Last week, Congress finally passed the healthcare bill it has been debating for months. People across the nation, especially those who have been without healthcare and those hard-hit by the economic crisis were hoping we would finally see a healthcare program that would cover us all.
The Democrats and their supporters claim this is a huge step forward in guaranteeing healthcare for all, standing in the tradition of Medicare and New Deal legislation. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
The Republicans and other right-wing critics claim this a massive attack on the quality of healthcare and choice for people. Their real goal is to continue to deny healthcare to those who need it the most and scare people from ever demanding a real full-coverage healthcare system. They claim it is “anti-American”. All members of Congress have a national healthcare plan. All the people covered by Medicare do also. And what about those in the military? There has been a government plan for some. How about the rest of us?
Everyone knows that access to decent healthcare is a huge problem in the US. We spend twice as much as other industrialized counties on healthcare but have almost 50 million Americans without coverage. Today 14,000 Americans are losing their coverage each day. Meanwhile the private insurance companies eat up almost a third of every healthcare dollar spent.
If a single-payer, non-profit healthcare system was put in place it is estimated that it would provide good and comprehensive healthcare for all at a savings of $400 billion a year. Wouldn’t you think that this is what a healthcare bill would propose?
Nothing could be farther from the truth. The new healthcare bill is mainly there to insure the health of insurance and drug company profits. Under the bill they will be the new insurers of millions of people and it will bring them billions more dollars from government subsidies. It doesn’t really regulate rates and prices set by the insurance companies or the drug companies. It doesn’t prevent them from using their monopoly over the system of healthcare to drive prices up.
The bill is a setback in some ways. It cuts services to the elderly by decreasing Medicare Advantage that provides additional coverage to regular Medicare. Women who choose to have an abortion are not covered. Immigrants without legal status and their children will be denied access.
The bill is modeled after the healthcare system enacted in Massachusetts. But there, one in six people who have mandated insurance say they can’t afford it. And tens of thousands of people are being cut from the healthcare rolls there due to budget cuts. Some Model!!
What the healthcare bill does do immediately is give extended coverage to young adults to stay on their families’ polices until age 26 and it does stop the insurance companies from putting a cap o member’s lifetime spending. It establishes some funds for a special purchasing pool for coverage for high-risk patients who lack insurance. All the other provisions of the bill are supposed to be phased in over the next four years. That gives plenty of time for rate increases, court suits and political reversals before it is actually implemented.
It should come as no surprise that this is the bill that got passed. The biggest insurance and drug companies were invited to the initial discussions the bill at the White House. They spent more than six million dollars on lobbying Congress, in the first three months of 2009 alone, to make sure they got what they wanted. Thirty influential members of Congress, from both parties, have investments totaling between eleven and twenty-seven million dollars in healthcare companies – so no question whose side they are on.
Healthcare should be a basic human right provided for all. But in the US today, healthcare is not a right but a privilege – one that comes with a hefty price tag, no matter what lies the politicians want to tell us.