Health Care Reform Now!
by Katherine Bock, Lynn Huidekoper, and Sandy Perry
The following op ed was submitted to the Mercury News on November 29. They have chosen not to print it, but especially as the bill continues to get watered down in the Senate, it is important to get the word out by other means. The press conference at the link below is especially informative for those with the time to watch it.
On July 30, some 54 progressive Congressmembers vowed in a letter that they would not support a reform bill without a "robust" public option. All but two of them caved in and voted for a bill with a public option that is so weak it will actually cost more than private insurance.
The right wing's critique of the craven corruption in the congressional health care debate is absolutely correct. However, their solution is a recipe for more failure - it simply substitutes Republican thieves for Democratic thieves. The real answer is for the American people to arise and substitute a vigilant populace for the cesspool of organized bribery that passes for political discourse in Washington, D.C.
MEDICARE FOR ALL WILL SAVE LIVES AND COST LESS
On November 25 a passionate group of health care advocates held a press conference in Washington, D.C. . Led by Single Payer Action, they announced a campaign to defeat the reform bill currently being debated in the U.S. Senate. The Single Payer Coalition in Santa Clara County shares their trenchant critique of the shortcomings and outright evils of both House and Senate bills.
* They are not universal. They leave some 18-24 million Americans uninsured.
* They explicitly deny health care to undocumented immigrants and penalize recent LEGAL immigrants as well.
* The House bill places new limitations on the ability of women to choose certain reproductive health services.
* The so-called "public option" in the current bills is so puny and ineffectual that it will not reduce costs or permit real choice of insurance plans. No one credibly calls it "robust" anymore.
* The current bills will not control the explosion of health care costs for employers, private health insurance consumers, or taxpayers.
* The major expansions of health care coverage in the bill are not effective until 2013-14, meaning unnecessary deaths for some 200,000 Americans in the interim.
* Much of the increase in health care coverage will come about through the so-called "individual mandate" that will require every American to buy health insurance, no matter how inadequate or expensive. Those who fail to buy insurance will be fined, and if they fail to pay, jailed.
* 30 million new "mandated" customers will further enrich the insurance companies and embolden them to further subvert Congress and block true reform.
The main problem with the current bills is that they do not address the real problem in health care in America, its domination by large insurance and pharmaceutical companies. These corporations have a perverse incentive to DENY health care as much as possible. They are designed to make a profit for shareholders, not provide health care for human beings. As former insurance executive Wendell Potter pointed out, they have transformed our health care system into a giant ATM for Wall Street.
The health care crisis is forcing us to choose. 60% of doctors and 60% of Americans support a "Medicare for All" single payer system that provides health care as a human right. Medicare for All would cover every person in America, regardless of employment or status, and save us an estimated $400 billion a year by eliminating private profit and administrative waste.
These truly are the times that try our souls. Republicans say they will fight a "holy war" to preserve our slavish subservience to health care corporations. Democrats are preparing to surrender without a fight. It is time for the American people to stand up. The right to health care is an integral part of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Corporations want to deny health care, cut services, and impoverish our nation. May the best vision win.
Katherine Bock, Lynn Huidekoper, and Sandy Perry are co-chairs of the Single Payer Coalition of Santa Clara County.