Obama’s Health Care Bill Is Enough to Make You Sick
Source Louis Proyect
Date 10/07/17/22:20
Obama’s Health Care Bill Is Enough to Make You Sick
By Chris Hedges

A CLOSE reading of the new health care legislation, which will
conveniently take effect in 2014 after the next presidential
election, is deeply depressing. The legislation not only mocks the
lofty promises made by President Barack Obama, exposing most as
lies, but sadly reconfirms that our nation is hostage to unchecked
corporate greed and abuse. The simple truth, that single-payer
nonprofit health care for all Americans would dramatically reduce
costs and save lives, that the for-profit health care system is
the problem and must be destroyed, is censored out of the public
debate by a media that relies on these corporations as major
advertisers and sponsors, as well as a morally bankrupt Democratic
Party that is as bought off by corporations as the Republicans.

The 2,000-page piece of legislation, according to figures compiled
by Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP), will leave at
least 23 million people without insurance, a figure that
translates into an estimated 23,000 unnecessary deaths a year
among people who cannot afford care. It will permit prices to
climb so that many of us will soon be paying close to 10 percent
of our annual income to buy commercial health insurance, although
this coverage will only pay for about 70 percent of our medical
expenses. Those who become seriously ill, lose their incomes and
cannot pay skyrocketing premiums will be denied coverage. And at
least $447 billion in taxpayer subsidies will now be handed to
insurance firms. We will be forced by law to buy their defective
products. There is no check in the new legislation to halt rising
health care costs. The elderly can be charged three times the
rates provided to the young. Companies with predominantly female
work forces can be charged higher gender-based rates. The dizzying
array of technical loopholes in the bill—written in by armies of
insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyists—means that these companies,
which profit off human sickness, suffering and death, can continue
their grim game of trading away human life for money.

“They named this legislation the Patient Protection and Affordable
Care Act, and as the tradition of this nation goes, any words they
put into the name of a piece of legislation means the opposite,”
said single-payer activist Dr. Margaret Flowers when I heard her
and Helen Redmond dissect the legislation in Chicago at the
Socialism 2010 Conference last month. “It neither protects
patients nor leads to affordable care.”

“This legislation moves us further in the direction of the
commodification of health care,” Flowers went on. “It requires
people to purchase health insurance. It takes public dollars to
subsidize the purchase of that private insurance. It not only
forces people to purchase this private product, but uses public
dollars and gives them directly to these corporations. In return,
there are no caps on premiums. Insurance companies can continue to
raise premiums. We estimate that because they are required to
cover people with pre-existing conditions, although we will see if
this happens, they will argue that they will have to raise premiums.”

The legislation included a few tiny improvements that have been
used as bait to sell it to the public. The bill promises, for
example, to expand community health centers and increase access to
primary-care doctors. It allows children to stay on their parent’s
plan until they turn 26. It will include those with pre-existing
conditions in insurance plans, although Flowers warns that many
technicalities and loopholes make it easy for insurance companies
to drop patients. Most of the more than 30 million people
currently without insurance, and the 45,000 who die each year
because they lack medical care, essentially remain left out in the
cold, and things will not get better for the rest of us.

“We are still a nation full of health care hostages,” Redmond
said. “We live in fear of losing our health care. Millions of
people have lost their health care. We fear bankruptcy. The
inability to pay medical bills is the No. 1 cause of bankruptcy.
We fear not being able to afford medications. Millions of people
skip medications. They skip these medications to the detriment of
their health. We are not free. And we won’t be free until health
care is a human right, until health care is not tied to a job,
because we still have an employment-based system, and until health
care has nothing to do with immigration status. We don’t care if
you are documented or undocumented. It should not matter what your
health care status is, if you have a disease or you don’t. It
should not matter how much money you have or don’t, because many
of our programs are based on income eligibility rules. Until we
abolish the private, for-profit health insurance industry in this
county we are not free. Until we take the profit motive out of
health care we cannot live in the way we want to live. This
legislation doesn’t do any of that. It doesn’t change those basic
facts of our health care system.”

Redmond held up a syringe.

“I take a medication that costs $1,700 every single month,” she
said. “I inject this medication. It costs $425 a week for 50
milligrams of medication. I would do almost anything to get this
medication because without it I don’t have much of a life. The
pharmaceutical industry knows this. They price these drugs
accordingly to the level of desperation that people feel. Billy
Tauzin, the former CEO of [the trade organization of] Big Pharma,
negotiated a secret deal with President Obama to extend the
patents of biologics, this new revolutionary class of drugs, for
12 years. And Obama also promised in this deal that he would not
negotiate drug prices for Medicare.”

