a degree not even fathomable to the private sector. What I gathered was that what Obama is offering would leave us with the things we like about our healthcare, but would eliminate a lot of the waste and bureaucratic red tape (I realize that the privatize or perish crowd has a hard time swallowing the notion that private health insurance tends to be rife with Byzantine bureaucracies). I'd rather take a gamble on that than on continue to believe that somehow the current status quo will magically correct itself (if history is any indicator, I think we already know what to predict with regard to the current status quo system). This probably will not be my ideal, but it's a start.

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