Asta Charles

Asta Charles
Los Angeles, California, USA
December 12
Myth Maker
A foul-mouthed commentator on life, society, politics, pop culture, and economics. I spend a lot of time in bars. I wrote a manuscript about the perils of online dating and its ultimate cost to society. It's not published. Meh.


Editor’s Pick
JULY 23, 2009 12:09AM

Healthcare Reform is the Space Program of My Generation

Rate: 7 Flag

When I was two years-old, my father was diagnosed Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Two months before being diagnosed, he was offered a job at Nike. He didn't take it. He had no idea at the time, but taking it would have meant bankruptcy for my family. My dad survived  and promptly had to deal with over $150,000 in medical bills. This was in the early 1980s. At this time, healthcare insurance was just beginning to be reorganized into a corporate structure.

I take a pretty simplistic approach to most political, economic, and operational problems: if the current system does not operate logically, it must be inherently flawed. Any system that is incentivized or otherwise manipulated by visible hand, is inherently flawed.

The "mortgage crisis" is a prime example of this. There was no logic in the creation of these loans and they were bad. There was no logic in why or how the hell a customer service rep in my company making $35,000 a year could purchase a $500,000 home. But she did. (She no longer has this home, she lives in an apartment like the rest of us middle class "fuck the man" folk).

Of course another, not quite as inyaface example is the healthcare system. I don't understand how my own health insurance works. I have it, but it doesn't do much good. Each doctor's visit ends up costing me around $50, even if it's to check out a wicked sore throat that I was sure was like Alien growing inside my larynx.

President Obama's speech tonight was immediately criticized for not giving much information.


Obama's identified the number one culprit: unregulated and unaccountable profit generating, shareholder-having, health insurance companies. I don't believe this has been so clearly said before this. Additionally, Obama's administration and varying task forces have actually constructed several plans. Only two of which are at the edge of the cliff, one may possibly fall into acceptance.

The Clinton task force didn't get that far. All Hillary and here minions were trying to do was come up with ONE plan.

The last president to attempt such a feat was Harry Truman. He was called a communist for wanting to insure every American. A decade later, care for the sick by a federal entity was cemented in public knowledge as a necessity. Private insurance would take care of the wealthy. This federal plan said nothing of those that were healthy and uninsured. At this point, healthcare costs were 4.5% of the US national gross domestic product.

Another decade later, in the 1960s, 700 health insurance companies found a niche in the marketplace and started taking hold of hospitals, doctors, and society.

View a timeline of American healthcare here.

Really, deregulated corporate private healthcare insurance is a relatively young system and concept - only fifty years-old.

President Obama is faced with a situation that neither presidents Truman or Clinton had to: He has an economy broken by greed and unaccountability and a mass of Americans with no spending power. In other words, he has a huge fucking wealth gap.

The President realizes that this wealth gap is affecting our deficit. Healthcare costs now make up 17% of our national gross domestic product. So to those of you that wonder why no one whined about healthcare in 1950, it's because it was one-quarter the size of the current blood engorged tumor that is the American healthcare system.

View stats on healthcare costs here.

This absolute financial and (often) emotional misery of the American people may just be what he needs to push us over into the world of accepting a nationalized healthcare program and beginning, in baby steps, to implement it.

Finding a way to lessen the percentage of income Americans spend on healthcare is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Just as the space program was a necessity for technological advancement and staking a claim on the big-boy-pants in geopolitics, healthcare is necessary to make American citizens feel safe and thusly put their best foot forward. We're scared shitless right now. We can't change jobs if we wanted to, we can't afford COBRA if we get laid off, we can't get in a car accident even if we have insurance. Government regulation of health insurance firms is necessary to curb greed and increase accountability, in this case, that would improve American morale and desire to spend significantly.

I know it's cliche, but I'm pretty much just posting it for your reference. Y'know, the part about how a "challenge is one that we are willing to accept":

"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

America then lead the world in technological innovation because it did achieve this goal. Kennedy didn't want us to go to the moon because then we could all chest bump each other and yell "woo yay, we're big men now because we did it first"! He wanted us to go to the moon for all that we would learn along the way. The world forever looked different to people like my father, who as a budding engineer, watched the Apollo 11 launch from his living room in Oregon. It had hope and intrigue.

Healthcare reform is fucking hard. The benefit of going through with it isn't just to do it because it looks pretty in Europe. The benefit comes when Americans have a renewed faith in their country and government and they are less fearful of any slight employment change, or even of having minor and necessary surgery. Less fear means more spending.

This may be one of the largest infrastructure changes American society will ever make. As a nation, we tend to not make major advancements that won't make some major geopolitical shift in our favor. At this moment, however, a growing deficit could impact geopolitics and our global economic standing. Now's our time to shine, kids. This healthcare pill ain't gonna be a pleasant one to swallow, but shit howdy, it'll feel good when it kicks in.

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so, when are you gonna vote it in?

that would be never, right. because you don't vote on important things.
Good job, Asta! You've nailed it! Hope it gets read widely; hope your generation keeps the heat on. We all need to.
"Obama's identified the number one culprit: unregulated and unaccountable profit generating, shareholder-having, health insurance companies."

Exactly. And that's what's missing in socialized health care like we have in Canada. All that money that goes to insurance companies in the U.S. goes directly into health care here.
Your suggestion that health care is this generation's space program made me think of what Bill Maher said in his most recent New Rules segment, which compared America to Michael Jackson.

"Is America over-the hill? Maybe. I don't know. But Monday is the 40th anniversary of Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon and I can't think of any ambitious goal we've reached since then. It's sad when your peak was a moonwalk that occurred decades ago."

We haven't really done much of anything since then. And, there has been talk of new programs that would be en par with the Apollo program.

Bill Richardson proposed, while running for president, that we have an Apollo energy program to deal with our nation's dependence on foreign oil and increasing changes in the environment.

The best thing Obama is saying right now is this --- "if you don't set deadlines in this town, things don't happen. The default position is inertia, because doing something always creates some people who are unhappy. There's always going to be some interest out there that decides: You know what? The status quo is working for me a little bit better."

That's why reform is so hard. And, it's why any valuable program enacted will seem comparable to the Apollo program even if on paper it seems to be lousy and not good enough.

Good post on the conference. I'm glad you're on the cover right beneath my posting. In fact, your post should be above mine.

I like this analogy, as it treats health care reform as something ennobling for the common good. Which is exactly what it is, and it needs to be seen that way by more people.

No one feared going to the moon, although everyone understood that it would be difficult and challenging. And no one should fear health care reform, even though it will also be difficult and challenging.
how are you? the way i see it... i have the primo health insurance offered by my employer. the premium went up $5.10 per pay or $10.20 a month. the government gave me an extra $14 a pay or $28 a month. so i'm up $17.80. true, but seriously. why not enact the 2/3 of the cost savings that the president says atre already there in the system and see what happens.
i also think if the government takes over health care or passes what's on the table now there is no incentive for new devolopements in treatment, equipment, or drugs.
and another thing why didn't anyone ask ask the president why the chairman of the congressional budget committe was invited/ summoned to the white house. which is highly inappropriate.the president is never asked tough questions.
maybe a nice story about Bo the dog, to distract us while the government picks our pockets.
Right, none of us laymen get to vote on important things. No laymen voted on the space program either. It was a presidential initiative necessary for the morale of and future success of this country. Y' big.
Jeanette DeMain made a good point: "No one feared going to the moon." No one feared it because the U.S. was in a race on various fronts with the Soviets. On one of those fronts, the Soviets had put the first satellite and then the first man into orbit, scaring the bejesus out of Americans.

U.S. values are so deeply competitive, Manichaen, and adversary-oriented (just look at the legal system) that the country isn't even aware that many Europeans live better than we do without the exclusionary hoopla of social-Darwinian ideology and Axes of Evil. (Ironically, it's American fundamentalists, the ones who denounce evolution, who subscribe most ardently to social Darwinism.)

The U.S. can always find hundreds of billions of tax dollars for unnecessary wars, but health care reform that actually frees Americans to excel at all levels of society, while countering corporate service duplication and denials and administrative inefficiencies, is always too costly.

Without some sort of survival threat — on the battlefield, in the marketplace, in the courtroom — Americans just dig deeper into whatever trench they happen to be occupying. The Red States then lob grenades into Blue State trenches, which lob them back.

That's not going to change, barring a full-scale Depression in which people are forced once more into rediscovering the benefits of social solidarity.

What we need to get health reform moving is an Enemy Health Plan. Let al-Qaeda find a way to provide first-rate care to all Muslims, drawing praise from American allies and vassal states alike and strengthening Muslim identity the way Canadian medicare does for Canadians. Then we'd see American commitment to reform coalesce in very, very short order.

That won't happen either, of course.

So we'll continue treating each other as the Enemy. Americans prefer home-grown, ideology-based flame wars to pragmatic, affordable political solutions vaguely tainted with ideas from abroad that have worked for decades.

And besides, the country, the world's third most populous, has become too large and diverse to reach any workable political consensus at the federal level.

One point of contest with this post: Truman wasn't the last one to attempt reform before the Clinton plan. Nixon, believe it or not, had a quite viable health proposal ready to be proposed that had considerable bi-partisan support. By today's standards it was extremely progressive.

Had it been adopted, we'd all have saved hundreds of billions in ballooning costs, personal bankruptcies, needless suffering and deaths for want of insurance, and endless expenditures on these interminable reform campaigns.

The Nixon plan never made it because a more appetizing adversarial ideological contest eclipsed it: Watergate.
One of the good, or bad depending on your point of view, is that the bill excludes payments to those who are not here legally.


Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United .

So you wanted to get health care for everybody here. When you look at those who do not have health insurance where do you think illegals fall? I'm willing to bet that this will leave millions out in the cold where they are now. So how many will be covered by this bill?
Obama tossed out the figure that "97% of individuals will be covered". I don't see how this is possible when far more than 3% of the population of the US is here illegally. Personally, I'm not on the boat with covering illegals. We gotta take baby steps to this approach, but we can cover every legal American. That in an of itself would be a gargantuan, Apollo 11 style feat.
Ah Eric Lightborn...way to manage your emotions. I guess the difference between being scared and pissed is how much mercy you need.