The President Lies to Americans About Health Care

56

by

Joseph O’Shaughnessy

The President went to national newspapers today and blatantly lied to the American people.

It is the most outrageous thing I have ever seen in my lifetime. A President of the United States assuming that the people are so docile, so ignorant, that he can lie to them publicly on behalf of special interests—in this case, the health care industry—and make it sound as if he truly cares for the American people. Well, I have been writing this blog for ten years. You can check my credibility against that of the President and I am calling him out as a liar. And not only a liar but one whose goal in this is to help his friends at the expense—almost unbelievably—of the vast number of citizens in society.

First of all, let’s understand one thing. A proposal to have something called  “Medicare for All” will not have any effect, unless a positive, better effect on Medicare. To be clear: Democrats are NOT proposing to eliminate, reduce or in any way but improve Medicare. I’ll get to the President’s actual statements and point out the untruths. But first, I must point out the implications of what he has done and how serious this was.

Remember, the Democrats, under President Obama—with no Republican votes—passed the Affordable Care Act, the first and only major health care bill to make health insurance more affordable and increase the number of  Americans with reliable health care (30 million more Americans added.) The Democrats, not Republicans, faced down an entrenched insurance industry. And then it was the Republicans, not the Democrats, who voted 61 times to repeal Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, which  guarantees health care, controls costs, eliminates caps on coverage and decreased prescription drug costs for Seniors.

It was not the Democrats but the Republicans, Senator Marco Rubio specifically, who de-funded parts of Obamacare and raised costs in 2016 and 2017 and made health insurance simply unavailable in many areas. It was the Republicans’ (not Democrats) callous elimination of “corridor” financing that deliberately removed health insurance opportunities for millions of Americans.

So this is the context in which Trump wants us to believe that Democrats would damage or eliminate Medicare and the Republicans wouldn’t. In the House, after Trump was elected, the Tea Party Republicans actually passed a bill to return health care to the bad old days prior to Obamacare, but even the Republican Senate, as corrupt as any in history, still could not risk the wrath of the American people, and tabled repeal of Obamacare until after this coming 2018 election. If you elect Republicans again, they will take another shot at removing all your protections.

The President’s assertion is not only an outright lie but is preposterous on its face. Why would someone like Bernie Sanders suddenly reverse course from what he has spent all his time working on  to suddenly suggest the opposite? It makes absolutely no sense and belies the facts. Except one fact. Politifact says that Trump lies more than 80% of the time. So why should we believe him this time? We shouldn’t and we don’t. Let’s take Trump’s lies one at a time and prove him wrong. Again. 

Somewhere between 50 and 100 million Americans are in serious need of affordable health care. Bernie Sanders, in traveling the country in his bid for the Presidency, saw this enormous gap in our services. He, like so many others, including some politicians…but almost all of them Democrats these days…began to examine the problem. Why only Democrats? Because the Republican party in 2009 began taking hundreds of millions of dollars every campaign season for supporting the health insurance industry, hospital chains and the Right Wing Rich. All they could do until now was repeal Obamacare in the House, going nowhere, but earning their money, 61 times, until Trump came along.

We know now that care cannot be subsidized for only a segment of the population, the employed. Because of government tax deductions, corporations dictate 85% of health care policy. You are satisfied to have health care insurance from your employer. Even then it is controlled by a few powerful men at the top of corporations. We’ve tried it. It doesn’t work. Greedy men may often succeed mightily in growing a business. Many of them,however, equally lack concern for anyone and anything that gets in their way, like providing health care for employees. So they provide the minimum they can get away with.

A broader plan, one Sanders described as “Medicare-for-All” has become a realistic way to change how we pay for health care while maintaining the same, even better, delivery. The reason is that all citizens will have a say in what health care should include. It may sound cumbersome, but it isn’t. It may sound unworkable but I remind you again that much of what Medicare provides today was condemned as unworkable and “socialist” by Conservatives before it became what we consider the norm today.

Here is the proof that health care is much better when the decisions are shared by the people who receive it and pay for it.

Ask any union member about his or her health care. They will all say, after complaining endlessly about little details (union members!) that it is great and that they would never—ever—exchange it for anything except one that they could, once again, vote to improve. Yes. Vote. Union members get experts to design the best health care plans and then they all agree on what they will pay and they pay a goodly amount. But they get the best health care and dental care and vision care. Because they make the decision. Not a corporate executive in a board room worried about how many millions his bonus will be or how much he can pay to his top executives or how much he can afford for a new corporate jet.

