[THS] Norman Solomon: The Next Phase of Health Care Apartheid
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Fri Nov 6 19:53:43 CET 2009
The Next Phase of Health Care Apartheid
Thursday 05 November 2009
by: Norman Solomon, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed
(Photo Illustration: Ionia K. / t r u t h o u t)
In Washington, "health care reform" has degenerated into a sick joke.
At this point, only spinners who've succumbed to their own vertigo could use the
word "robust" to describe the public option in the health care bill that the House
Democratic leadership has sent to the floor.
"A main argument was that a public plan would save people money," The New York
Times has noted. But the insurance industry - claiming to want a level playing field -
has gotten the Obama administration to bulldoze the plan. "After House Democratic
leaders unveiled their health care bill [on October 29], the Congressional Budget
Office said the public plan would cost more than private plans and only 6 million
people would sign up."
At its best, "the public option" was a weak remedy for the disastrous ailments of the
health care system in the United States. But whatever virtues the public option may
have offered were stripped from the bill en route to the House floor.
What remains is a Rube Goldberg contraption that will launch this country into a new
phase of health care apartheid.
People who scrape together enough money to buy health insurance will discover that
they're riding in the back of the nation's health care bus. The most "affordable"
policies will be the ones with the highest deductibles and the worst coverage.
We're hearing that large numbers of lower-income Americans will be provided with
Medicaid coverage in the next decade. Translation: If funding holds up, they'll get to
hang onto a bottom rung of the health care ladder. Many will not be able to get the
medical help they need, from primary care providers or specialists.
Not long ago, we were told that the Obama administration was aiming for a public
option that could provide coverage to one out of every four Americans. Now the
figure is around one out of every fifty.
Not long ago, the idea was that taxpayer-funded subsidies were to be used only for
the public option. But now the entire concept has been hijacked by and for the
private insurance industry. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put it on October 8,
private insurance companies "are going to get 50 million new consumers, many of
them subsidized by the taxpayers."
Pelosi was making the argument that the least the insurance industry could do, in
return, would be to accept a higher level of taxation. But her comment was a telling
acknowledgment that all the "public option" proposals now provide a massive funnel
from the US Treasury to the insurance conglomerates. The individual mandate is a
monumental giveaway to private insurance firms.
The specter of "health care reform" that requires individuals to stretch their personal
finances for often abysmal insurance coverage is the worst of all worlds - government
intrusion for corporate benefit without any guarantees of decent health coverage.
In effect, the individual-mandate requirement tells people that obtaining health
coverage is ultimately their own responsibility - and the quality of the coverage is
beside the point. In essence, when it comes to guaranteeing quality health care for
all, the gist of the policy is: "Let's not, and say we did."
The predictable result is reinforcement of vast - and often deadly - inequities in
access to health care.
With Washington making such a corporate mess of "health care reform," the best
way to get what we need - health care for all as a human right - will be to enact
single-payer health care in one state after another.
But the House Democratic leadership has not been content to serve up a grimly
pathetic "health care reform" bill. Speaker Pelosi has used her political leverage to
quash Congressman Dennis Kucinich's amendment - approved months ago by the
Education and Labor Committee - that would grant waivers so that states could
create their own single-payer system. Pelosi removed the Kucinich amendment from
the House bill.
The California legislature has twice passed a strong single-payer bill, both times
vetoed by the state's current execrable governor. The official position of the California
Democratic Party is unequivocally in favor of single-payer health care. And yet, Nancy
Pelosi, a California Democrat, did what she could to sabotage the single-payer
position of her own party in her own state.
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