Earlier today, MSNBC's Carlos Watson hosted Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) and CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo for a discussion on health care.Thanks to John Dinsmore for passing on this clip of CNBC lunkhead Maria Bartiromo tangling with New York congressman Anthony Weiner the other day. Yet another rich media creature with excellent insurance campaigning against health insurance reform; Weiner in the debate held up a lot better than I did with her a few weeks back.
At one point, Bartiromo was critical of the government-managed health care system in the United Kingdom. "How do I know the quality [of health care in the United States] is not going to suffer" with a public option? she asked.
via Maria Bartiromo Presses 44-Year-Old Congressman: If Medicare Is So Good, Why Aren't You On It? (VIDEO).
I was a guest on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" to talk about health care and Bartiromo, who used to work closely with a relative of mine at CNN, was friendly before the segment started. So I was surprised when the show started and Bartiromo went on the attack, asking me how I could say America didn't have the best health care in the world. Everyone, she said, would choose to be treated in America if they could.
I was staggered for a moment, I admit it, because I thought she was kidding at first. We were probably a full minute into the debate before I realized it wasn't a joke. And here's the really funny part: toward the end of my appearance, I said something about how health care in America is great, if you're an executive at Goldman, Sachs. Then I left the set and guess who they brought right afterward on to rip me and praise the American health care system? Bartiromo's colleague at CNBC, Erin Burnett, a former Goldman, Sachs executive.
Bartiromo, both with me and in this spot with Weiner, has been hammering home the same point, that the proof that a public option won't work can be found in the fact that the public health care system in England will not pay for the colorectal cancer drug Erbitux. I guess she is trying to say that there is rationing of health care in a single-payer system - that the fact that the government will not pay for the most expensive non-generic cancer drug on the market is proof that we shouldn't have a public option in the U.S.
It drives me crazy when people make this argument. Fuck a fancy boutique drug like Erbitux - I have a very expensive private plan and I can't even go to a doctor, not even to ask a simple question, unless it's an emergency. I can't get a routine checkup, can't find out what that weird lump in my left foot is, can't have the pleasure of a routine proctological exam unless I want to pay cash for it, and, well, forget about getting a filling replaced or seeing a therapist to deal with my incipient nervous collapse/burgeoning mid-life crisis. Hell, forget about paying for Erbitux, if I wanted to get a colonoscopy to find out if I needed Erbitux, I wouldn't be able to - I'd probably have to wait until I was a fully symptomatic cancer patient before I could even have that conversation on my insurer's dime. And I'm one of the lucky ones, I actually have money to pay for care out of pocket, if I had to. No country in the world rations care more than the U.S. There are whole generations of Americans (20-40 year-olds in particular) who don't know what it is to be able to go to a doctor for preventive care or routine checkups. Erbitux, for Christ's sake! Give me a break.
I've been getting phone calls from some folks in DC with some ugly stories about how the Democrats have systematically sandbagged the progressive opposition, with the White House pulling strings and levering the funding for various nonprofit groups in order to prevent them from airing ads attacking the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. I suspect in the end this is going to be the main story of the health care reform effort, how the Democrats (and some progressive groups) sold out their constituents in exchange for financial contributions from the relevant industries. But at the same time, you can't discount the role certain media outlets are playing in all of this. Nobody is ordering Maria Bartiromo to lobby to keep poor people from having access to the kind of excellent health care she is fortunate enough to have been given by CNBC, for being so good at flattering Wall Street pirates on air (and off, according to some folks I know at certain banks). She just does it because that's who she is naturally. I just don't know how these people sleep at night - it baffles me.