It’s absurd to call it reform. Reform means betterment. This bill is simply supporting the status quo. Yet the media are calling it “historic,” “sweeping legislation,” President Obama’s “signature issue.”
Even so, the obstructionist Republicans howl that it is insanity, crippling and — worst of all — socialized medicine!
Such reactionaries shout their adoration of the free market. But it is hardly free to the vast majority of Americans who pay exorbitant sums for health care.
That’s precisely why Big Insurance loves it. The president of Anthem Blue Cross in California proudly announces that the company made $4.7 billion profit last year. She added blithely that the profit “is well within the industry standard.”
The health corporations thrive on the corrupt U.S. political system. They give big bucks to politicians for their campaigns. In return for this legalized bribery the pols guarantee that America will never have the universal health coverage it desperately needs.
The industrial countries of the world have had national health for decades. But in America money is more important than health. It is shameful that the wealthiest country in the world is the shabbiest on a basic human need.
The medical insurance industry is exempt from anti-trust laws. It is a legal cartel, able to fix prices and limit competition.
Meanwhile, 50 million Americans are without insurance. The American Journal of Medicine reports that 62 percent of U.S. bankruptcies are caused by enormous medical bills.
The Hightower Lowdown newsletter savagely indicts the insurance behemoths: “gouging with ever-rising premiums and co-pays and ripping off a third of the nation’s health care dollars for things that have nothing to do with either health or care, including ridiculous CEO pay packages, excess profits, massive billing bureaucracies, useless advertising, posh headquarters and lobbying expenses.”
One good thing you can say about “the paltry stick” is that it could end the cruel policy of not insuring those who need it most: people with a history of terrible medical problems. Another: extending coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans — although taking 10 years.
President Obama has hardly helped the cause. As an Illinois senator he wisely called for a single-payer health plan. But as president he flip-flopped without a fight, first giving up on a universal health and then even abandoning a miserly public option.
That’s “audacity of hope”? Two things never change no matter which party controls the White House: all three branches of government are pro-business and pro-war.
The Obama way is Clintonism redux: talk Left but heave to the Right. Obama makes deals with the enemy, Big Pharma and hospital industries. His vaunted principles have become mere politician’s pinciples.
Congress easily spends trillions on senseless, perpetual wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other trillions on a military empire. It cannot muster $1 billion for a weak health bill.
The bill is so complex few ordinary folks can understand it. But they can understand this: no public option, companies foregoing employer insurance and an obnoxious anti-abortion restriction.
Obama wasted a great deal of time in useless talk with Republicans who never offer anything except death by delay. The issue has been debated for a year and vilely falsified by the GOP.
What is needed is a single-payer system in which the government pays all bills. Under single-payer every American would be covered from birth to death. Single-payer eliminates insurance for profit. And it allows visits to doctors and hospitals of choice.
America has single-payer for Medicare and veterans heath programs. France has single-payer health insurance. The World Health Organization called French health care the best in the world, far better than the average health care in America.
Gina Kolata of the New York Times tells why so many Americans are devasted by medical bills:
• “A patient in Illinois was charged $12,712 for cataract surgery. Medicare pays $675 for the same procedure.
• “In California, a patient was charged $20,120 for a knee operation that Medicare pays $584 for.
• “A New Jersey patient was charged $72,000 for a spinal fusion procedure that Medicare covers for $1,629.”
Single-payer is a human right. David Sirota of the online Creator’s Syndicate points out that universal health coverage is also a moral right: “In a country that builds lavish sports stadiums and showers Wall Street with trillion dollar bailouts, 18,000 people die each year because they lack health insurance.”
Four decades ago Martin Luther King declared: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
A nation is spiritually dead that cannot provide universal health coverage.
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada. Reno. He can be reached at email@example.com.