Tags: healthcare | obama | koch

Everyone Deserves Healthcare Access

Friday, 31 Jul 2009 04:10 PM

By Ed Koch

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Well, I’m back. I was admitted to New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center on June 14 and discharged on July 26. I spent most of that time in the ICU recovering from valve replacement and quadruple bypass surgery. Because my heart cavity filled with blood, a second surgery was performed to clean the area. Other complications included a pancreas that acted up and a gallbladder that had to be removed. I expect to return to the office sometime next week.

The fact that I am alive today is due to the extraordinary medical care I received in the hospital by brilliant doctors, marvelous nurses, and dozens of technicians. I shall be forever grateful to each and every one of them. For those who will say that I, as a former mayor of New York City, received special treatment, they should know that those same physicians, nurses, and technicians were simultaneously treating other patients recovering from similar surgery in the same ICU.

I don’t know what the total expense will be for my hospitalization, but most of it will be covered by Medicare and my private health insurance policy. Others are not so fortunate. Forty-seven million Americans, some holding jobs and others unemployed, are without medical insurance, and 25 million more are underinsured. I don’t believe people without insurance who are treated in emergency rooms can receive the same adequate, ongoing care that insured individuals receive.

My recent hospitalization has caused me to concentrate my energy now more than ever on the critical need for universal medical care. Politicians who oppose universal medical care by frightening the public with phrases like “socialized medicine” will pay a political price in loss of support when the public sorts out the facts between now and the time the congressional vote takes place on the issue.

The United States is the only western industrial nation without a universal medical care plan. We should not have to reinvent the wheel to figure out how to institute such a plan. Let’s look at how the French, Dutch, Germans, Swiss, and others deal with the issues of cost and coverage, and select for ourselves the best parts of those plans, which have now been in existence for more than 50 years.

Republican opposition to universal healthcare is not factually sound. It is merely an attempt to destroy President Barack Obama’s chance of reelection in 2012, and the hell with the country. What else could conservative political analyst and commentator William Kristol have meant when he said:

“With Obamacare on the ropes, there will be a temptation for opponents to let up on their criticism, and to try to appear constructive, or at least responsible. There will be a tendency to want to let the Democrats’ plans sink of their own weight, to emphasize that the critics have been pushing sound reform ideas all along and suggest it’s not too late for a bipartisan compromise over the next couple of weeks or months.

“My advice, for what it’s worth: Resist the temptation. This is no time to pull punches. Go for the kill.

“The Obama White House and the Democratic congressional leadership shouldn’t be underestimated. They’re tough. They’ll cut deals and twist arms to try to keep their priority legislation alive. They’ll certainly attack their opponents, whether their opponents’ tone is conciliatory or confrontational.

“So this is not the time to let them off the ropes. This is the week to highlight every problem, every terrible provision, in the Democratic bills: from taxes and spending to government control and rationing to federal funding for abortion and government-required death-with-dignity counseling sessions for the elderly. Throw the kitchen sink at the legislation now on the table, drive a stake through its heart [I apologize for the mixed metaphors], and kill it.

“Then opponents can say, of course we do want to pass sensible health reform. But to do so, we need to start over.

“So the constructive part of the message would be: Start Over. We’re not giving up on health reform. Far from it. But the only way to pass health reform is first to get rid of the misbegotten efforts now before Congress. The only way to pass health reform is to start over in the fall. The Obama plan wouldn’t go into effect until 2013 anyway [except the tax increases, which would kick in in 2011]. We have plenty of time to work next year on sensible and targeted health reform in a bipartisan way. But first we need to get rid of Obamacare. Now is the time to do so.”

No Republican member of Congress I’m familiar with would dare urge the end of Medicare or Social Security, although that party came close to doing so when President George W. Bush and the Republican leadership urged the privatization of Social Security. I expect the Democratic majority will overcome Republican opposition to universal medical care and adopt a government vehicle like Medicare to provide insurance and compete with the voluntary and profit-making private carriers. The government should provide the exact same subsidies per capita to private and public insurers so none has an advantage over the other.

I’ve been given a new lease on life due to the superb treatment by incredibly gifted doctors and staff members at a marvelous hospital — New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. Now I can’t wait to join the forces supporting universal medical insurance so that we all can have access to healthcare when we need it.

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