Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Health Care: Private Profits vs. Policy Prophets

Health Care: Private Profits vs. Policy Prophets
By Gary L. Flowers
Executive Director & CEO

We the conscious people of the United States of America, in order to form a more perfect union, must, by way of votes of our elected representatives in Congress embrace the need of health care recipients rather than the greed of the health care providers.
America must listen to policy prophets rather than be victimized by the profits of privateers. To do so is not new for Black America.
For Black Americans who are Christian they need look no further than the Biblical book of Jeremiah in which, according to scripture, the Prophet Jeremiah initially carried immense favor amongst the people until his vision for their well being led him to expose views that were not popular. Scripture holds that God’s blessing of the Prophet’s plan was greater than the evil of his adversaries due to the righteousness of his words (not unlike Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s speech, “Difference Does Not Denote Difference”). In order to move his people forward he chose to speak truth to power.
President Barack Obama must do as the Prophet Jeremiah did relative to his policy priority of insurance reform in health care—be audacious enough to challenge the status quo and throw a policy punch in the fat belly of the insurance industry that rakes in enormous profits by denying health care to needy Americans.
After all, change is spelled with the bended line of a C, Inadequate is spelled with a straight line of an I. In other words: if there is not a single payer/public option in the final health care legislation, the promise of meaningful change in the cost and delivery of health care will be reduced to rhetoric, and thereby inadequate to the ill.
Yet, throughout the continuum of public policy leadership within the Black community men and women have influenced legislation based on the needs of the people and not what was politically expedient.
For example, just after the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909, Dr. W.E.B. Dubois and Ida B. Wells joined forces to push for a federal policy outlawing the lynching of Black people. They won.
During the height of the Civil Rights Movement of African Americans Dr. Martin Luther King and Dr. Dorothy Height partnered to influence the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., and Dr, Marian Edelman teamed up to bring about legislation to increase educational and health opportunities for poor children of color, resulting in the PUSH for Excellence Program and the Children’s Health Insurance Policy (CHIP) in each state.
This week, President Barack Obama (with the assistance of Senior White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett) prophetically clarified the Administration’s plan reform the insurance industry by offering Americans the option of purchasing health insurance from the government (much like the Medicare Program or Veteran’s benefits). Makes sense to me. Without such a public option profits will soar while the people remain sore of no health care.
After watching the movie John Q starring Denzel Washington and Michael Moore’s documentary Sicko a few years ago I was baffled as to how the insurance industry could predicate their enormous profits on the by denying coverage to ordinary people, and do so in the wealthiest nation on earth. The equivalent would be to only offer fire protection to those who could afford fire insurance. Imagine that?
We as a nation must join the world community in providing—not denying—health care to all of our citizens.
And for those who shout down supporters of a single payer/public option, the Prophet Jeremiah symbolizes that one need not be guilty to be vilified.

Gary L. Flowers
Executive Director & CEO
Black Leadership Forum, Inc.
Washington, DC 20004
Office: 202.689.1965
Fax: 202.689.1954
Cell: 773.230.3554

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