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Get Business Out of Health Care

July 5, 2014

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:

The Hobby Lobby Lesson: We Need To Fight For Single-Payer Health Care

When The Taliban Meets Hobby Lobby

10 Mind-Bending Questions About the "Hobby Lobby" Decision

Let’s Not Pay Any Taxes That Are Used for War or Prisons, if Hobby Lobby Can Pick and Choose

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Was Right, and We Already Have Proof

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12 Comments
  1. I agree with you. I would go further and strip “profit” from anything to do with healthcare. There’s enough human misery for business to plunder without it.

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  2. Speaking from a UK perspective I would be cautious about supposing that moving responsibility for health care provision from employers/businesses would solve more problems than it would cause. In the UK until just recently a part of our effective income tax was called National Insurance. This was supposed to pay for such things as the National Health, Pensions and Welfare. The employer also paid NI for each employee. In practice this payment was not ring-fenced for these purposes and were just used as general taxation. In addition it was common for large firms to make arrangements with various kinds of private health care companies to provide very affordable top-up packages. I benefited from two of these while in work. One which enabled me to pay for a private consultant immediately instead of waiting 9 months, which would have left my health permanently damaged. The other paid small sums, greatly appreciated at the time, when my husband had to go into hospital. I could have continued with both these schemes after I left work if I had wished. However, National Insurance no longer exists. It has now been subsumed into income tax, breaking the link with the tax paid, and the services that tax was supposed to provide. I expect this is to make it easier for the government to justify cut-backs to all these services and further the propaganda that anyone requiring medical care/pension/welfare is a scrounger depleting the public purse.
    As I understand it, the burden of paying for medical provision in the States has been mainly carried by the employer. And this has caused the inevitable inflation of medical costs when the provision of medical services is private business and the costs covered by private insurance. Our National Health Service only came into being as a result of a very committed socialist government being elected post-war, when the sense of national unity united in struggle and suffering caused a ground-swell strong enough to counter the very strong medical establishment, to accept, with a combination of bribes and threats, a nationalised health service. The power of the medical establishment is the problem, and their position is impregnable. Your businesses have been required to carry an unfair proportion of the burden of financing medical care. The solution has to lie with your government. They should deal with the medical establishment, recovering the costs of medical provision through taxes, on the medical service providers. Firstly they need to establish the real costs of any medical service. Then look at the extent to which the profits have been artificially inflated. And tax the difference. They also need to look at the private medical insurance area, to cap payouts relative to costs, to prevent the inflation of charges.
    The trouble with any radical change to an institutional system is the inability to predict how a new system will work in practice. Gradual implementation of change is best. But where politicians, even with the best intentions are implementing changes against the interests of powerful vested interests in society, they can be forced to go for more extreme measures just to get any change at all. Which increases the problems and failures. And strengthens the argument – leave the status quo alone – which suits those who have got the situation wrapped up just the way they want it, very nicely.

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  3. Anneliese permalink

    There is a serious issue with Medicaid. For those of us who are over 55 it is not insurance it is rather an amortized loan. Medicaid benefits paid out can be “recovered” from one’s estate. There are a few hardship exemptions but they’re not enough. Homesteaded property *may* be exempt from recovery in some states. We really need a single-payer system that does not penalize older people.

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  4. Reblogged this on Betchaboop's Blog and commented:
    A great article about the ACA and hopefully moving closer towards single payer. THOSE OF US WHO HAVE HAD TO FIGHT FOR OUR COVERAGE AND HEALTH CARE WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS AND LIMITATIONS KNOW FULL WELL THE IMPORTANCE.

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  5. Rick, as usual a very informative article, with great and instructive comments from your readers. I am very interested in those made by “Prayerwarriorpsychicnot” (hope I got the name right). I recently watched a PBS show which explained how Britain came to their form of health care financing post WW II. The sentiment described was “the rest of us taking care for the least of us” which I thought was quite humane as well as logical.
    Threw my twitter “friends” I have recently been made aware of the Conservative actions down under, which seem to be making life rough for our Aussie friends. Would the same type of obstruction and profiteering mindset be what is interfering with what, up until recently, had been a good system?
    My concern is this; The American Conservative movement has been exporting their hate and bigotry worldwide, are England and Australia yet other areas that have been poisoned by this ideology? Thanks in advance for any info.

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  6. Seems we are locked into the battle of the ‘haves’ versus the ‘have nots’ as always, under the current scenario, ACA etc or even if we move to ‘single payer’. Those with little want the burden shared widely, those with much want even more for themselves by ‘giving’ less to others. As long as government is corruptible, the wealthy will continue to prevail. But like Mitch McConnell says, the worst day of his life was not the financial collapse of 2008 or the bombing of 9/11 but rather the day McCain Feingold campaign finance reform went into effect.

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    • Mitch said that, out loud? I am surprised. Not by the idea that McConnell holds that view but, that he did not seem to think it detrimental to his political career. I am old enough to remember when, if a politician was caught in a bold face lie, they would immediately drop into C.Y.A. mode. Not now, they merely double down on said lie and spend more money on spreading that lie(and any others they surmise to be energizing to their base).
      Truly a sad state of affairs for the United States and the World at large.

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  7. Reblogged this on Wobbly Warrior's Blog and commented:
    Please check out this website, too:
    http://www.pnhp.org/
    Thank you.

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  8. Lynn McNair permalink

    Just spent a full year fighting my health plan to approve life saving surgery I finally got yesterday.

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  9. Margaret permalink

    I agree…but how? Those allowed in power don’t value the health of a nation. People get sick, die, “they’ll”.. “make more”.
    We are all preaching to the choir. Then there’s the pervasive “arguing with a junk-yard dog” syndrome. We have to find a back door…the front is long taken.

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