So the point is this: health care works best when the cost is spread in some broad, equitable way across the entire population. It works, and no one would ever change it, in Canada, Great Britain, Denmark, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Slovenia, Ireland, Greece, Australia, Japan, South Korea, all Scandinavia and even the United Arab Emirates.

Now I’ll take up the deliberate misstatements by the President. Here is some of what the President actually had the audacity to write in newspapers today.

“Throughout the year, we have seen Democrats across the country uniting around a new legislative proposal that would end Medicare as we know it and take away benefits that seniors have paid for their entire lives.”

This is, of course, a lie. This is a horrible lie. To tell seniors to vote Republican, knowing that it is Democrats, not Republicans, who have defended and tried to improve health care for all Americans, beginning with Hillary Clinton’s plan to improve health care, then the huge improvements in health care that came through Obamacare for—at a minimum—30 million more Americans with access to health care. Democrats would never endanger Medicare. I am on Medicare. I need Medicare. I would never vote for anyone who would endanger Medicare for me or for anyone less vulnerable than I am.

“Democrats have already harmed seniors by slashing Medicare by more than $800 billion over 10 years to pay for Obamacare.”

The reference for this in the President’s article is the CBO report on what would happen to the economy if we repealed the ACA (Obamacare). First of all, this is a report of what would happen if, as House Republicans did, we simply repealed Obamacare. It has nothing to do whatsoever with the new proposals for a new approach, a more Medicare-like approach to the billing of health care services.

I’ve read that report carefully and there is nothing in it about $800 billon or even $800 million anywhere reducing costs of Medicare. What is says is that if you simply repeal Obamacare, then, with no substitute, (as Republicans did in the House) then, yes, Medicare would be affected. But not in the Medicare-for-all proposal. Again, the President knows that..or should…and he lied.

In fact, it is just the opposite. The CBO says that if the ACA is repealed, the $800 billion by which Medicare is supported by Obamacare would be lost. I remind you  once again, that the Republican House already voted to repeal Obamacare with no substitute. Nothing. So if the Republican Senate would approve and vote for the Republican House plan, and Trump would sign it—you might be in a world of trouble. Then the $800 million would be racked up against Medicare, not to mention a world of other disasters from the repeal of Obamacare by irresponsible Republican legislators.

The Sanders plan will change Medicare only in that it is a proposal to expand Medicare-like health care to all citizens, to make it available to all citizens who want it, as we reduce gradually the very expensive handling of private health insurance billing (which comes to $300 of every $800 monthly premium bill.)

So it seems evident that what this scheming, lying son-of-a-bitch and his greedy, cruel health industry billionaire pals want to do is try to use a bunch of nincompoops who follow Trump to vote to keep a Republican, health-insurance-pandering House of Representatives in place to give them enough time to eliminate Obamacare completely with a GOP Senate vote and Trump’s vote. That would set health care in America back to the Reagan era and devastate perhaps as many as 50 million households.

“Dishonestly called “Medicare for All,” the Democratic proposal would establish a government-run, single-payer health care system that eliminates all private and employer-based health care plans and would cost an astonishing $32.6 trillion during its first 10 years.”

If you knew no more than that this comment, the “$32.6 trillion cost part, was estimated by Charles Blahous of the Mercatus Center, and if you were an experienced person in the world of propaganda, you would know that this proves the President is a liar. The Mercatus Center is the largest of the Koch brothers Right Wing “think tanks,” the forty-plus odd organizations that write papers constantly promoting smaller government, removal of public services like Social Security, Medicare and particularly Medicaid.

Charles Blahous himself was appointed by Republican Presidents to be on the board of Trustees of Social Security, which he was for a time, during which he constantly lobbied to have payments to individuals reduced, to have retirement ages raised and have Social Security converted to a private 401K-like system. In other words if you believe Charles Blahous is working for you and not the Koch brothers, I have a bridge over a river in London I’d like you to consider purchasing from me.

By the way, just in case someone says that Medicare-for-All will cost more…it won’t. The estimates even by Blahous are that health care costs over the next ten years would go down by $2 trillion .But he is saying, this would be government money. What would actually happen is different from what he would like you to believe.