Obama’s numerous betrayals—from his failure to implement serious
environmental reform at Copenhagen, to his expansion of the
current wars, to his refusal to create jobs for our desperate
class of unemployed and underemployed, to his gutting of public
education, to his callous disregard for the rights of workers and
funneling of trillions in taxpayer money to banks—is a shameful
list. Passing universal, single-payer nonprofit health care for
all Americans might have delivered to Obama, who may well be a
one-term president, at least one worthwhile achievement.
Single-payer nonprofit health care has widespread popular support,
with nearly two-thirds of the public behind it. It is backed by 59
percent of doctors. And it would have helped roll back, at least a
bit, the corporate assault on the citizenry.

Medical bills lead to 62 percent of personal bankruptcies, and
nearly 80 percent of these people had insurance. The U.S. spends
twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care,
$8,160 per capita. Private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork
consume 31 percent of every health care dollar. Streamlining
payment through a single nonprofit payer would save more than $400
billion per year—enough, PNHP estimates, to provide comprehensive,
high-quality coverage for all Americans.

Candidate Obama promised to protect women’s rights under Roe. v.
Wade, something this legislation does not do. He told voters he
would create a public option and then refused to consider it. The
health care reform bill, to quote a statement released by PNHP,
has instead “saddled Americans with an expensive package of
onerous individual mandates, new taxes on workers’ health plans,
countless sweetheart deals with the insurers and Big Pharma, and a
perpetuation of the fragmented, dysfunctional, and unsustainable
system that is taking such a heavy toll on our health and economy

“Obama said he was going to have everybody at the table,” Redmond
said, “but that was a lie. Our voice was not allowed to be there.
There was a blackout on our movement. We did not get media
attention. We did actions all over the country but we could not
get coverage. We had the ‘Mad as Hell Doctors’ go across the
country in a caravan, and they had rallies and meetings. If that
had been a bunch of AMA Republican doctors, Cooper Anderson would
have been on the caravan reporting live. NPR would have done a
series. Instead, they did not get much coverage. And neither did
the sit-ins and arrests at insurance companies, although we have
never seen that level of activity. They turned us into a fringe
movement, although poll after poll shows that the majority of
people want some kind of single-payer system.”

Our for-profit health system is driven by insurance companies
whose goal is to avoid covering the elderly and the sick. These
groups, most in need of medical care, diminish profits. Medicare,
paid for by the government, removes responsibility for many of the
old. Medicaid, also paid for by the government, removes the poor
people, who have a greater tendency to have chronic health
problems. Hefty premiums, which those who are seriously ill and
lose their jobs often cannot pay, remove the very sick. If you are
healthy and employed, which means you are less likely to need
expensive or complex treatment, the insurance companies swoop down
like birds of prey. These corporations need to control our
perceptions of health care. Patients must be viewed as consumers.
Doctors, identified as “health care providers,” must be seen as

Insurance companies, which will soon be able to use billions in
taxpayer dollars to bolster their lobbying efforts and campaign
contributions, know that single-payer nonprofit insurance means
their extinction. And they will employ considerable resources to
make sure single-payer nonprofit coverage is denied to the public.
They correctly see this as a battle for their lives. And if human
beings have to die so they can survive, they are willing to make
us pay this price.

The for-profit health care industry, along with the Democratic
Party, consciously set out to confuse the public debate. It
created Health Care for America NOW! in 2008 and provided it with
tens of millions of dollars to supposedly build a public campaign
for a public option. But the organization had no intention of
permitting a public option. The organization was, as Dr. Flowers
said, “a very clever way to distract members of the single-payer
movement and co-op some of them. They told them that the public
option would become single payer, that it was a back door to
single payer, although there was no evidence that was true.”

Physicians for a National Health Plan attempted to fight back. It
worked with a number of organizations under a coalition called the
Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care. The group, which
included the National Nurse’s Union and Health Care Now, sought
meetings with members of Congress. Flowers and other advocates
asked Congress members to include them in committee debates about
the health care bill. But when the first debate on the health care
reform took place in the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen.
Max Baucus, a politician who gets over 80 percent of his campaign
contributions from outside his home state of Montana, they were
locked out. Baucus invited 41 people to testify. None backed
single payer.

The Leadership Conference, which represents more than 20 million
people, again requested that one of their members testify. Baucus
again refused. When the second committee meeting took place,
Flowers and seven other activists stood one by one in the room and
asked why the voices of the patients and the health care providers
were not being heard. The eight were arrested and removed from the
committee hearing.

Single-payer advocates were eventually heard on a few of the House
and Senate committees. But the hearings were a charade, part of
Washington’s cynical political theater. It was the insurance and
pharmaceutical lobbyists who were in charge. They dominated the
public debate. They wrote the legislation. They determined who
received lavish campaign contributions and who did not. And they won.

“We are talking about life and death, about the difference between
living your life and dying,” Redmond said. “And once again it came
down to the Democratic Party trumping the needs of the people.”

[View the list]

InternetBoard v1.0
Copyright (c) 1998, Joongpil Cho