Newspaper logo  
 
 
Local News & Opinion

02.13 A Case for Homeless Shelter Networks as Basic Infrastructure

02.13 Can Baltimore Pull Off Its $700 Million Makeover Without Displacing Residents?

02.13 Baltimore mayoral candidate DeRay McKesson releases plan for city

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

Travel
Books, Films, Arts & Education
Letters

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

02.14 An American History of Lead Poisoning

02.14 Over half the world’s population suffers from ‘severe’ water scarcity, scientists say

02.14 Corporations Killed Medicine. Here’s How to Take It Back.

02.13 It’s Not Just Flint. There’s an Ugly History of Lead Poisoning and the Poor in the U.S.

02.13 Scientists: air pollution led to more than 5.5 million premature deaths in 2013

02.13 Climate risks could wreak havoc on financial markets, EU watchdog warns

02.12 The Koch Brothers' Dirty War on Solar Power

02.12 The Community Solar Industry Gets a Voice of Its Own

02.12 Instead of Replacing Flint's Old Pipes, Why Not Just Build New Ones?

02.12 SoCalGas fixes gas leak that gushed methane into Los Angeles for 16 weeks

02.12 Toxic chemicals found in beached pilot whales in Scotland [ocean life dying from coal plant pollution...]

News Media Matters

02.12 America's School Teachers Are Confused About Climate Change

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

02.14 Superdelegates Might Not Save Hillary Clinton

02.14 Republican debate: Trump-Bush rancor eclipses tributes to Antonin Scalia [videos; transcript]

02.13 Hillary Clinton and Henry Kissinger: It's Personal. Very Personal.

02.13 Donald Trump’s white America is revolting: New numbers show just how noxious the GOP front-runner’s coalition is

02.13 Sanders proudly declaring “Kissinger is not my friend” totally destroys notion that Clinton’s better on foreign policy

02.13 Jeffrey Sachs Blames Hillary Clinton for Our National Security Woes

02.12 Henry Kissinger’s “mad and illegal” bombing: What you need to know about his real history — and why the Sanders/Clinton exchange matters

02.12 Even if Sanders wins the popular vote, Clinton could still get the nomination [disgraced establishment has its thumb on the scale]

Justice Matters

02.12 Morgan Stanley to pay $3.2bn over mortgage-backed securities

High Crimes?

02.14 GOP Candidates’ Sick, Illegal, Fixation on Torture

Economics, Crony Capitalism

02.13 Watch Corporate America Turn A Room Full Of Workers Into Bernie Sanders And Donald Trump Supporters [3:30 video]

International

02.14 The Hate Preachers: Inside Germany's Dangerous New Populist Party

02.14 Turkish-German Pact: EU Split by Merkel's Refugee Plan

02.14 The quake-maker you've never heard of: Cascadia [2:59 video]

02.14 Russia’s grip on Syria tightens as brittle ceasefire deal leaves US out in the cold [risk of a hotter and wider war grows]

02.14 Children of the PKK: The Growing Intensity of Turkey's Civil War

02.13 US intelligence head warns of Isis chemical attack capability

02.12 Russia Warns of ‘World War’ as Saudi Plans Syria Intervention

02.12 Partial Syria ceasefire agreed at talks in Munich

02.12 Stock markets hit by global rout raising fears for financial sector

We are a non-profit Internet-only newspaper publication founded in 1973. Your donation is essential to our survival.

You can also mail a check to:
Baltimore News Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 42581
Baltimore, MD 21284-2581
Google
This site Web
  Bush Administration Health Care Policy in Three Rules
Newspaper logo

Health Care:

Bush Administration Health Care Policy in Three Rules

by John Hickman

Unfortunately, knowing these three rules is merely palliative care. A cure would require rebuilding our health care system to make meeting the needs of all Americans its central purpose.
Do you ever experience dizziness or nausea when thinking about the current administration’s health care policy? You are not alone. Millions of your fellow Americans are similarly afflicted. The reason you and they have that sea-sick feeling is that the ground really does shift depending on which part of the health care policy domain one observes. Although it won’t make the administration’s various decisions and pronouncements about health care any more reasonable or consistent, the following treatment may help to reduce the symptoms. All you have to do is remember the following three rules.

Rule 1: If sexual reproduction or pleasure is implicated or if the individuals most affected are relatively few or relatively powerless, then the decision-making mode is moralistic and the value to be maximized is ‘dignity.’ For example, when President Bush proclaimed January 21, 2007 to be National Sanctity of Human Life Day, he stated that the “dignity and humanity of every person should be respected” and that we should “value human life in all forms, not just those considered healthy, wanted, or convenient.” He wasn’t talking about reducing the infant mortality rate in the United States to that of the other OECD countries but was instead rewarding the anti-abortion movement with yet another largely symbolic gesture in return for their tireless mobilization of voters for Republican candidates. Protecting ‘dignity’ was also the rationale offered for Bush’s April 11, 2007 threat to veto the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007, which he did on June 20, 2007.

