Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017 12:21 am
Do better than a rip-off health care system
For the gazillionth time, GOP lawmakers have put a shiny new ribbon on their same old ugly package of health insurance deforms. As before, this latest plan would eliminate coverage for millions of Americans, raise the price of insurance for the middle class and deliver much less care. But one guy says he loves it: “A great bill,” tweeted Donald Trump.
I’m guessing that, once again, our Twitterer-in-Chief hasn’t actually read the bill he is praising, or even scanned the factual summary of what it does. But, he might want to hear the opinions of his fellow corporate chieftains who have read every word of it. For example, the CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield flatly rejects the re-write, because it “would allow states to waive key consumer protections [and] undermine safeguards for those with pre-existing conditions.” Also, he points out that the plan would increase uncertainty in the marketplace, making coverage more expensive and jeopardizing Americans’ choice of health plans.
Or Trump could ponder this conclusion of a health policy expert: The bill is “just basically injecting chaos in 50 state capitals for the next two years.” Or maybe he’d value a state health executive’s perspective: “The [bill’s] cuts could be devastating to [Alaska’s] health care system,” and “patients will bear the consequences through reduced access to health care and lost insurance coverage.”
Trump and the GOP are wasting Congress’ time and what little public credibility they have left by continuing to play partisan politics with people’s health. Nothing great about that.
Rather than a health care system, our country’s leaders have been keeping us shackled to a “corporate care” system, allowing insurance giants, drug company gougers, hospital chains and other profiteers to ration our care based on whether a family can pay whatever outrageous price the corporations demand to maintain their exorbitant profits.
Forget the centuries-old admonition from the Greek physician Hippocrates that individual caregivers must “do no harm,” the corporate imperative to maximize profits makes our present system itself a gross violator of that primary principal. For example, Americans spend some $3.2 trillion a year on this system (more than nearly every other country in the world); 28 million of our people have no health coverage; tens of millions are so underinsured they can’t afford to use the policy they’re paying for; one out of five adults are not able to afford the prescription drugs they need; our people are less healthy than other advanced nations (for example, the U.S. ranks 42nd in life expectancy); and CEOs and top shareholders of insurance conglomerates, Big Pharma, hospital chains and other components of the system are hauling off multiple-millions of dollars each.
Can’t we do better than that? Of course we can – if we start treating health care as a human right, rather than a corporate profit center.
And doing this doesn’t require a whole new complex system. Congress can just extend America’s successful Medicare program to every man, woman and child in our country. This egalitarian “Medicare for All” idea would deliver comprehensive care, be much easier for patients to navigate, and be far cheaper than today’s rip-off system. At last, a hospital stay would not bankrupt a family, people wouldn’t avoid going to the doctor because they can’t afford it, prescription drugs would be affordable, and workers wouldn’t be stuck in bad jobs just to get basic health coverage.
This is a health care system that’s worthy of us, one that embodies our people’s egalitarian values and strengthens our country. By actually delivering universal care we will unite our society under the essential democratic principle that we Americans really are “all in this together.”
Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist and author.