Costs would be paid, gradually, through a shift from private health insurance to public. That would reduce costs dramatically as we said. So the huge amounts the “costs’ that Blahous talks about are being paid now but we pay them to private companies. On Medicare, I have the same doctor as I had on private insurance. The only difference is that my bill goes to Medicare and if it is greater than Medicare, it goes to my private insurance company, which pays the balance. I could pay the balance myself and probably I would only pay an occasional bill. But just in case something happens that I don’t understand (which is most of the way health care operates) I have a supplemental, relatively speaking inexpensive health insurance policy.

With Medicare-for-All, perhaps this is how it will work, or perhaps it will be more like the European system, which, once again, as a reminder, is totally cost free after taxes. They pay for it as part of income tax, which in most European countries is about 5-8% higher than U.S. taxes when you figure in state and local taxes as well. Medicare-for-All is envisioned as a program that would be much more expansive, better for the economy, as Obamacare was for the health care industry (and Medicare) and people would be healthier.  And again, this is the plan that Blahous said would cost less by $2 trillion before he included any saving at all. And once again, because of the lies, remember…this is money you pay now to insurance companies and you would be paying about the same or less to , let’s call it “Medicare” seamlessly through taxes only receiving guaranteed care anywhere in the U.S. and a far large number of services including things like dental and vision and hearing, plus any special needs.

One very important fact is that Blahous made no assertions of any cost savings. So his costs assumed no changes in efficiency. Once again, our experience with Obamacare provides a different set of facts. We’ve seen enormous cost improvements in many areas of health delivery since the institution of Obamacare. In fact, no matter what happens, many medical organizations like Mayo and Kaiser Health Care and others say coordination to make major improvements will continue and grow

“By eliminating Medicare as a program for seniors, and outlawing the ability of Americans to enroll in private and employer-based plans, the Democratic plan would inevitably lead to the massive rationing of health care. Doctors and hospitals would be put out of business. Seniors would lose access to their favorite doctors. There would be long wait lines for appointments and procedures. Previously covered care would effectively be denied.

This simply boggles the imagination. That a President of the United States, responsible for the safety, security and well-being of all citizens, let alone their “pursuit of happiness” which we all know is impossible without  good health would tell such a monumental lie—for that is what it is—for political reasons is something I never expected to see in my lifetime.

These are the same arguments that were used by Conservative Republicans against Medicare and the same arguments that were used against the Affordable Care Act. Look it up.

Working on behalf of powerful forces in the health care industry and the billionaires in his Cabinet, Trump is trying to influence the election by telling Americans that a program that was been proposed by at least two true Populists, Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren would damage existing Medicare.  That is a lie. If you recall, it was Trump, who constantly railed at the House Republicans to repeal..repeal…repeal and forget replacing Obamacare. And they did of course.

This may be finally something for which Trump should be impeached. He is clearly doing this to pander to a group of rich billionaires who don’t like the minuscule extra 3% tax they pay under Obamacare.  Of course, that is one piece of an overall financing package that insures most Americans have access to health care. If Trump were to succeed in promoting this scam, for example, the health care system for all Americans could be set back 50 years.

“Medicare-for-All” should also be juxtaposed against other successful and efficient government programs. No one complains about the Social Security they receive except that it is too little for some people, like some widows, for example, to live on. We need to change that and quickly. But Social Security, for what it is, works. And it should. We pay 7% of our income for it.

Medicare is not free either. We pay for it, too, as we do for Social Security. When we retire, we have money deducted from Social Security again for Medicare. And in many cases we still need to buy supplementary insurance and prescription drug insurance. So we’re not talking about a free ride here for seniors.  But 90% of Seniors say “hands off my Medicare.” They like it. But Republicans, including the American Medical Association, and Ronald Reagan fought against it with everything they had, using the same argument President Trump used today–care will go to hell and the country will become Socialist. They lied. Trump lied again.

I will admit that I have had no respect for this man or his crude, bullying misfit attempts at governing. But I never expected that he would make such an obvious attempt at propaganda solely on behalf of one industry. Or is it?

There may be a larger and more sinister motive, and if there is, then this lie may shrink in importance by comparison. If Democrats win the House, and perhaps the Senate, but certainly the House, there may be investigations of this President that he cannot stop.

If it turns out that he should be found guilty at some later date of a real crime…say, colluding with Russians to win an election…or something else…then this attempt to change the political landscape with a huge lie that could damage American citizens for generations to come will be seen as tantamount to treason.