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January 14th, 2010

Health Care Reform, Sawbones Style

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Written by: Bob Haus

HealthcarerefDuring the Civil War, the bloodiest war in our Nation’s history, the state of battlefield medicine had not yet caught up with the carnage unleashed on Union and Confederate soldiers. Part of this was due to inadequately trained doctors, a newer, soft lead bullet that inflicted horrendous damage when it struck the body, and the lack of proper facilities and sterile procedures.

Battlefield doctors earned the nickname of “Doctor Sawbones.” The result was indelible for a generation: over 30,000 Union soldiers alone had major limbs amputated.

Another reason so many amputations occurred was due to incessant pressure by Generals for both North and South to keep the armies moving, keep pressing the battle, and dispense with the wounded as quickly as possible. Winning at any cost was more important that the carnage being inflicted.

I see frightening similarities in the mindset of those in Washington regarding the health care “reform” debate. Like a battlefield in 1864, we are witnessing what it looks like when leaders adopt a “win at any cost” mentality.

Senator Ben Nelson bartered his critical 60th vote on President Obama’s health care bill in return for a tawdry deal. The rest of the country, i.e., 49 states, would pay for the increased Medicaire costs to his home state of Nebraska. It’s been labeled as the “Cornhusker Kickback”, and most Nebraskans are embarrassed by the deal.

This wasn’t the only “carve out” designed by Senator Harry Reid to obtain passage. Senator Chris Dodd managed to work in a $100 million dollar hospital for his home state of Connecticut. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) got a deal so sweet it has been called the “Louisiana Purchase.”

The reaction to these deals has been rather swift. Senator Dodd announced his retirement last week, citing his poor “electoral health” due in part to his support of the health care bill as well as the AIG bailouts. The news this week of the record bonuses paid by Wall Street will only add fuel to his burning funeral pyre.

Senator Landrieu’s support has cratered, and it should come as no surprise to a Senator that represents Louisiana. Residents there still remember other hollow promises from the federal government after the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. Distrust of the federal government is probably higher in that state than any other in the Union.

Senator Nelson’s support is in a freefall, causing him to air campaign ads years before he’s back on the ballot. In addition, in an interview last week with the Fremont Tribune in Nebraska, Senator Nelson indicates now that President Obama should have “waited” to tackle health care, and instead focused his efforts on restarting the economy. This was a rather shocking admission from the man who gave the legislation its 60th critical vote.

Adding to all this drama has been the debacle of Senator Harry Reid’s comments regarding President Obama. Comments, that had they been made by anyone other than one integral to pushing this legislation through at any cost, would have set off calls for an immediate resignation. However, due to his present position as the man pulling the levers of power, criticism has been muted and swept under the rug.

And now, this morning, it is reported that the heads of the major labor unions in the country met yesterday in a private meeting with President Obama to voice their concerns over the surtax on so-called “Cadillac health care plans.” This surcharge would apply to benefit plans worth more than $8,500 a year, and is projected to raise $149billion for the health care regime. Unions detest this proposal, as by their estimate over 25% of their members will be socked with this surcharge…because they have some of the most lucrative, lavish health plans on the planet. So they too now are seeking some sort of “carve-out” from the legislation.

The health care bill…or bills…as we presently see them, resemble nothing of the original goals stated in the campaign of 2008.

Win at any cost, and win just for the sake of winning…regardless of the outcome or consequences. That’s the manta of those in Washington, DC.

In the present case, what is being amputated will be our freedoms, the best health care delivery system in the world, and the financial security of 17% of our economy.

And the indelible mark of these amputations will be left on the generation of our children, and the generations yet to come.

About the Author

Bob Haus
Robert Haus is a Des Moines based advertising and communications consultant. Born and raised in Iowa, Bob is a proud graduate of both Iowa State University and the University of Iowa College of Law, which makes him a confirmed CyHawk fan. A former farm boy, and recovered lawyer, Bob has spent the last 20 years working at all levels of state and federal politics. He has worked for and advised Republican candidates for President, US Senate, US House, statewide office, and the Iowa Legislature. You can follow him at Bob's personal blog is

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