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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2709

Letter from America: Clintons and Obama’s Health Plan

Habib SiddiquiBy Habib Siddiqui

Last week, Secretary Clinton was in Congo. A Congolese university student asked what her husband thought about a multibillion-dollar Chinese loan offer to Congo. She was visibly upset with the question and snapped, “My husband is not secretary of state, I am.” She asked, "You want me to tell you what my husband thinks?" "If you want my opinion, I will tell you my opinion," she said. "I am not going to be channeling my husband."

Many observers and analysts have called Mrs. Clinton’s instant reaction to the student’s question unbecoming of the top diplomat of the USA. Some have even tried to explain her behavior as a reaction of a disgruntled wife who felt sidelined by her husband who had earlier won the release of two American journalists from North Korea, capturing headlines in the media, something that she could not do with her trip to Africa.

The past week was also a very busy one for the White House promoting President Obama’s public health insurance plan. As he had promised during his 2008 election campaign, Obama is serious about bringing the healthcare to millions of uninsured Americans that are denied of any service in the healthcare sector.

The American health care system is a capitalistic one that caters to the needs of those who are insured, often paying high premium insurance bills. It is like a Mafia-type extortion - a racket - that allows anyone employed within the healthcare industry to demand high payoffs.

Naturally the American doctors and nurses are better paid than their counterparts in any country. Pharmaceutical companies also charge exorbitant charges for their prescription drugs. Most elderly and low income Americans today can’t afford those costly healthcare plans and thus are forced to remain uninsured or underinsured, routinely being denied such services when they need those most. And yet, many Americans are confused about Obama’s plan; they think it will cost them high taxes, which they refuse to pay. Americans obviously pay less tax than people in Canada and most of European countries.

The Republicans and the conservatives called Obama’s plan a “socialist nightmare.” Sarah Palin, the Republican former vice-presidential candidate, earlier in the week condemned Obama's plans as an "evil" move that would result in "death panels" deciding who would live or die. Other Republicans have echoed her criticism by saying that Obama’s plan is like UK’s NHS, as if it’s a bad plan that Americans ought to be away from trying. To further spice up the debate, the former Speaker Newt Gingrich said British healthcare was run by "Orwellian" bureaucrats who put a price tag on life.

Britons were offended by such nasty and unkind criticism of their NHS. Prime Minister Gordon Brown praised UK’s plan and so did the opposition Conservative Party leader David Cameron who added his voice to the defense campaign with a posting on his party's Web site. "Millions of people are grateful for the care they have received from the NHS -- including my own family… One of the wonderful things about living in this country is that the moment you're injured or fall ill -- no matter who you are, where you are from, or how much money you've got -- you know that the NHS will look after you."

Even the Nobel Laureate physicist Stephen Hawking came to defend the NHS by saying, "I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS… I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived."

To allay people’s fear, President Obama on Friday took his push for a health care overhaul to traditionally conservative Montana, saying a bill to extend coverage to the uninsured while helping those already with coverage will pass this year. He said that two-thirds of the cost of overhauling health care -- estimated at about $900 billion over 10 years -- would come from eliminating waste and improving efficiency in the current system, which includes the government-run Medicare and Medicaid programs for the elderly and impoverished.

The rest would come from new revenue, i.e., higher taxes. However, he called for reducing the amount of deductions that people making more than $250,000 a year can make on their income taxes. "If we did that alone, just that change alone ... that would raise enough to pay for health care reform," Obama said, noting that would meet his election campaign pledge to avoid any tax increase on people earning less than $250,000 a year.

But things don’t look that promising now. The conservative radio and TV talk show hosts are painting Obama as a Nazi Hitler-like monster. Democratic senators and congressmen supporting the President’s plan are getting an earful from angry protesters, even the elderly - the supposed beneficiary of the new initiative. Even the Democratic law-makers are divided on the plan. For instance, congressman Murtha (D-PA) seems opposed to the plan.

If the past week is any indicator of the future, it appears that passage of a healthcare plan, modeled much like UK’s NHS, may see more nasty fights over it in coming weeks and months. At this time, one can only hope that President Obama’s plan will not be dumped much like his Democratic predecessor Bill Clinton’s. America, the most prosperous nation on earth, simply cannot afford a status quo in this vital issue of our time, affecting so many that are routinely denied healthcare services because of the current system being unaffordable to them. They need a change and Obama’s plan offers that change.

- Asian Tribune -

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