Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I'm not going to pay more than six sheep for this operation

Fourth in a series of articles on the impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.

Meet Sue Lowden. You may not be familiar with Sue, but she's on her way to becoming one of America's most talked-about politicians. Sue is the likely Republican nominee to take on Democratic Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, who happens to be Senate Majority Leader. You wouldn't think that Nevadans would want to give up the clout of having a power broker like Reid represent them, but apparently they do. If current polls are to be believed, Sue Lowden is leading Mr. Reid by 10 points or more.

Sue Lowden is one of many Republican candidates trying to gin up support this year by attacking the health care bill. Congressman Roy Blunt for example, who will be the Republican nominee for the open Senate seat in Missouri this year, has suggested that it's wrong to guarantee access to health insurance to people with pre-existing conditions, because some adults, "have done nothing to take care of themselves."

Mr. Blunt's comments on health care are however not half as obnoxious as Sue Lowden's. Earlier this month, Lowden said,

"I think that bartering is really good. Those doctors who you pay cash, you can barter, and that would get prices down in a hurry. And I would say go out, go ahead out and pay cash for whatever your medical needs are, and go ahead and barter with your doctor."

Initially, the media's reaction to Lowden's comments was to assume that she had used the word "barter" when she meant to use "haggle" or "negotiate." Indeed, her campaign office seemed to confirm this, saying in response to an inquiry regarding Lowden's comments that, "Usually, doctors will offer a lower payment in an agreement with patients because it saves them the hassle of dealing with insurance companies and government-administered health care." Ok, sure, that's sort of reasonable I guess. Doctors have been charging patients on a sliding-scale for centuries.

So a few days ago, I joked about Lowden's apparent blunder, writing, "Thanks, Sue. The next time I go for a check up, I'll try to pay with a chicken."

Ah ha, but it turns out that even Lowden's office had wrongly assumed that she had misspoken. In point of fact, she did literally mean that you should barter with your doctor for services! On April 19, she said,

"I’m telling you that this works. You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor, they would say I’ll paint your house. I mean, that’s the old days of what people would do to get health care with your doctors. Doctors are very sympathetic people. I’m not backing down from that system."

(Boy, I was really ahead of the curve with that chicken comment.)

Lowden clearly thinks she's on to something here. Just today, she went so far as to attack her opponent Harry Reid today for not being on board with her brilliant livestock-for-medicine program, saying, "instead of producing a health care solution Americans support, Harry Reid spends his time focusing on attacking ...Sue Lowden."

Personally, I think there's a reason why Republicans are having such a hard time articulating complaints about the health care bill. And it's not because the health care bill is so wonderful that it's beyond criticism. It's because the bill is structured around requiring everyone to buy insurance from the private sector, without any public option to compete with private sector insurance, and without requiring private insurers to reform their abusive pricing practices. This should sound familiar to Republicans, because it's exactly what they themselves proposed for years.


ahschmidt said...

What cracks me up about these sorts of 'awe shucks, plain talkin' attitudes that come up in these debates is that it implies that the health professionals that you are likely to deal with are these quaint old doctors who will swing by your house when you are in need. Next time I end up in the emergency room, can I just send in an offer to trade some livestock for services rendered when I receive the bill? That with pretty much ALL of the $20,000 I have saved up (pretax, good for me)?

BuddhaBlog said... solution to insurance companies locking in record profits off the sick is to attack the health care providers' wages? Seriously?