by Ralph Nader
The Nader Page
August 31, 2009
After several weeks of protests at Senate hearings and health care events by single payer advocates (visit singlepayeraction.org), six physicians from Oregon, with 191 years of combined real-world medical experience, are crossing the country in a 27-foot Winnebago making stops in nearly 30 cities, to debate, educate and advance full medicare for all. Everybody in, nobody out.
Calling themselves “Mad as Hell Doctors,” these physicians are already drawing crowds and expect thousands to turn out at each city that they visit, culminating in a large arrival demonstration in front of the White House around October 1. (Visit www.madashelldoctors.com)
They have written President Obama asking for a meeting “to discuss the future of health care as well as the moral, social, and fiscal imperative of enacting a single-payer system for America at this moment in our history.”
The White House turned them down flat, not even leaving the door open for reconsideration. Mr. Obama has met countless times with the CEOs of large corporations, whose greed and callousness causes so much of this crisis. Though he believes in single payer “if we started from scratch,” he has yet to meet with any single payer delegation.
The White House has shown that it lacks smarts. The formless, waffling Obama health insurance proposal is being shattered by the Republican cluster of Limbaugh-driven lies and the Blue Dog renegades in the Democratic Party, who are busy cashing mounds of campaign checks from the so-called health business. By ignoring and excluding the majority-supported single payer approach, the White House stifles any kind of insurance reform worthy of the name.
Publicized lies are translating into fears among people who should be supporting full medicare for all. FactCheck.org reports that “a notorious analysis of the House health care bill contains 48 claims. Twenty-six of them are false, and the rest are mostly misleading. Only four are true. For example, false are claims that the bill includes an order for end-of-life plans or health care for illegal aliens or assertions that ‘your health care will be rationed.’”
So wild are the falsehoods, fueled by runaway internet traffic, that the Republican National Committee implied in a fundraising letter that Democrats may structure the overhaul in a way to deny medical treatment to Republicans!
As with war, truth is the first casualty when it comes to the health care debate. The Democratically-controlled Congress, on its return after Labor Day, needs a wide-ranging personal, evidence-based series of public House and Senate hearings to again publicize the compelling story of avoidable suffering, fraud, waste, egregious profiteering and top executive self-enrichment – all subsidized by taxpayers.
Take the enormous and shocking information researched by Harvard Professor Malcolm Sparrow—an applied mathematician whose knowledge of health care billing schemes and regulatory deficiencies is without peer.
Mr. Sparrow is no arm-chair commentator. He has dug deeply into the enormously comprehensive frauds on medicare and consumers. He has found payments for medical services ordered by deceased doctors or huge payments in treatments for deceased patients—many gone for years.
Highlighting the widespread fraud on medicare by criminal behavior, he argues that these actions should be treated as “a crime problem” not just a “claims-processing problem.” Without criminal prosecutions, there is no deterrent stopping this massive robbery.
How massive? Read these words in recent testimony by Professor Sparrow:
The units of measure for losses due to health care fraud and abuse in this country are hundreds of billions of dollars per year. We just don’t know the first digit. It might be as low as one hundred billion. More likely two or three. Possibly four or five. But whatever that first digit is, it has eleven zeroes after it. These are staggering sums of money to waste, and the task of controlling and reducing these losses warrants a great deal of serious attention.
In the early 1990s, the Congressional Government Accounting Office estimated that billing fraud accounts for 10% of health care spending annually. That would be about $250 billion this year. In 1993, Attorney General Janet Reno declared that health care fraud was the number two crime problem, after violent crime in the country.
With someone as carefully authoritative as Malcolm Sparrow, the Democrats can make this crime spree front and center during the health care debate. People want to be assured that their health insurance dollars are protected. Instead the “license to steal,” which is the title of Mr. Sparrow’s groundbreaking book, continues. And the Republicans continue to sidetrack priorities for action with seedy prevarications.
It is a remarkable commentary on the state of the White House and Congress that the Democrats appear befuddled in dealing with the kind of coarse, cruel, fear-mongering that an FDR and Lyndon Johnson would have overwhelmed and sent packing.
Meanwhile, join the “Care-A-Van” of roadtripping Oregon physicians and their efforts to bring the message of health care for all to Washington, DC.