Friday, November 6, 2009

The Next Phase of Healthcare Apartheid

The Next Phase of Healthcare Apartheid


by Norman Solomon


In Washington, "healthcare reform" has degenerated into a sick joke.


Published on Thursday, November 5, 2009 by


At this point, only spinners who've succumbed to their

own vertigo could use the word "robust" to describe the

public option in the healthcare bill that the House

Democratic leadership has sent to the floor.


"A main argument was that a public plan would save

people money," the New York Times has noted. But the

insurance industry -- claiming to want a level playing

field -- has gotten the Obama administration to

bulldoze the plan. "After House Democratic leaders

unveiled their health care bill [on October 29], the

Congressional Budget Office said the public plan would

cost more than private plans and only 6 million people

would sign up."


At its best, "the public option" was a weak remedy for

the disastrous ailments of the healthcare system in the

United States. But whatever virtues the public option

may have offered were stripped from the bill en route

to the House floor.


What remains is a Rube Goldberg contraption that will

launch this country into a new phase of healthcare apartheid.


People who scrape together enough money to buy health

insurance will discover that they're riding in the back

of the nation's healthcare bus. The most "affordable"

policies will be the ones with the highest deductibles

and the worst coverage.


We're hearing that large numbers of lower-income

Americans will be provided with Medicaid coverage in

the next decade. Translation: If funding holds up,

they'll get to hang onto a bottom rung of the

healthcare ladder. Many will not be able to get the

medical help they need, from primary care providers or specialists.


Not long ago, we were told that the Obama

administration was aiming for a public option that

could provide coverage to one out of every four

Americans. Now the figure is around one out of every fifty.


Not long ago, the idea was that taxpayer-funded

subsidies were to be used only for the public option.

But now the entire concept has been hijacked by and for

the private insurance industry. As House Speaker Nancy

Pelosi put it on October 8, private insurance companies

"are going to get 50 million new consumers, many of

them subsidized by the taxpayers."


Pelosi was making the argument that the least the

insurance industry could do, in return, would be to

accept a higher level of taxation. But her comment was

a telling acknowledgment that all the "public option"

proposals now provide a massive funnel from the U.S.

Treasury to the insurance conglomerates. The individual

mandate is a monumental giveaway to private insurance firms.


The specter of "healthcare reform" that requires

individuals to stretch their personal finances for

often-abysmal insurance coverage is the worst of all

worlds -- government intrusion for corporate benefit

without any guarantees of decent health coverage.


In effect, the individual-mandate requirement tells

people that obtaining health coverage is ultimately

their own responsibility -- and the quality of the

coverage is beside the point. In essence, when it comes

to guaranteeing quality healthcare for all, the gist of

the policy is: "Let's not, and say we did."


The predictable result is reinforcement of vast -- and

often deadly -- inequities in access to healthcare.


With Washington making such a corporate mess of

"healthcare reform," the best way to get what we need

-- healthcare for all as a human right -- will be to

enact single-payer healthcare in one state after another.


But the House Democratic leadership has not been

content to serve up a grimly pathetic "healthcare

reform" bill. Speaker Pelosi has used her political

leverage to quash Congressman Dennis Kucinich's

amendment -- approved months ago by the Education and

Labor Committee -- that would grant waivers so that

states could create their own single-payer system.

Pelosi removed the Kucinich amendment from the House bill.


The California legislature has twice passed a strong

single-payer bill, both times vetoed by the state's

current execrable governor. The official position of

the California Democratic Party is unequivocally in

favor of single-payer healthcare. And yet Nancy Pelosi,

a California Democrat, did what she could to sabotage

the single-payer position of her own party in her own state.




Norman Solomon is a journalist, historian, and

progressive activist. His book "War Made Easy: How

Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death [1]"

has been adapted into a documentary film of the same

name. His most recent book is "Made Love, Got War. [2]"

He is a national co-chair of the Healthcare NOT Warfare

[3] campaign. In California, he is co-chair of the

Commission on a Green New Deal for the North Bay; [4].



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