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Healthcare, campaign finance reform, and political corruption

by Susannah Kopecky, published

On Sunday night, a historic health care reform bill was passed by a rather cloak-and-dagger procedure in the House. Before the actual computerized vote was taken, a lot was said about the state of health care and those seen as running it. Some of the criticism was fair.  A few insurance companies do operate monopolies within certain states (one suggestion to amend this, which was not included in the final form of the legislation, was to allow individuals to purchase health insurance from across state lines).  However, some of the criticism leveled at insurance and health care providers was either levied ignorantly or disingenuously, namely the idea that medical professionals turn away the poor (or others) from emergency care, for lack of insurance.  That is simply untrue.

There are laws, applicable at both the state and federal level, which specifically state that medical professionals must not turn away those requiring immediate medical attention. This is in addition to the fact that every doctor takes an oath to help anyone possible.  This is known as the Hippocratic Oath, and the majority of doctors understand the guiding idea behind it: do what you can, whenever you can, when a healthy, sick or hurt individual is in your hands.

Leading proponents of health care reform legislation such as California representatives Nancy Pelosi and Brad Sherman have made these claims previously (Sherman said as much on Sunday night on “The O’Reilly Factor”). However, assuming that in fact, most doctors are already helping others in need, another theory has been floated:  health care is all about power.

In the lead-up to the legislation’s passage, much hullaballoo was made about those "evil" insurance companies and those "selfish" doctors.  Proponents of the legislation declared, “It’s those Republicans who are accepting big money from medical and insurance industries, and that financial corruption must be rooted out!” That narrative starts to unravel when one takes a closer look at exactly who is contributing to (or being bullied by) the campaigns of these very same proponents. Thanks to Federal Election Committee records, we are all privy to the information now.

For example, Nancy Pelosi hasn’t been known as the most steadfast of campaign finance reform crusaders.  In the past, she has been accused by some of sidestepping the rules of reform, when the outcome was not to her liking. To the Supreme Court’s January decision to allow for greater freedom in campaign financing, Pelosi stated that:

     The voices of average Americans could be drowned out by Wall Street banks, big oil, health insurance companies and other special interests… We cannot allow special-interest dollars to dictate the details of public policy. We will review the decision, work with the Obama Administration, and explore legislative options available to mitigate the impact of this disappointing decision.

In the 2009-2010 election year, Pelosi received contributions from such organizations as the Wellmed Medical Management Inc. Federal Political Action Committee ($2400), America’s Health Insurance Plans PAC ($2,500), Liberty Mutual Insurance Company PAC ($2,500), Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company PAC ($2,500), New York Life Insurance Company PAC ($5,000), Pacific Life Insurance Company PAC (two donations of $2,500 for a total 2009-2010 donation of $5,000), and three different contributions from the American Podiatric Medical Association Political Action Committee (each for $2,500, or for a total 2009-2010 donation of $7,500).

Guess these insurance companies and medical associations weren't so "evil" after all.  Maybe one day, those who claim to support fair campaign financing regulations will not follow the precedent of certain health care reformers and take money from a slew of big corporations.

Cheers to a better and more ethical 2010-2011.

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