Where are we on health care? Over 75% of Americans have said repeatedly that they want health care. The Obama Campaign responded by promising those who have been denied insurance, who have been rejected or those who have had such massive bills that they cannot pay that he would do his best to reform the system. We are not talking about people who cannot afford health care. We are talking about middle class citizens who are denied health care or are dropped from health care insurance when they are diagnosed with a major illness.
The health insurance industry is the most profitable business in this country today. Their obscene profits come from the average 20% increase in health care premiums every year, while they are-at the same time-denying more and more average citizens even the right to health care. Their costs aren’t going up. They have, in most cases, a monopoly on the delivery of services. Companies like Cigna and Aetna are actually the owners of much smaller companies around the country. If you are denied insurance it is probably because a huge corporation like Cigna, or Aetna, or United or some other large insurance company owns the health insurance company you use. You have nowhere else to go if you lose your insurance.
Congress is working on several plans, using the best advice of hospital systems like the Mayo Clinic, and the Cleveland Clinic and the Kaiser Permanente health system and many others, to create a system that would work for everyone. Now that these plans are being debated, the insurance industry has brought in its shock troops, and its allies in the Senate…all the Republicans and a few Democrats…bought them out with literally millions in campaign contributions to shut down health care for American citizens.
They have even begun to cut premiums in many areas, just as the old-time robber barons used to do to drive out the competition. Then, as soon as the competition went broke, the prices were raised to three and four times what they had been before…and there was no competition to stop them. Predatory practices they were called. The government ended them early in the last century. But that isn’t all the insurance companies are doing.
Now the insurance industry is using similar tactics against the people, doing everything they can to delude and divide a country desperately in need of health insurance reform. In town halls people–many paid by organizations like FreedomWorks–stand up and complain about things that do not exist and call the President a Nazi…ignorant citizens and paid propagandists…all working to see to it that the interests of the fabulously wealthy CEOs, top managements and principal owners of health insurance companies keep their lavish lifestyles, while millions, even those with health insurance, are going bankrupt from health care costs.
We have gone over and over the various lies that the insurance companies use to trick people into going to town halls or other meetings to shout down Democratic congress people who are doing their level best to get health care for citizens. But here they are again.
If you have health care insurance, you can keep it. Most people probably will. But tomorrow, if you get sick, your insurance company can cancel you on the spot. They have the means to do it. There is no law to stop them unless you sue them civilly. Are you willing to go to court if you have a serious illness and challenge a courtroom full of insurance industry lawyers? Well, guess what? Under the President’s proposal, your insurance company won’t be able to kick you off the rolls as long as you pay your premiums, and…if they try to raise the premiums to knock you off…unlike today…they will only be able to double them. So if you pay $700 a month, they’ll have to keep you and can’t raise your premiums to more than $1400. Think that’s too much of a raise. Good. Tell your Congress person that you agree with the health care plan and you want to make it EVEN TOUGHER!
A public option does not mean socialized medicine or that you will lose your private insurance. The public option is just another insurance that you can opt for that means that instead of making your payments to Aetna, for instance, you make them to Government Health Services…whatever they call it…each month. NO OTHER CHANGE. Medicare will stay the same and will, in fact, be improved. Medicare advantage plans will be dumped and you will have direct Medicare, just like everyone else on Medicare, and it will be streamlined. So it will be better. But nothing about the actual delivery of the service as it is right now will be changed. By the way, your private health care will be required to change in five years. But that provision simply means that all plans must have certain minimum features. That is so that companies cannot offer cut-rate, useless health insurance.
One more thing. Medicare is under funded. That will have to be corrected. But, guess what? We are NOT going to drop Medicare. So get a grip. You have to pay something for a health care system. If it is a little more, so what? Those who can pay a little more, will. Other sources of revenue within society will be found to pay for it. We are not going to drop health care for the elderly. It will not happen. And-at this point-there will be no reduction of services on those who are terminally ill or near death. This is not being done now, and as there is NO CHANGE in the projected delivery of Medicare, it will not happen in the foreseeable future.
What will happen in, let’s say, 2030 depends largely on what we do now as a society. If we continue to pay $100 million a year to CEOs of health insurance companies, there may well be people in 2030 who will be denied compassionate care. It will be too late then to start a vital, efficient health care system. We are going to run out of money. Of course that health insurance CEO will have all the money he or she needs at the end of life.
It is not true that we cannot afford a universal health care plan. This is simply not even remotely close to being true. We now spend an astonishing $7000 per person per year for health care. That’s about $14,000 per family per year. Astounding. Everyone else pays about $3500 per year. And let’s get one thing out of the way right now. EVERY OTHER COUNTRY WITH NATIONAL HEALTH CARE LOVES IT. DON’T BELIEVE ANY OF THE HEALTH INSURANCE INDUSTRY TRASH TALK. Canadians would not trade their system. Nor would the British. The rest of the industrialized countries would not even remotely consider it. It isn’t even a point of discussion.
Economists estimate that including everyone in the health care program now, to get started, will cost about $50 billion a year. Let’s put that into perspective. We spend $650 billion a year on the military. We spend $360 billion a year just on the interest on the debt. The Bush tax cuts for the rich, should we retire them…and we will anyway…we are going to….will add $100 billion a year to the economy. We have already negotiated…rightly or wrongly….about $20 billion in savings over what the health care system is costing citizens today…in various ways, like lowering the cost of prescription drugs for seniors.
So we need about $30 billion a year to do this plan. But wait! This is only to get it started. As the program progresses, our savings each year will be about ten percent of what they would have been. Which means that over ten years, allowing for normal inflation, the program will pay for itself, going down from current costs and only going back up by a fraction of each year’s reduction. So we will eventually come to something like parity with other countries.
Death panels, illegal immigrants receiving care, socialized medicine, reductions in Medicare services, abortions paid for by government…blah, blah, blah…all false. All of them. You can believe the health industry hype and the hate speech from the Right Wing propagandists and the racists who only want to put down our President if you want to. But you will only be working against your best interests. No one is safe from the health industry these days. Doctors themselves have been cut off from procedures and had to spend as much as six figures-which some had, thank God, to get operations or treatments that were denied by health insurance companies. No one is safe. Only Congressional legislation, that remedy which protects us from tainted food, from pandemics, and which would have saved us from the loss of our stock portfolios and retirement 401Ks if the Bush Administration had put someone in charge of the SEC who would have acted instead of encouraged outrageous scams.
A public option will not lead to government takeover of medicine. What is much more likely to happen is this. You now have private insurance. You are as happy as a pig in mud. But other people are not. It is too expensive or not responsive. And so people go to other, better private plans…probably ones where the company has been bought and the owners want a solid, long term investment rather than a short term speculation. Your company may fold. You then have the option of going to another private plan or you can go to the public option. The reason for the public option is so that you will always have a truly market-priced alternative that gives you the standard coverage that every other plan must have. Some non-profit hospital organizations may get into the health care business. That may turn out to be a good idea for some health care organizations.
Health care–taking on all comers–the young, the old, the sick and the well, is not necessarily a good business model. That is why it is run by governments in every industrialized country and why newly developed industrialized nations, like Taiwan, our close trading partner, do not even consider the United States when mapping out a national health plan. If the current system does not turn into a regulated private for-profit system, it is much more likely that it will revert to a private non-profit system, with much smaller players, sponsors like the Catholic or Lutheran or Methodist churches or non-profit non-sectarian hospital groups.
Be reminded of who the people are on both sides. On the one side, you have the Neoconservative Republican Party who tried to privatize your Social Security, who a generation ago, tried to prevent Medicare, calling it the doorway to national socialism, who brought you 9/11 and the Iraq war, who shot down the national health plan that by now would have been in existence for over 15 years and given us control of our medical system, who did their best to stop the SCHIPS program to provide health care to children of poor working families, who brought you the recession and near-depression and then…every single one…every Republican, voted not to bail out the banks and would thereby have caused the second Great Depression (not my opinion but that of the Republican Secretary of the Treasury and the head of the Federal Reserve.)
Recall that the Neoconservative Republicans cared so little about the American people that they voted for and approved the Bush people in the SEC who ignored the financial problems, (also ignored Madoff) ignored pleas from people like Barney Frank, yes, Barney Frank to demand better regulation. And then the Neocons would not do anything to help the average American family, many, many, more of whom would be out of work today…by voting against the TARP, knowing cynically that the Democrats had the votes and WOULD vote for it…even though it was the Republicans who created the problem. This would have been a disaster that would have taken ten years to recover from …if we ever did. We would have had double the current unemployment and a national debt of $20 trillion in five years and no way to recover.
Finally, remember this, and not just today, but over the next year, as the recovery from the disastrous Bush policies takes place…and it will take time…that every single Republican voted against the stimulus package, without which NOTHING would be happening right now. No roads and streets and highways and bridges construction. More firemen and police and teachers laid off. No billion dollar auto sales recovery. Nothing. No extension for those laid off and on long term unemployment. No change in Cobra so that laid off workers do not have to pay the full amount of their health care, which would probably mean another half-million people without health care. No wind and solar energy projects underway. No billions put into Veterans rehabilitation after tens of thousands have come home without limbs and sight and other horrific injuries.
When you talk about the merits of health care remember the people…the Democrats…who brought you Medicare, and Medicaid and the forty-hour week and unemployment insurance and Social Security and student loans, and the FHA and the FDIC and economies under FDR and Truman and Kennedy and Johnson and Carter and Clinton that had jobs, and equality of opportunity, and security and long, sustained periods of economic growth….and a country where we made things besides hamburgers and french fries. The latest Democratic President is no different from FDR or Jack Kennedy. He simply was elected 40 or 50 years later. If you are not decided on health care reform, trust the party that has always been, and hopefully always will be for the People.