Freethought San Marcos: A column
by LAMAR W. HANKINS
Sen. Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, conducted hearings last week into health care reform. Notably absent from the discussion were the views of a majority of Americans, as well as a majority of practicing physicians: universal health care through single-payer health insurance. Recent polling by CBS News and the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that around 60% of both groups favor single-payer health care, similar to the Canadian system.
Large numbers of Americans support single-payer, not because it is perfect, but because it is infinitely better than the system concocted by the insurance companies that we have lived with all these years. We know single-payer works because we have the example of Medicare to prove it. Medicare is single-payer health insurance for the elderly. My experience with it over the past few years handling the health care of my parents has shown me that it is more efficient and much less of a hassle than is the private health insurance I have.
Sen. Baucus was not interested in putting a universal single-payer system–which saves nearly one-third of the cost of what we receive from the private sector’s product–on the table because he is beholden to that industry for campaign contributions. He has received nearly $4 million from those who have a vested financial interest in keeping the current health insurance system. Because of this clear conflict of interest, he should not be allowed to determine who is allowed to debate the issue before the Senate. Not allowing single-payer to be discussed is sufficient proof to me that he cannot be and has not been fair in handling this issue.
Unfortunately, our new president is not being forthright with the American people about single-payer health care either. When he was asked about the issue this past week, he said that if we were inventing a health care system from scratch, then maybe we should discuss single-payer. No country that has adopted a single-payer health care system has started from scratch, yet every industrialized country in the world except the US has managed to both discuss and adopt such a system.
The need for universal single-payer health care is obvious to all who want to live in a just society; that is, a society where families are not bankrupted by medical costs and where health care is seen not as a commodity to be bought and sold like vacuum cleaners, but a right to be enjoyed by all, based on need. What may not be so obvious is the competitive disadvantage health care creates for American businesses.
American-brand cars made in Canada cost the manufacturers about $1500 less to make than the same cars made in the US because Canada has a national health insurance system for which the companies don’t have to pay. An employment-based health care system that uses the private insurance market is an expense that makes American businesses less competitive. And it saps the budgets of such government institutions as Texas State University, as well.
A Harvard University study reported three years ago found that half of all personal bankruptcies in the United States were due to medical bills. Clearly, not having health insurance can be a catastrophic problem for a family. And it has become a major expense for employers who provide coverage. Health insurance premiums went up an average of 78% in the last six years, 119% since 1999. And these costs have not brought us top-notch health care. In 2007, the US ranked 37 among the 190 nations rated for the quality of their health care by the World Health Organization, in spite of the fact that we have the most expensive healthcare system in the world–costing twice what is spent by other industrialized countries. And 46 million Americans do not have coverage, overburdening our emergency health care system. The waste and bloated profits in the current private health insurance market would pay to cover everyone. Our current private insurance-based system is not working.
For a day or two last week, it looked as if the insurance industry was going to become a part of the solution to health care costs. President Obama told us that the industry had agreed to voluntarily reduce health care costs by $2 trillion over ten years. Then, the industry told us that the president had misspoken. The industry would work toward the $2 trillion figure as a goal, but not a promise. Whether there was a promise or merely a goal, one can only conclude that the health insurance industry must be planning to gouge American families to the tune of $200 billion a year for the next ten years, else how could the industry even contemplate savings of that magnitude and still make the profits its stockholders demand?
For those who still believe that a single-payer system is “socialized medicine,” I will explain again that the health care would be delivered by the private sector. The government, just as it does with Medicare, would be the conduit for the payments to the private health care sector, saving all the expenses now going to profits for the insurance industry, as well as saving the money that industry spends figuring out how to deny health care claims.
Almost four generations ago, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt recognized that the freedom demanded in the Declaration of Independence and promised by the United States Constitution was not just political freedom, but economic freedom, as well. Universal health care is essential to secure that economic freedom for all our citizens. If our politicians didn’t have luxurious healthcare for themselves, at taxpayer expense, perhaps they would be more aware of the needs of the rest of us to enjoy the economic freedom universal healthcare provides them.
Senator Dick Durbin told us two weeks ago that the banking industry owns the Congress. I would suggest that corporate America in its entirety – banking, insurance, finance, manufacturing, and all the rest – own the institutions of our government. It is time for all Americans who share disgust about this circumstance to let all our elected leaders know that we are tired of a government run by and for the corporations. It is time for an America run by and for the American people.
As Jim Hightower once said, we all need to become agitators–that’s the part of a washing machine that gets the dirt out.
©Lamar W. Hankins, Freethought San MarcosEmail | Print