The Errington Thompson Show 8-1-09

My guest is Joan McCarter (“McJoan”) from the Daily Kos. Joan is a great blogger and former Capital Hill staffer. Dr. Andy Coates is a national leader of Physicians for a National Health Program who teaches at Albany Medical College and practices Internal Medicine.

I opened the show with a discussion about the healthcare “debate.” First of all, I don’t think there’s been much debate. Republicans are basically saying no. They’re saying no to single-payer. They’re saying no to the public option. Democrats, on the other hand, are putting forth these reasonable arguments and the only response they get is no. Somehow, this has become debate.

I get the feeling that some progressives are becoming disheartened because we have both houses of Congress and the White House and we’re still not really getting what progressives would consider to be liberal legislation. I think there was a sense that after the election we could put our government on autopilot. Nothing could be further from the truth. If we don’t speak up and remind our elected officials what we’re thinking then the only thing they will hear will be the Republicans saying no. We have to be there to push back. We have to remain active.

I take the opportunity to point out how Republicans try to distract us from reality. This was mentioned wonderfully in the book by Rick Perlstein called Nixonland and in Thomas Frank’s book The Wrecking Crew. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama played into some of this by commenting on the Professor Gates incident up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The mainstream media picks up on this diversion. Therefore, several news cycles are taken up with a discussion, with no point, of racism. We got to meet the police officer that arrested Professor Gates. We got the president to come out and “clarify” his comments. We have the local police union supporting the police officer yet, there’s no substantive discussion on race or racism. All the while, we should be focused on healthcare because we’re not going to fix the race problem by beating up (figuratively not literally) the police officer or Professor Gates or both of them. I won’t even mention Glenn Beck and his inflammatory comments although I do play the clip.

Our first guest is Joan McCarter from the Daily Kos. She’s been blogging a lot on healthcare. I asked her are we going to get a public option. She agrees with me that we need a strong progressive movement to push Congress toward a public option. I talk about the lack of leadership for strong public option in the Senate. It is unclear to me what Harry Reid is doing but I hope he’s not getting paid to lead. We talk about the current state of legislation in the Senate and the fact that Senator Max Baucus does not appear to be representing what progressives want. Senator Jay Rockefeller has stated that although he is on the Senate Committee on Health, he has been shut out of the legislative process. Finally, we discussed the fact that it appears that President Obama has not closed off any options. Everything is still on the table. Joan points out that we’re far enough into the process, everything should not be on the table.

My second guest is Dr. Andy Coates who is a national leader of Physicians for a National Health Program. He points out how he came to the decision that we needed to have some sort of national health program. It is the inequity in health care. The disparity is not just about black versus white, but also urban versus rural and rich versus poor. As far as our national “discussion” goes, it’s unclear how we began to talk about national insurance when what we need is a discussion on national health care reform. We talk about the anonymous amount of money that we’re spending on healthcare now and Dr. Coates points out that the money we’re spending needs to go to care. What a concept! Healthcare dollars going to take care of patients. Single-payer could save us, SAVE US three to four trillion dollars over 10 years.

Why is healthcare in the US more expensive? I explain.

This is an outstanding show. Enjoy.

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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