The Coastal Post - October, 1995


Damaged Care

The public remains confused by the on-going debate over government's role in medical care. The confusion is fostered by the insurance industry which, determined to hold onto its expensive share, can only do so by misrepresenting itself. By massive lobbying the industry keeps its hand in the till where it extracts at least a third of the medical dollar while providing confusion, reduced treatment options and added expense to the public.

The insurance conglomerates are doing their best to outwit the voters. With millions of lobbying dollars injected at both state and federal levels, they are purchasing our representatives to help them steal from the taxpayer. That array of HMOS and other market-driven health organizations represent the intrusion of big business between the taxpayer who needs but must pay for is care, and the suppliers of that care.

Under "single-payer" plans, which Canadians and most Europeans enjoy, government foots the bill. The suppliers: physicians, hospitals, clinics, pharmacists, radiologists and other specialists, nursing homes, etc., bill government directly for their services. (Medicare is socialized medicine.) Since government guarantees these services, there is nothing to "insure." With government paying the provider directly, that terribly expensive middle man, the insurance industry, is kept out of the picture. With single-payer plans, physicians have a variety of choices: they may practice by themselves or in clinic or hospital groups. Hospitals also can stand alone or join other hospitals and clinics to combine resources and services in various ways.

Unfortunately, much of organized medicine in the U.S. has made a Faustian bargain with the insurance industry. The AMA, already bought by those giants, launched a massive mailing (300,000) to its members discrediting the Canadian system as "socialized medicine," and joining the insurance companies, hired a public-relations firm, Burston-Mastellar, to sell "managed care" in the U.S., while discrediting Canada's health plan both here and in Canada. (BM earned $82.1 million in lobbying fees in 1992-93.)

No physician likes restrictions on either fees or choice of treatment, but with the "managed care" being pushed in Washington, doctors will find themselves doubly restricted, both by their HMO or other insurance-formed organization, which in turn will be restricted by government. Managed care usually represents "minimal care," the only level of care possible after the insurance industry has taken its bite from the medical dollar. The patient, meanwhile, computer-herded into some select group on the basis of income, race, sex, age or medical history, will realize that a special relationship with his physician has been taken away. Provider and patient will both pay the price.

There are presently almost 40 million in the U.S. without adequate health care. Americans must guard every medical dollar. The politicians' present scare campaign regarding the upcoming bankruptcy of Medicare is based on this "managed care" system with their insurance friends' hands firmly in the till. Sharing American's limited resources with this business monolith will not only raise the cost for everyone, but is likely to lock millions out of the system.

Only a single-payer system, supported by both taxpayer and business, can support basic care for everyone. Those wanting additional coverage will find insurance companies eager to assist.

The motto visible to those entering the old Roman market read: Caveat emptor, or "Let the buyer beware." Nothing much has changed.

Censorship in PBS

Monday the 10th of August, San Jose's PBS station KTEH aired a remarkable documentary: "Inside God's Bunker." The film, a chilling study of an illegal enclave of 400 militaristic Jews, was shot in Hebron, a Palestinian City of some 110,000 Arabs. The Jewish physician, Goldstein, who machine-gunned 29 Moslems at prayer in their mosque, had been a member of that group.

To maintain this small illegal enclave in the center of a busy Palestinian city, some 1,200 Israeli soldiers threaten Hebron's Arab inhabitants 24 hours of the day. During the week of Passover the Israeli army ordered a curfew and shut down the City. One hundred ten thousand Arab citizens of Hebron were confined to their homes day and night, while 400 Jews and their friends had the run of the City. Teenagers from the enclave took advantage of the curfew to destroy the goods and shops of Arab businesses. Israeli soldiers watched this pillaging, but did nothing.

Last week, Jews from that same group stormed into a nearby Palestinian grade school, beat up the teacher and injured several children, because the school had raised their Palestinian flag on the schoolgrounds. A few days later the Israeli military brought in bulldozers and destroyed the school.

In April of this year, Professor Moshe Zimmerman of Hebrew University created an uproar in Israel when he wrote an article comparing the children of those Jewish settlers in Hebron to "the Hitler Youth." "From infancy they are pumped with the ideas that all Arabs are bad, of how every Gentile is against us. They are turned into paranoids, they think of themselves as a master race, they are exactly like the Hitler Youth."

The stand-off between Arafat and Rabin this week revolves around the right of 110,000 Palestinians in Hebron to be freed of harassment by 450 rightist Jews and their military escorts.

The documentary shown on KTEH was produced by Micha Peled from Mill Valley. Born in Tel Aviv, Micha was the Bay Area director of FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting). His film has been aired in a dozen European countries and on BBC, but has had limited exposure in this country since Jewish groups protest its showing.

Those who watch KQED will remember in 1989 similar protests delayed for over a year and a half PBS airing the documentary "Days of Rage: The Young Palestinians," which reported on Israeli violence against Palestinian children. Now again, KQED despite pressure from members of the community refuses to air Micha Peled's film .

The staff at KTEH obviously understand their responsibility as a public broadcasting station to present all points of view and resist censorship..