The obvious problem with using ‘dignity’ to justify a health policy decision, or any public policy decision for that matter, is that it is a religious-philosophical abstraction.
The obvious problem with using ‘dignity’ to justify a health policy decision, or any public policy decision for that matter, is that it is a religious-philosophical abstraction. The empirical evidence for ‘dignity’ is no better than that for the ‘soul’ or the ‘sacred.’ Conservatives deploy ‘dignity’ when they want to avoid difficult discussions about the assumptions and interests underlying their policy preferences. The less obvious problem with ‘dignity’ is that whatever it means, everyone must deserve it in equal measure. That’s a problem because society values individual human lives unequally. The priorities assigned to waiting transplant recipients or the quality of medical care given the insured and uninsured leave no doubt that some human lives are valued more than others.

Rule 2: If most of the population is involved and the profitability of the medical industry is at stake, then the decision-making mode is economic and the value to be maximized is ‘capitalism.’ Of course that word isn’t used to identify the favored value. Nor is the word ‘socialism’ used much to describe its opposite. Both words carry too much ideological mana* to be used. Instead the administration prefers the safer words ‘private’ and ‘government.’ For example, in his struggle to under-fund the State Children's Health Insurance Program or SCHIP, Bush complained on September 21, 2007 that legislation passed by Democrats would transfer “millions of American children who now have private health insurance into government-run health care; and is an incremental step toward a government-run health care system.”

That is the sort of language the medical insurance companies and private hospital chains, entities that have grown enormously rich parasitizing American health care consumers, love to hear. And it ought to be the sort of language loathed by those same consumers. Although medical care comprises a larger part of the economy of the United States than that of the other advanced industrial societies, our national medical statistics are actually often poorer. According to the OECD, health care provision was 15.3% of total gross domestic product in the United States in 2005, while the average among 26 OECD countries was only 9%. If that extravagance actually bought Americans better health care outcomes then it might be understandable. Unfortunately it does not. Life expectancy is lower and the infant mortality rate higher in the United States than the OECD averages. What explains this economic inefficiency? The ironic answer is that much more of the health care provision in the United States is provided by profit-making firms than in the other OECD countries. Our more capitalist health care system delivers typically mediocre health care less efficiently than the more socialist health care systems of the other OECD countries.

The Department of Health and Human Services issued a document on Oct. 17 that presents the formulae for bureaucratic allocation of vaccine in the event of a serious pandemic. The bottom line is that, in the event of a deadly outbreak, some of us will be valued more than others.
Rule 3: If the state itself is threatened then the decision-making mode is bureaucratic and values to be maximized are the continuity of government and the safety of its elites. Rarely invoked, at least so publicly, this rule is evident in the "Draft Guidance on Allocating and Targeting Pandemic Influenza Vaccine" issued on October 17, 2007 by the Department of Health and Human Services. Dispensing with ‘dignity’ or the ‘private’ sector health care, this document presents the formulae for bureaucratic allocation in the event of a serious pandemic. The bottom line is that, in the event of a deadly outbreak, some of us will be valued more than others and their chances of survival enhanced by being treated from available vaccine stocks and the rest will have to take their chances. The document discusses influenza, but it is easy to see this as the basic blueprint for a pathogen much nastier.

In the five-tier "severe pandemic" scenario, government leaders, those serving in deployed units of the military and security services (including its private sector components), police, fire and rescue services, and critical healthcare personnel would be given the highest priority. So too would pregnant women, infants and toddlers. In the second tier would be the rest of the military, the National Guard, intelligence services, and people working to maintain communications and utilities. In the third tier would be people working in critical infrastructure such as the post office and the food, drug, and banking industries. The elderly and those with high-risk health conditions would comprise the fourth tier and the remaining population of healthy people 19 to 64 years of age would be last in line.

Although it makes sense that priority would be given to military, police, fire, rescue and medical personnel who might serve on the front lines of a pandemic that would threaten the social order, the categories appear generously broad when it comes to the personnel of the state and its best friends. Would White House speechwriters, FEMA officials, and Blackwater USA executives have tickets in the first tier? Would Comcast and Eli Lilly executives find themselves in the second tier and Fannie Mae accountants in the third? Picture what would happen if political appointees of the Bush administration were given discretionary authority to interpret membership in the tiers.

Note that these three rules are not like rock, paper and scissors. Should they ever come into conflict, capitalism would trump dignity and the continuity of government and the safety of elites would trump capitalism. But dignity trumps nothing. Unfortunately, knowing these three rules is merely palliative care. A cure would require rebuilding our health care system to make meeting the needs of all Americans its central purpose.


John Hickman is associate professor of comparative politics at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. His published work on electoral politics, media, and international affairs has appeared in Asian Perspective, American Politics Research, Comparative State Politics, Contemporary South Asia, Contemporary Strategy, Current Politics and Economics of Asia, East European Quarterly, Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans, Jouvert, Legislative Studies Quarterly, Political Science, Review of Religious Research, Women & Politics, and Yamanashigakuin Law Review. He may be reached at jhickman@berry.edu.


Copyright © 2007 The Baltimore Chronicle. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on November 5, 2007.
 


Public Service Ads: