[Sayma-Discuss] Fw: Countering the scare tactics on health care

Mike Shell bright_crow at mindspring.com
Thu Aug 13 08:33:22 EDT 2009


Useful information from James R. Hébert, MSPH, ScD at University of South Carolina.


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You can read Director’s Corner (http://cpcp.sph.sc.edu/)
for more information on the health care/ health status side of things.  Having
grown up in Hartford and gotten interested in this issue long ago, I can assure
you of several other things:

1.     The insurance companies (Travelers, Aetna, The Hartford, Connecticut General, etc.) are
extraordinarily profitable and therefore have very, very, very, very, very,
deep pockets; their CEOs are paid in the tens of millions of dollars, and they
own (or are owned by – sometimes it is not so easy to tell) the biggest banks
in the country, etc., etc.

2.     The insurance companies trade in fear; to some extent, that is simply the nature of the
business.  Hartford became the “Insurance City” because the Connecticut River
was only marginally navigable; so, Travelers was created in the 19th
century to insure users of the River against risk of foundering and subsequent
loss, especially of cargo.  Other members of the Travelers group have similar
histories. Recall that Hartford also was a major player in the industrial

3.     It is no accident that Connecticut has the highest concentration of military-industrial
complex wealth in the US (United Aircraft, Pratt & Whitney, Combustion
Engineering, Colt Firearms, Sikorsky, Electric Boat, etc.).  Not only are these
firms very profitable, their products are the big “sticks” that our government
uses to project power all over the world.

4.     The investment banks, political and military-industrial apparatus of this country
have been intricately (and intimately) involved with one another for a long
time.  Remember that Prescott Bush (a senator from Connecticut in the 1950s and
grandfather of our most recent Bush president and father of the one before him)
was Managing Director of the Wall Street Brokerage /Investment firm of  Brown
Bothers, Harriman from the 1920s through the 1940s.  Brown Bothers, Harriman
was a major  financial supporter of Hitler in his rise to power in the 1930s
(mainly through Fritz Thyssen, head of Thyssen Mining & Steelmaking Company, and who finally became disillusioned – but long after Hitler had consolidated power).  

5.     The strengthening link between the insurance, banking, and investment industries
over the past 3 decades has resulted in unprecedented power for all three.  The
recent abuses of the latter two, especially, should have made Americans very
wary of allowing them too much power – but Americans are generally a very naïve
and easily gulled people.

6.     Though not bashful to use power in the 19th and early 20th centuries, our society has
become much more comfortable in the past few decades in using (or allowing the
use of) violence and subterfuge to “solve” problems.

7.     Up until now the simple scare tactics about uttering the words “socialized” medicine have
worked well (e.g., undermining the previous major attempt at reform in the
early 1990’s).  I would guess that the real threat of being exposed as highly
inefficient, though highly profitable, players in the “health-care industry” is
causing great consternation in the ranks of insurance industry executives and
their many “partners.”

Combine #1 though #7 and the stage is set for the kind of trouble we are now seeing. 
It would be interesting to trace the funding for these desperate attempts to
derail government-sponsored health insurance.  Oh, how I long for the days of
real investigative reporting.

My first bit of advice: avoid fistfights!   The data are definitely on the side of a rational move toward some sort of government-run health care program, which would help us to begin
to solve the HUGE health problems that are festering in this country (and
extend way beyond insurance).  Expect big trouble along the way.  

More advice: support organizations, such as Move-On.org that know how to deal with these sorts of issues.  My choice is to both donate to those organizations that I perceive are doing the right thing and then to write extensively in the local media and elsewhere in
order to persuade people to make data-driven decisions.  

Further advice: throw out the
story-driven debating protocol playbook right now. Story telling has become the
preferred technique of people on both sides of the issue.  However, it plays
right into the hands of the demagogues and should be resisted in favor of
data-driven (i.e., evidence-based) arguments and decision making.  The “story”
approach is exactly what the tobacco companies cleverly used to manipulate
public opinion for decades after we knew that tobacco causes cancer and
heart disease.  

Last bit of advice: Take the intellectual and ethical high road, even if it may seem inexpedient in the short term.


James R. Hébert, MSPH, ScD

Health Sciences Distinguished Professor
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina

" We merely want to live in peace with all the world, to trade with them, to commune
with them, to learn from their culture as they may learn from ours, so that the
products of our toil may be used for our schools and our roads and our churches
and not for guns and planes and tanks and ships of war."

--- Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890 - 1969) (5-Star General of the Army & US President)

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