The Next Phase of Healthcare Apartheid
by Norman Solomon
Published on Thursday, November 5, 2009 by CommonDreams.org
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
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
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
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.
"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.
single-payer bill, both times vetoed by the state's
current execrable governor. The official position of
favor of single-payer healthcare. And yet Nancy Pelosi,
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 "
has been adapted into a documentary film of the same
name. His most recent book is "Made Love, Got War. "
He is a national co-chair of the Healthcare NOT Warfare
 campaign. In
Commission on a Green New Deal for the