With its number of pages shrinking by the day and its readership becoming ever more progressive, why would the Journal Sentinel continue to turn over even more of its limited newsprint real estate to predictable right-wing hacks? And how silly is it to have them tripping over the same message on the same day?
No less than two of the paper’s growing stable of local GOP-friendly columnists kicked the same health care cat this Sunday, playing the same Orwellian language tricks on behalf of the health insurance industry. Either they both got the same memo on the same day from some industry stooge or they are the most unimaginative couple of corporate mouthpieces – outside of wing-nut radio – in local media. I’m guessing it’s both.
Usually, reporters and columnists for the Journal Sentinel are not supposed to be active with any political party. Such rules do not apply, apparently, to John Torinus, the chairman of a graphic arts company in West Bend, a board member of notorious right-wing election-flipper WMC and a regular contributor to Republican campaigns. Torinus appears regularly in the Business section driving the tiresome low-tax/free trade/anti-labor agenda of the stereotypical capitalist class. Apparently, this kind of tripe is expected in the Business section, which – the reasoning goes – is only read by captains of industry who need their egos and outdated notions stroked. That was back when there were some captains and some industry in town, but, the tell-‘em-what-we-think-they-want-to-hear tradition continues as the J-S.
In his column this Sunday, Torinus explores familiar territory for him, promoting the type of high-deductible health insurance imposed on his company’s employees and trying to get state and local government employees off of the naturally more-expensive real health insurance – you know, the kind that actually pays for your doctor visit before eating up $3,000 of your own money first. Although he used the phrase "high-deductible plan" to describe, well, the high-deductible plans as recently at last October, he now uses the deceptive language "consumer-driven health plans". Out of necessity, these cheaper plans are now all over the private sector. Torinus claims that since such plans "work" there (they don't, by the way), it should also be imposed on public employees.
First of all, Torinus presumes the use and funding of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), the Trojan horse scheme cooked up during Junior Bush’s early years to move the country down just this slippery slope. The fact is that, in practice, most people with high-deductible plans don’t have HSAs. If they have to go to the doctor or end up in the hospital, that first $3,000 is out of their own pockets, if they have any.
It’s actually like having no health insurance at all. What really happens is that people who have to pay the first couple thousand or so (no big deal to silver-spooners like Torinus, but still...) let the little stuff go, don’t get regular check-ups – preventative care goes out the window – leading to more serious health problems down the line.
The scheme benefits only one entity – the health insurance companies, which – for relatively healthy people with less than $3,000 care needed for the year – may not ever have to pay any doctor bills for many of their "insured". But this is the "consumer’s choice" according to Torinus – to let the toothache, the bout with depression, the weird lump on the skin go for now. This is the exact opposite of optimum health care in every other industrialized country in the world, but, hey, let ‘em eat cake, says Torinus.
Meanwhile, over at the four-page Crossroads section, the editors again found room for the omnipresent Patrick McIlheran, who decided on the same day to squawk about the same thing with the same "consumer-driven" language. Not surprisingly, Republican Milwaukee’s favorite dog-on-a-leash is happy to throw in with the high-deductible crowd, crowing about the arrangement with public employees in Manitowoc County and boldly expanding the "lesson" to the edges of the known universe. "The question isn't whether HSAs and markets work but whether they can be permitted to work," says the former copy boy who, due to his own union protections at the J-S, I'm guessing, has to deal with no such thing.
The situation in Manitowoc if accurately described by McIlheran (I know -- big "if") appears to be unique, extraordinarily generous and symbolic of nothing. Unlike the vast majority of private employers celebrated by Torinus who might, at best, match an employee's contribution, the HSAs in Manitowoc County are funded entirely by the county. So, besides paying the premiums of the high-deductible plan, the county plunks $3,000 into the HSA of every employee every year. "...the leftover money builds up, and they can keep it when they leave," reports Paddy Mac.
Shit, I'd take that deal, too. But, other than other small counties -- go Calumet, cheers McIlheran -- how the hell would governments as large as MPS, Milwaukee County or the State of Wisconsin do the same thing?
Even if they could, it proves nothing about the larger point Torinus and McIlheran are trying to make about the "dangers" of national health care. The HSA/high-deductible scheme is a lie designed to save the bloated health insurance industry from America's inevitable long-overdue move to a 21st century health care financing system. There is no way the Obama administration is going to be distracted by snake oil salesmen like Torinus and McIlheran. They are much more serious than that.