They have done it again: The one percent, the power structure, the ruling class, take your pick, has used their media to distract us from yet another of their attempts to enrich themselves and their kind.
This time it’s disingenuously named Health Care Reform or the Affordable Care Act, which will bring neither reform nor affordability to a health system rife with inadequacy, unfairness and capriciousness. In fact, it promises to bring the opposite: more unaffordable health insurance in the form of higher premiums and more out-of-control bureaucracy.
Moreover, all the hoopla surrounding the Supreme Court’s decision to allow President Obama’s so-called Affordable Care Act to remain intact is just another circus act. The conservatives are screaming that it’s socialized medicine and pretending that it’s universal health care.
In the words of the “Great Confuser” Michele Bachmann, the act is “government insurance.” And the liberals are running around pretending that they have actually improved or reformed the healthcare system without taming the profit motive in health care.
At bottom, it is business as usual, because while the bill purportedly seeks to reform health care, it focuses more on getting people insured than on lowering overall costs. In requiring that every citizen purchase health care, the government has in reality guaranteed a continual income to HMOs and healthcare plans.
In fact, it has guaranteed them all an increase in profits. As one medical healthcare analyst put it, “Be prepared for sticker shock.” A recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers reported that healthcare costs are expected to rise 7.5 percent.
This reform brings no reforms at all, as the cost of insurance, medical supplies, medical equipment and pharmaceuticals will not be subject to regulation or even nominative price controls. And, there is no provision ensuring that insurance companies will no longer deprive their customers of certain treatments and operations.
No doubt there are some benefits to the plan. Workers who could afford healthcare coverage offered by their employers were able to allow their young adult children up to age 26 to remain on their policy — if, of course, they could afford to continue paying the premium. Reportedly, 3.1 million young adults have been helped so far, so the reform has already benefited a segment of the population whose parents can afford to pay for their health insurance.
The act also keeps insurance companies from excluding kids because of a pre-existing condition; it allows for free birth control for women, and some free preventative care.
It’s not clear how much the government will penalize those who refuse to sign up for health care, but they could be charged with a misdemeanor. It does indeed sound strange that the government is going to enact a healthcare plan that will punish us if for whatever reason we refuse to pay for health insurance.
The law does provide an out for those who, based on government calculations, can’t afford health insurance; they won’t be fined or even threatened, but they will also remain uninsured. This will be a bit like car insurance: Auto owners are required to purchase car insurance, which makes sense because it protects everyone on the road, and if your car is an accident it can be repaired and your initial investment in a car is not a total loss.
But car insurance becomes problematic when the insurers set arbitrary prices and even redline using race and locale to increase their profits, while at the same time not necessarily delivering the best service when circumstances require them to pay up. Of course, if you do use your insurance, the companies usually increase their rates.
Clearly the best solution lies in universal health care. The term has become synonymous with a bad word by the conservatives who used the threat of death panels and the lie that healthcare reform meant workers would have to pay for other folks’ health care to distract workers from its real benefit.
Ironically, they are all worked up about something they already pay for. Under the present system, about 60 percent of health care is subsidized by federal and state taxes and tax subsidies.
Universal health care would simply extend that. Instead of privately spending for insurance offered through employers or independently, the money to support health care would be collected as a tax.
In essence, we would have one health insurance program, and since it is our money and our health care at stake, the citizens through their government would regulate the costs associated with it, keeping it affordable and equitable. The people would make sure that the costs of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals were reasonable and cut out the profit gouging and waste in our current system.
Presently, for-profit insurance spends about 26 cents of every dollar on bureaucracy and paperwork. Experts have estimated that simply streamlining payment through a single nonprofit payer would save over $350 billion per year.
Ultimately, a universal healthcare plan like those in every developed nation in the world (the U.S. is the only exception) would guarantee that everyone would be covered and that everyone would have equal access to quality health care. This is the least one should expect from a society that claims to be the most generous and most civilized in the world.
Mel Reeves welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.