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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Saviors of Obamacare?

Most familiar with pop culture of the 2010’s know all about the TV series The Walking Dead. The phenomenal zombie thriller, at the end of a nearly decade-long run, finds its survivor heroes under the yoke of a criminal gang known as the Saviors. Its leader, Negan, is a baseball bat-wielding psychopath who kills someone in almost every scene to make some obscure point. The Saviors rule is simple: you go outside the community and forage while avoiding zombies. Whatever you bring back, you hand over as tribute. In return, they allow you to remain alive.

At this point in history, it becomes increasingly difficult to separate fantasy from reality TV, or mainstream news from alt-news or ‘fake news’. In a world of entertainment where Saturday Night Live has turned the American President into a media icon, members of the Cabinet are being immortalized as wrestling-type heels. Leftist protests have turned into flash mob riots in which traveling bands of agitators attack police and vandalize private property wherever the media directs them. Celebrities are stepping out as political pundits, recharging their careers by going on record as being against the Government and all that it stands for. As usual, the Moral Majority stands in silence while the shrill and vociferous leftist fringe rages on.

It is hard to focus as we look back at the Obama regime, a bloated ten trillion-dollar enterprise that grew bigger as the country grew comfortably numb. People lost jobs, collected unemployment, signed up for welfare, sat home, gained weight and got sick. The president signed one of his many executive orders in a day when there were no vigilante judges willing to stand up and restrain said order. He made Obamacare the law of the land, and suddenly the unwashed masses had health insurance despite having no employer to provide it.

The Republicans fought against it, like feeble old women trying to fend off athletic young purse snatchers. They relented as small businesses folded in the face of health care mandates coming at insufferable cost. They shrugged as shrewd bean-counters in banking and insurance recalculated the odds. They used premiums and deductibles as wrecking balls that gave a ‘level playing field’ a new meaning. When industrial giants such as Humana and Blue Cross began steering clear of the train wreck ahead, Republicans smiled smugly and reminded all ‘we told you so’.

Of course, this did nothing for the working class who were under penalty of law for non-compliance. Obama required all Americans to submit to his decree. Like the Saviors, they stood at the threshold as citizens were forced to acquire coverage --- or face the baseball bats of the IRS. Americans complied, and in many cases at a cost they could not sustain. People were interviewed on TV as they testified their monthly premiums were their biggest household expense. Bollocks, we laughed. It is theatre created by the GOP to cast our President’s legacy in a bad light.

Fast forward to the Days of Trump, as our new President is being asked to make good on his campaign promise to abolish Obamacare. The dilemma he faces is that the aged and infirm, the genetically deficient, the morbidly obese, the clinically depressed, and many others are desperately clinging to Obamacare the way the multitudes grabbed at Christ’s robe along the countryside. Pandora’s Box has been opened, and it has become a can of whoop-ass that the GOP cannot close. They have free tickets to the hospital, and will only have them pried from cold, dead fingers.

What Trump must do now, as surveyor and architect, is to assess the landscape before devising his structure and masterpiece. It is bleak and foreboding, a wasteland dominated by insurance companies whose premiums and deductibles threaten to crush all who dare trespass. Swirling overhead are the minions of the medical industry who will pick the bones of anyone unfortunate enough to fall into their hands. Beyond lies an infinite horizon of crises along the path of life: accidents, injury, pregnancy, local epidemics, or anything that can financially crush a person in the blink of an eye.

The first move should be painfully obvious. The President must liberate his people from the yoke of Obamacare, downgrading it from a mandatory requirement. Let us consider the red-blooded American who goes from cradle to grave, visiting the hospital only once at their birth. How many hundreds of thousands will spend a lifetime purchasing something they will never use? The same can be said for any insurance: only car insurance is a necessary evil and home/life insurance defends against the unforeseen catastrophe our loved ones may not endure. Obamacare, for many, is being sent out to scavenge by bat-wielding thugs who take what they will never give in return.

Once this is resolved, Trump must focus on plowing and developing the wasteland. The insurance companies must realize that the 99% rule must no longer apply. Regardless of their objections, they must come to realize that their board of directors earning a half million per year can afford pay cuts to keep Joe Blow from paying $400 per month in premiums. The logic of the 20th century can no longer apply. True, bigger insurance companies offer more and better-paying jobs. Only the margin of profit must be drastically narrowed to give the working class the opportunity to afford what they need at a maintainable price.

From there, our leader must look overhead and follow the buzzards to their nesting place. The medical industry will continue to point to the matrix: the spiraling cost of pharmaceuticals, the astronomical price of modern technology and equipment, and the overhead expense that resulted in $50 aspirin in hospitals in Seventies NYC. Yet as we look around at the rest of the world community, the question is obvious. Why is medical coverage in the wealthiest nation on earth so costly? Our neighbors from Cuba to Canada provide health benefits to their citizens, and neither government is collapsing under the burden. Certainly a financial genius like Trump will find an answer for a problem defined by corporate greed.

One thing that burns in our minds is the image of St. Jude’s Children’s Center. This is a specialized institution dedicated to the care of children in various stages of cancer diagnosis and treatment. It relies on public and private funding to operate; in turn it proclaims its services free to all children and their families. Their tenet is that no one is ever turned away. As we know, cancer is an incurable disease. Billions of dollars have been spent on research, equipment and pharmaceuticals designed to combat the affliction. The treatment is astoundingly expensive in many cases, and the Center has literally saved thousands of lives.

The question, for purposes of this essay, is to how far this horizon may be extended. If the care can be provided for children, then why not men and women at some future time? If these services one day cover all Americans, can they not be expanded to cover other illnesses? And if St. Jude’s becomes a beacon of hope for patients across the country, why can we not open more of these centers? Granted, this becomes a long trickledown process. Yet if it begins to fill the middle ground between St. Jude’s at the apex and public health clinics as the bargain basement, America may be on the way to providing free medical benefits to its citizens at last.

Some of the technical issues facing Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price are just as challenging. Democratic opposition led by Senator Patty Murray point to ongoing arguments. The issue of Federal support for abortion has been a flashpoint between conservative Christians and leftist groups for over half a century. There is also the question of health insurance voucher programs affording the needy an opportunity to buy private insurance. Price will indeed join the fray on the floor of Congress, but the bigger battles await.

President Trump and Tom Price will be required to deal with major health care problems with the wellbeing of millions at stake. They must not allow these concerns to be reduced to a matter of dollars and cents.