For conservative talkmeister Rush Limbaugh, the superior medical care he received at Hawaii’s Queen’s Medical Center served as vindication of his well-known view that the American health care system is just perfect and needs no fixing.
At a news conference following his release last week, Limbaugh declared, “Based on what happened here to me, I don’t think there’s one thing wrong with the American health care system. It is working just fine, just dandy.”
Based on what happened to him? Limbaugh’s use of his own circumstances to justify his ongoing tirade against the health care overhaul would be comic if he didn’t have so much influence on the body politic.
Suffice it say that the vast majority of Americans don’t have Limbaugh’s money. His net worth has been variously estimated at anywhere from $685 million to more than $1 billion.
That sort of wealth buys excellent insurance and the cash to cover those pesky out-of-pocket costs that accompany most hospital stays. Limbaugh could pay the exorbitant prices that an insurer might charge for a pre-existing condition — such as health problems that might follow prescription drug abuse — or simply pay his medical bills from cash if he needed to.
(And, despite his insistence that he received “no special treatment,” celebrities usually do. This is no slap at Queen’s Medical Center, but I suspect doctors and nurses there were paying extra attention to Limbaugh, given his stature.)
The health care legislation under consideration by Congress wouldn’t give the rest of us access to the sort of premium care that Limbaugh can afford. But it would help more than 30 million Americans who don’t have insurance afford to purchase it. That means hard-working housepainters, store clerks, warehouse workers and hospital orderlies can finally get the decent medical care they need.
If responses from my readers are any indication, critics hold a lot of misconceptions about the proposals before Congress. Some readers believe that the health care overhaul would reward the stereotypical welfare recipient. Not so.
The poorest Americans are already covered by Medicaid, just as older Americans are covered by Medicare (both of which are much closer to socialized medicine than anything in the bills recently passed by the House and the Senate.) But there are millions of Americans who work hard everyday, earning too much for Medicaid, but not enough to afford health insurance premiums.
And it isn’t just the cost of the premiums. Insurers set up a byzantine system specifically designed to weed out consumers who actually get sick and eat into the profit margins. Most insurers limit their coverage of patients who already have a treatable illness — a “pre-existing condition.” Some insurance companies resort to obscure rules to find reasons not to pay for a patient’s medical care, instead ending their coverage. They call that “rescission.” Health care reform aims to curb those practices.
Republicans in Congress — the vast majority of whom, listening to Limbaugh, have opposed the health care legislation — are beginning to concede they are unlikely to stop Democrats from passing a historic health care bill; but the GOP hasn’t given up its hopes of blocking reform. Among other tactics, some conservatives are talking up the idea of a legal challenge to the “mandate” — the requirement that all Americans have health insurance.
Hawaii, though, where Limbaugh received such excellent health care, passed a mandate that employers provide generous health care benefits back in 1974. Perhaps as a result, Hawaii residents have longer life spans than most Americans, according to The New York Times. They also have lower insurance premiums.
So I think I’ve found something on which Limbaugh and I agree: Hawaii offers good health care. Congress should make sure the rest of the country gets something similar.