The Hightower Report

Health Care Tidbits; and Loco for Local

Health Care Tidbits

Step up and get your tidbits, right here! We've got hot heath care tidbits for you.

The brouhaha over health care reform has produced a generous serving of tidbits – little oddities, facts, and perverse twists that give a glimpse into some of the realities that don't get much coverage.

For example, insurance corporations are infamous for denying coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition – things like cancer or that ingrown toenail you had 20 years ago. The National Women's Law Center, however, recently revealed another "condition" that can preclude coverage: domestic violence. Yes, eight states allow insurance giants to categorize getting beat up by your spouse as a pre-existing condition!

Then there are those mythological Obama "death panels" that Republicans have screamed about. While they never did exist in Obama's reform plan – guess where they do exist? In the Republican-led state of Texas! The Texas Futile Care Law allows a corporate hospital committee to overrule families and pull the plug on Granny if the hospital deems any more treatment to be "futile." It was signed into law by – guess who? – Gov. George W. Bush.

And now, three quickies from the Washington money game. First, how much clout do health industry lobbyists have in this reform fight? So much that they got a copy of Sen. Max Baucus' draft legislation even before President Obama did. Second, just hours after Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she would no longer demand the "public option" that health insurers vehemently opposed, an insurance lobbyist announced a $5,000-per-firm fundraiser for her in his Washington home. And finally, Rep. Joe "You lie!" Wilson, who loudly opposes Obama's reform, has pocketed $240,000 in campaign funds from the industry.

Sometimes, the real story is in the tidbits.

Loco for Local

In Alice in Wonderland, Humpty Dumpty declares, "When I use a word, it means what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less."

Well, get ready to tumble down the semantical rabbit hole again, for giant corporations are trying to co-opt the meaning of one of our important words: "local." It's important, because small businesses all across the country have created a very positive, grassroots economic movement based on being local producers, providers, and marketers. More than 130 cities have "local business alliances," with 30,000 businesses enlisted.

The movement has been phenomenally popular with consumers, who like the flavor and personality of local enterprises and like the fact that their consumer dollars stay in their community. So now other businesses want in on the action – such outfits as Frito Lay, Wal-Mart, Starbucks, CVS, and Barnes & Noble.

These global brands are using TV ads and other promotions to hawk their mass-produced stuff as "local." The sprawling Barnes & Noble chain, for example, cheerfully asserts, "All bookselling is local." Hellmann's, a division of Dutch-owned Unilever, is claiming that its mayonnaise is local because most of its ingredients come from North America. That isn't local. It's loco!

An executive of a PR outfit that is helping promote this perversion explains the so-called logic behind the corporate power play: "There is a belief that you can only be local if you are a small and authentic brand. This isn't necessarily true," she says. "Big brands can use the notion of local to their advantage as well. ... It's a different way of thinking about local that is not quite as literal."

Wow – wouldn't Humpty Dumpty be proud of her? To connect with the genuine local business movement, contact the Institute for Local Self-Reliance: www.ilsr.org.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

local business, Hellmann's, Frito Lay, Wal-Mart, Starbucks, CVS, Barnes & Noble, death panels, health care reform, pre-existing conditions, Texas Futile Care Law, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Wilson, Max Baucus

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