Class War, American Style – Part I – Health Care
Numerous attempts have been made at the federal level to address these issues. Medicare and Medicaid were enacted to address the needs of the elderly and the poor. but still millions were left with no form of health insurance to help them deal with the rapidly increasing costs of health care in this country. Health insurance that is available has been out of reach for many due to high premiums, high deductibles, pre-existing conditions. etc. Plans which cover only a few basic preventive care examinations/screenings while placing the cost of everything else on the individual until a minimum of $2000 deductible has been reached are not uncommon..This has been increasing as wages have not nearly matched the increases in medical costs. Increases in deductibles and premiums far outpaced increases in wages and salaries for most, especially in light of the fact that the minimum wage is nowhere near a living wage in this country.
The latest attempt to improve access to health care for the millions not being adequately served was finally passed by Congress a couple of years ago, known as the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. While being far from perfect, the system would be improved by insuring millions more than had been previously covered. Other developed countries, including Canada and many European countries, have health care systems that work more efficiently and less expensively than ours, but many here see this as a movement in the right direction.
Ever since the Affordable Care Act was passed, the mantra of the Republicans in Congress has been a vow to repeal and replace it. Votes to repeal it have been passed in the House of Representatives over 30 times since then, knowing it would neither pass the Senate nor be signed into law by the President. Meanwhile, proposed jobs legislation languished and Congress threatened to shut down the government on more than one occasion. The Supreme Court was brought into the fray as well, but did not deem the law Unconstitutional.
The battle has carried over into the current Presidential race, with the eventual Republican nominee campaigning on that same “repeal and replace” theme. One big problem with “repeal and replace” is that the “replace” seems to be merely reverting to the past inefficient and unfair system for allocating health care to people. Romney seemed to be saying something to that effect when he claimed that people don’t die in this country due to lack of health care, because we take them to the emergency room when they need it. No need for preventive medicine, just live your life and when you run into a life threatening situation, just go to the ER, where it might well be too late to help you anyway. Seems fair, right? How many people are out there who do not seek help for health problems because they do not have the money to pay for it? Some people get better care because they have the money to afford it. Problem is, the numbers who can’t afford it were unacceptably high and rising before the law went into effect. Repealing it without replacing it with something better, or reverting to the system in place before the new law was passed, would likely make the situation worse.
If there is a Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act that is more than just going back to the status quo prior to its passage, they are certainly doing an excellent job of keeping it a secret. Every time a new provision goes into effect, another political and judicial battle ensues to try to nitpick the law to death. Seemingly sensible provisions mandating contraception coverage became a battle for religious freedom in the minds of some. Anti-abortion forces who I would think would be happy to reduce the number of abortions by decreasing unwanted pregnancies by increasing the availability of contraceptives aren’t satisfied, because what they really want is control over others’ reproductive health and sex lives.
One of the biggest problems with health care delivery in this country is fact that it is largely built around private profit rather than the social good that it could and should be. The law was watered down to suit the lobbies for large pharmaceutical, insurance and health care corporations. Private profits take precedence over the health of patients – which includes all of us. Protecting often exorbitant profit margins guarantees that costs remain high higher than they need to be. That is why many think we should end the privatized system and go for a more universal form of health care like that used by other countries. A system based on the Medicare model administered on a not-for-profit basis might fit the bill. This would mean more taxes to pay for it to adequately pay for it to cover all of us, but the burden could obviously be more equitably distributed than it currently is.
I could not believe it when Mitt Romney came up with his “Emergency Room” health care solution on national television. It proves to me he has no intention of improving health care for most Americans at all. Obamacare is not a panacea for the problems of our health care system, but it is a start in the right direction. To repeal it and revert to a system that covered the wealthy and some others well, but many others poorly or not at all, would be unfair and inhumane, not to mention unwise. To further privatize Medicare and Medicaid by cutting funding to them and turning them into voucher programs for senior citizens or block grants to the states for the poor, as has been proposed by Paul Ryan and others, would exacerbate the problems, not improve not improve them. Ultimately, it would lead to increased inequality in medical care in this country, and even more people unable to afford than now.
Fighting to protect these programs, as well as Social Security, is vital at this time of increasing pressure from the right to dismantle the New Deal reforms that helped improve the lives of so many among us after the Great Depression. This country was not created to serve the interests of the wealthy, but those of all of us. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness can be pretty meaningless if so many cannot obtain them because of a system stacked against them to conserve the advantages of a privileged few.