It's been a big hairy week in Washington, D.C., with landmark Supreme Court decisions. Bigger than any of it is the way policy and politics are being touted as home runs and touchdowns by both political parties and pundits. It boggles my mind when two sides call the same point for themselves.
I live and breathe politics like many people follow sports. Sometimes the stress is enough to make me want to pull the covers over my head and peek out around Thanksgiving.
The tea party reaction was bizarre and almost comical. Congressman Mike Pence, R-Indiana, likened Thursday's SCOTUS decision to the 9/11 attacks. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said, "Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be 'constitutional' does not make it so."
Back here on the home front, it's been a bad week for the Parnell administration. We've spent time and treasure, entrusted to Gov. Sean Parnell, challenging the Affordable Care Act. "We don't need no stinkin' health care!" In a shock switch of what has become customary corporate pandering, Chief Justice John G. Roberts joined the usual minority four justices and Obamacare was deemed constitutional.
Parnell was the only governor to turn down more than $1 million of federal money to create offices for uninsured Alaskans to collectively purchase affordable coverage. Hard red states like Florida, Texas and Alabama accepted that federal grant money. Even the poster child of Republican nirvana, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, took the money.
After learning of the Supreme Court decision, Parnell released a statement: "On the federal level, it will take congressional action to roll back what now appears to be the single largest tax increase in American history. This tax will not hurt the rich, because they have insurance. It will not hurt the poorest Americans, because it will not apply to them. It is a tax on the working poor and middle class Americans. ..."
You know what's expensive for people in the private sector, governor? Having no insurance at all. Having insurance companies deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Having your 20-something children, forging their own trail, have an accident with no insurance coverage. Having your insurance premiums eat up more of your paycheck every year. Having those same insurance companies pay their CEO $100 million-plus a year by denying a procedure, test or medication their doctor has determined suitable for their condition -- profiting by saying no.
Not to go all free-markety on you but you know what else is expensive, governor? Providing medical care at the most expensive real estate in the hospital -- the ER. In emergency rooms across Alaska, uninsured patients receive medical care regardless of their ability to pay. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act has been a cornerstone of American health care. It was passed by a bipartisan Congress and signed into law by the Gipper himself, Ronald Reagan. Who pays? We all do through hospital tax write-offs and higher premiums.
I don't even know why I bother. Parnell has insurance. It comes with his job -- working for the government. When you're covered, it's pretty easy to forget about those who aren't. But here's the thing: If you already have insurance coverage you are completely unaffected by Obamacare. In fact, you're better off. No longer can insurance companies, aka Death Panels, deny a pre-existing condition or medical therapy or procedure they deem experimental, unnecessary or too expensive.
The United States is the only Western industrialized nation on the planet that allows for-profit corporations to exclusively dictate the terms of our health care.
Even if you hate Obamacare, there's an out. In 2011, Vermont launched the first single-payer health care system in America, signed into law by newly elected Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. Shumlin said, "We gather here today to launch the first single-payer health care system in America, to do in Vermont what has taken too long: have a health care system, the best in the world, that treats health care as a right, and not a privilege." As early as 2014, Green Mountain Care will cover all of Vermont's 620,000 citizens. The cost? The Vermont Legislature commissioned Dr. William Hsiao, a Harvard economist who helped design health care systems in seven countries, to perform a cost-benefit analysis. His conclusion? Vermont's single-payer plan would be approximately 25 percent cheaper for consumers, businesses and the government than the current private health insurance system. The savings: $500 million in just the first year.
Hmmm. Alaska has about the same population as Vermont and far more wealth. It's time for single-payer coverage.
And, if there was any justice, legal or poetic, "loser pays" would apply to Parnell. He should have to personally pay back any state funds that supported his losing effort suing the federal government.
Shannyn Moore can be heard weekdays from 6 to 9 p.m. on KOAN 1020 AM and 95.5 FM radio. Her weekly TV show can be seen Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. statewide on ABC affiliate KYUR Anchorage, KATN Fairbanks and KJUD Juneau.
By Shannyn Moore