Tim Giago: Real problems of US health care
When it comes to reforming the mess we euphemistically call “health care” the biggest obstacle is MONEY. One would have had to live in a cave in Montana not to know that there is something very wrong with America’s health care system.

You don’t have to be a Republican, Democrat, or an Independent to understand that when there are 47 million people living in a country that likes to brag about having the “best health care system in the world” do not have health insurance, we have a real problem.

The daily assault upon the proposed health care plan set forth by the Barack Obama Administration by radio talk show hosts has reached a fever pitch. Led by Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh, and fed by the people calling their shows to echo the opinions of the hosts, the distortions of the actual health proposals have become laughable. First the radio shows used a clever, but age-old ploy and began calling health care reform “Obamacare.” Put the onus on the President of the United States and stand back.

So far I have not heard one person without health insurance attack the President’s health care plan. You can bet that those making the most noise are all fully covered with fat health insurance policies. Besides the conservative radio talk show hosts there are insurance companies, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies up to their necks in spending millions to stop the very idea of health care for all Americans. There are about five lobbyists for every member of Congress on Capitol Hill not only lobbying to gain the support of these elected officials in voting against Obama’s health care plan, but are contributing millions into the campaign coffers of these elected officials. This, we must suppose, is the American way.

Let’s take a look at what they are saying. Number one: President Obama does not want to euthanize your grandma. His plan offers senior citizens access to a professional medical counselor to provide them with information on preparing a living will and on other issues that come up near the end of life. In the old culture of Native Americans, the elders not only prepared themselves to live, but they also prepared themselves to die.

Number two: Democrats are going to do away with private insurance and force you on to a government run plan. Actually, the Obama plan would increase your choices of insurance companies not decrease them. And if you are happy with your present coverage, you can keep it.

Number three: Obama wants to implement socialized medicine. Obama’s reform will do away with some of the aspects of rationing health care such as discrimination for pre-existing conditions, insurers who cancel coverage when you get seriously ill, gender discrimination, and lifetime and yearly limits on coverage.

Number four: Obama is secretly planning to cut Medicare benefits. Reform plans will not cut Medicare benefits. It will save money by cutting billions in overpayment to insurance companies and eliminating waste, fraud and abuse. These reforms are a badly needed.

Number five: Obama’s health care plan will bankrupt America. The bailouts of the banks and auto industry nearly did that without Obama’s help. Actually, America needs health care reform now in order to prevent bankruptcy. The rising cost of health care is bankrupting individuals and families, small businesses and is dragging down the American economy. We now spend $2 trillion per year on health care and it is projected that the average family premium for health care will rise to more than $22,000 in the next decade. Who can afford that?

The shouting matches at the town hall meetings members of Congress are holding across the country to discuss Obama’s health care plan gets us nowhere. What is needed now is quiet and intelligent dialogue. If there are indeed all of the dreadful consequences built into Obama’s plan, talk about them, and just don’t shout down those who would pursue meaningful conversation.

When hospitals and doctors turn away needy patients because they do not have an insurance policy, something is really rotten. Every American should be entitled to health care when they are ill. Health care for only those able to afford it is damaging America’s image around the world.

I have always received the best of care from the Indian Health Service hospitals and clinics on the Indian reservations and in the urban settings. The health care I receive at the Indian Hospital in Rapid City and the care I received at the Indian Hospital on the Pine Ridge Reservation has been top notch. And for politicians to use the Indian Health Service as a bad example of government run health programs is wrong. It is these very politicians who vote down the badly needed money to sustain and improve the health care of the First Americans that is wrong.

The health care mess in America is not going away until those opposed to a reasonable health care plan stop the tactics of fear and take a hard, realistic look at its shortcomings and advantages. Health care should not be only for those who can afford it.

Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, is the publisher of Native Sun News. He was the founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association, the 1985 recipient of the H. L. Mencken Award, and a Nieman Fellow at Harvard with the Class of 1991. Giago was inducted into the South Dakota Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2008. He can be reached at editor@nsweekly.com.

More Tim Giago:
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Tim Giago: Standing ground at Mount Rushmore (8/3)
Tim Giago: Voting Native and voting independent (7/27)
Tim Giago: Rapid City is changing for the better (7/20)
Tim Giago: Frontier mentality still alive in 2009 (7/13)
Tim Giago: The execution of Chief Two Sticks (7/6)
Tim Giago: McDonald's mentality needs revamp (6/29)
Tim Giago: National health care debate and IHS (6/22)
Tim Giago: South Dakota restricts tribal growth (6/15)
Tim Giago: No more status quo for BIA education (6/8)
Tim Giago: Being Indian and being independent (6/1)
Tim Giago: Let Oglala Sioux president do her job (5/27)
Tim Giago: Memorial Day speech at Black Hills (5/25)
Tim Giago: Small victories in battle against mascots (5/18)
Tim Giago: A day of tribal victory at Little Bighorn (5/11)
Tim Giago: Negative Native images in the news (5/4)
Tim Giago: Resolving ownership of the Black Hills (4/27)
Tim Giago: Good things and bad things come in April (4/20)
Tim Giago: An open letter to South Dakota governor (4/13)
Tim Giago: Nostalgia and South Dakota blizzards (4/6)
Tim Giago: An older brother who paved the way (3/30)
Tim Giago: Sticks and stones and Charles Trimble (3/17)
Tim Giago: Pine Ridge team triumphs at tournament (3/16)
Tim Giago: Announcing the Native Sun News (3/9)
Tim Giago: No winners at Wounded Knee 1973 (3/5)
Tim Giago: The real victims of Wounded Knee 1973 (3/2)
Tim Giago: No outrage over abuse of Natives (2/23)
Tim Giago: A perspective on the fairness doctrine (2/16)
Tim Giago: Throwing Tom Daschle under the bus (2/9)
Tim Giago: Native people out of sight, out of mind (2/2)
Tim Giago: Native veteran loses fight against VA (1/26)
Tim Giago: The Wellbriety Journey for Forgiveness (1/19)
Tim Giago: The stolen generations in the U.S. (1/12)
Tim Giago: Indian Country looks to Tom Daschle for help (1/5)