Get Business Out of Health Care
Even before the passage of the Affordable Care Act by Congress and signing it into law by President Obama, many Americans fought for a single-payer health care system similar to that available in Canada and several Western European countries. The Affordable Health Care law is seen as a step in the right direction, allowing more people than before to receive health care that insurance companies either charged too much for or did not even make available to them for reasons such as pre-existing conditions. A Supreme Court decision allowing states to opt out from Medicaid expansion and the recent “Hobby Lobby” decision have illustrated some glaring shortcomings in the ability of that law to effectively provide coverage to millions of people who both want and need it.
The fact that many states governed by conservative Republican governors and legislatures have been permitted by the Supreme Court to not participate in expanded Medicaid enrollment denies millions of people in this country access to affordable health care. How long the voters in those states will permit their elected officials to so blatantly misrepresent them in office, and how many will suffer and/or die waiting for their situation to be improved remains to be seen. It should become a very powerful campaign issue in the coming months heading into the November midterm elections. I live in one of those states, and our governor, Tom Corbett, is one of the leading candidates to be toppled thanks, at least in part, to this very issue. The fact remains, that in this country, one’s access to affordable health care must be treated as a right, and not be dependent upon what state one lives in. National single-payer care would eliminate the states rights issue.
The Hobby Lobby decision has opened up an entirely different can of worms. The fact is that five conservative male justices voted in favor of a corporation that wants to be exempted on religious grounds that are highly suspect and enable them to effectively discriminate against women by denying them coverage for contraception. This may provide an out for other corporations to call into question the ability of the government to mandate that they provide the same coverage, or that other forms of medical coverage can be denied on the same grounds that discriminate against other groups of people. Saving money by pleading that religious conscience will not permit them to meet the needs of employees is a time proven method to impose one’s values on others. Where will it stop? Does it really save money when all is said and done? Wouldn’t unplanned pregnancies brought to term be more expensive than the contraceptives? What other “religious” objections could be brought up to avoid coverage? LGBT protections come to mind, and not just as pertains to health care. Protecting corporate rights is nowhere to be found in the Constitution. Protecting individual rights is. The time has come to stop bending over backwards to uphold the right of a greedy few to profit at the price of misery for millions of others.
How protecting religious bigotry and intolerance in this country differs from the use of such practices in other societies and can be passed off as supporting the first amendment right to freedom of religion boggles the mind. The Taliban would probably feel right at home using the reasoning of the Supreme Court in justifying how it treats women in places where it controls government or would like to govern. Below are links to articles by others posing similar questions relating to how the Hobby Lobby decision may be another step in the direction of right-wing theocratic governance that many conservatives have been espousing in recent years, particularly with regard to women’s health care and reproductive rights. This decision also leads unnecessary justification to the rampant slut-shaming and other forms the right wing war on women has been taking in political campaigns and in the right-wing media for years now.
Make the point moot. Get businesses out of the business of directly providing medical coverage for their employees. They can still be taxed to help provide the coverage, just as they are now for Social Security, Medicare and Unemployment Insurance. Paying for health care in a single-payer system takes away all this piecemeal coverage which has been designed to carefully protect huge profit margins for the insurance, health care and pharmaceutical industries. Providing it in much the same way as it was before the ACA was passed has enabled more people, and more medical conditions, to be covered, but now we’ve come to the point where we are still leaving significant numbers of people out of the equation.
The elderly were left out until the advent of Medicare, the poor and children until Medicaid came into being. Now some young people are allowed to be covered under parents plans longer and pre-existing conditions have been removed as an obstacle for others. Still businesses and insurance companies are vying to provide the minimum amount of coverage permitted at the price most advantageous to the corporate bottom line. Instead of fine-tuning what discrimination and bigotry we will continue to allow, have the people, through their government, decide what ALL people deserve to have access to, based on need, not the ability to personally pay for it. For years, I worked for an employer who needed to be convinced that it would be more cost effective to provide smoking cessation prescription drugs and contraception under its medical plan. People like those running some companies or running religious institutions may never agree to provide coverage to what over 90% of us believe should be available to all and would lead to better outcomes for society as a whole. But we all pay taxes that we know go towards activities we do not condone. Just because they are a corporation should not give them religious tax exemptions they would not get as individuals.
By taking away requiring the businesses providing of private health care for their individual workers, several things could be achieved. First, not everyone is covered by Medicare, Medicaid the VA Health System or other government plans. Not all of those not covered by those plans is employed at all, let alone meeting the employment requirements established in the ACA for mandatory coverage by employers. Expand or combine the nationalized health care systems we already have so that they cover everyone, regardless of age, employment status or any other criteria we have used in the past to differentiate. We wage wars on innocent people abroad constantly, never giving a second thought as to cost in advance. We don’t have to do that with medical care, but it seems to me that cutting out much of the money that goes to pad the paychecks of CEOs and other executives and shareholders of private medical, insurance and pharmaceutical companies under the private system we’re living under now would be a lot cheaper, and provide more people with more complete medical coverage in the long run.
Close tax loopholes for the wealthy, including the extravagantly low tax rates afforded investment income and tax shelters afforded them. Close the loopholes for corporations which have avoided taxation so expertly while profiting handsomely from operating in our country, exploiting our workers, infrastructure, educational system, and security, as well as draining the wealth of our consumers for years. Ending these breaks will not only enable funding a more equitable health care system, but help to alleviate the other social injustices brought about by the economic inequality that has proliferated in our society for decades.
Suggested Further Readings: