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This Time It’s Personal: Meltdown with Keith Olbermann Part 8

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Posted on October 8 2009 12:34 pm
David Forsmark is the owner and president of Winning Strategies, a full service political consulting firm in Michigan. David has been a regular columnist for Frontpage Magazine since 2006. For 20 years before that, he wrote book, movie and concert reviews as a stringer for the Flint Journal, a midsize daily newspaper.
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Keith Olbermann has finally discovered evil in the world, and found an enemy worth his barely controlled rage. An enemy that is “evil,” unbelievably “rapacious” and “at war with America.”

Did he finally discover how determined radical Islam is to kill Americans and remove his talking head from his shoulders? Is he outraged at the enslavement of half a billion Muslim women?

Nope. With clenched teeth and trembling jaw, Keith informed us who the evil enemy really was:

American health insurance companies. That’s right, all of them—“ the real enemy, the insurance companies. The insurance companies who are right now at war against America.”

Keith did everything but call people who work for insurance companies “little Eichmanns.”

Well, it’s not like he didn’t warn us. The night before, Olbermann teased the hour thusly:

OLBERMANN: Tomorrow at this hour, we will devote the entire program to a “Special Comment,” “Health Care Reform: The Fight Against Death.” Why there is such hysteria? The underlying issues we‘re not discussing in this equation and what we may yet be able to do to save this country from the insurance industry‘s war on America.

“The Fight Against Death”? Move along folks, no grandiosity on display, here!

In an hour rant that ranged from a complete misuse of mortality statistics, to a comparison of modern America to Dickens-era Manchester; from a pointless rhetorical battle with Winston Churchill, to an attack on the tax-exemption of life insurance benefits—and all centered around his father’s recent illness– Olbermann editorialized for a full hour, much of the time seeming on the verge of completely losing it. Here’s a sample from the beginning:

OLBERMANN: I’ve experienced with growing amazement and with multiplying anger the true state of our hospitals, our doctor’s offices, our insurance businesses, our pharmacies. My father’s story as a patient, and mine as a secondary participant and a primary witness, has been eye-opening and jaw-dropping, and we are among the utterly lucky ones — a fact that by itself is terrifying and infuriating.

And thus, tonight, for all those we have met along the way, those with whom we have shared the last two months inside the valley of the beast, and for everyone in this country who will be here and right soon, tonight, COUNTDOWN will be devoted entirely to a “Special Comment” on a subject of health care reform in this country.

I do not want to yell. I feel like screaming but everybody is screaming. Everybody is screaming that this is about rights or freedom or socialism or the president or the future or the past or political failure or political success. We have all been screaming.

I have been screaming and we have all been screaming, because we do not want to face — we cannot face — what is at the heart of all of this, what is the unspoken essence of every moment of this debate. What about which we are truly driven to such intense, ineffable, inchoate, emotions? Because ultimately, in screaming about health care reform — pro or con — we are screaming about death.

This ultimately is about death. About preventing it, about fighting it, about resisting it, about grabbing hold of everything and anything to forestall it and postpone it even though we know that the force will overcome us all — always will, always has.

Over the next few days, I will take apart Olbermann’s specific arguments. But first, we’ll look at his basic faulty premises—and the things he conspicuously left out of his hour.

The overriding premise was the evil and rapacious nature of insurance companies who are causing death in America in order to protect their 20% profits on health insurance. They are spending billions to distort the debate and to keep everyone from experiencing the utopia of universal health coverage supplied by the government. If the money spent on insurance profits could be spread around, then “your father” could be saved from death, just like Keith’s father who has health insurance.

Okay, I’ll bite, name one government program, just ONE, in which the overhead on the dollar doesn’t amount to more than 20%

Second, health insurance companies really make an average of 3.4%. That makes them the 86th most profitable industry in the United States. Oh, the humanity!

If insurance companies made 20%, everyone would be rushing to their broker to buy health-insurance-company stock.

Olbermann constantly raved about the “insurance cartel.” What is a cartel? It’s a monopoly. That implies limited or no competition. Conservatives have been fighting to allow health insurance to be allowed to be sold over state lines, to increase competition. Democrats have voted against this at every turn. Why? Is it because lowering premiums would take the air out of the socialized medicine balloon?

It could also be because every state has an insurance commissioner who protects the mandates on insurance sold in his state by the state legislature. That’s 50 fiefdoms fiercely protected by state governments.

A long time ago, I sold health insurance — about 4,392 government mandates ago. Every time our state passed a law requiring that something must be included in health insurance coverage, the price went up. Big mystery.

Usually, this was at the behest of an interest group with Democrat Party ties. Health insurance was started by doctors to insure regular payment of billing. That makes sense, and it also helped to expand medical coverage throughout the 20th century. (The fact that it was needlessly tied to employment because of New Deal wage controls is another topic.)

But now everyone wants to get on the health insurance gravy train. Dental and vision coverage are examples of things that are unlikely to be catastrophic medical problems, but are considered by many to be part of their birthright.

Mandated mental health coverage was a big foot in the door. That quickly expanded beyond institutionalized care, or actual medical treatment by a doctor for chemical imbalance, to top-dollar talk therapists and social workers providing marriage counseling! How is that part of the “fight against death?” But most state governments have mandated that those items be part of every medical plan.

Every politician, Republican and Democrat, says that it is bad for insurance companies to exclude pre-existing conditions. In health insurance, anyway. We all understand why we can’t buy insurance on a car we’ve already wrecked, but think we have a God-given right to buy health insurance after we get sick. If forbidding this is passed without some other reform, then it will drive up costs, and increase the calls for socialized medicine.

Keith spent not one minute on anything government has done to drive up costs. Government cannot be the problem, it is his final solution.

Also, missing from any part of the sermon was a mention of lawyers. Is there anyone anywhere who doesn’t think that the legal system adds less than 20%– much less 3.4% — to the medical system?

“The doctors are on our side,” Keith assures us. Really, then whose side are plaintiffs’ attorneys on?

Thankfully, Keith’s father seems to be doing well, and he didn’t have to fight with an insurance company for treatment. However, that makes the whole rage act seem odd and misplaced.

But at least Keith is honest. He wants socialized medicine. Or, as he put it, three simple words. “Medicaid for everyone.” Private insurance is the enemy, government is good. Period.

Part 9: Ultimate Mismatch: Churchill Vs. Olbermann

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