It’s socialism! It’s historic! Actually, it’s neither but the pundits have to call it something if they’re going to spend all day talking about it. So what should we know about the health care “reforms” that Obama and the Democratic Congress have just passed? For a quick rundown of the talking points and the unsurprisingly differing facts, consider this PDF. But to really consider the impact of this bill, let’s start with this editorial from The Socialist Worker appropriately entitled “Worse Than Nothing At All”:
In spite of the hysterical complaints of Republicans, the truth is that the health care measure House Democratic leaders hope to ram through this weekend is a disaster in the making for working people and a massive giveaway to the medical-pharmaceutical-insurance complex.
It will “mandate” people to buy policies from private insurers, without any guarantees of affordable premiums or adequate coverage. It won’t have a “public option.” It will slash spending and benefits for the federal government’s Medicare program by $500 billion. It will impose a tax in some form on employer-provided insurance–supposedly aimed at expensive “Cadillac” plans, but in reality affecting any insurance that has decent benefits.
The article continues to lay out how the twenty million Americans promised coverage under this bill are really getting a hollow promise that disguises the tremendous bonanza this legislation offers to the health care industry and opportunistic conservatives keen on using this to lay siege to women’s rights. Which brings us to our next point.
Terry O’Neill, President of the National Organization of Women, soberly outlined in a press release why she is less than thrilled about this tried and failed attempt at fulfilling a campaign promise:
With more than 45,000 unnecessary deaths annually and hundreds of thousands of bankruptcies each year due to medical bills, this bill is only a timid first step toward meaningful reform.
Fact: The bill contains a sweeping anti-abortion provision. Contrary to the talking points circulated by congressional leaders, the bill passed today ultimately achieves the same outcome as the infamous Stupak-Pitts Amendment, namely the likely elimination of all private as well as public insurance coverage for abortion. It imposes a bizarre requirement on insurance plan enrollees who buy coverage through the health insurance exchanges to write two monthly checks (one for an abortion care rider and one for all other health care). Even employers will have to write two separate checks for each of their employees requesting the abortion rider.
At best we saw one step forward and two steps back for the cause of universal health care and economic justice in The United States. The one step forward is that this issue has actually been brought to the fore of the political discourse after suffering — along with the uninsured — in obscurity for too long. We may also count any modest gains among this similarly modest step in the right direction. At the same, Democrats never sought to create a universal system and we certainly will not get one under this bill. But by bringing this issue to vote, their inevitable capitulations to business interests and religious reactionaries — among others — means billions of dollars will be thrown at a system that never worked in the first place.
The right will use this plan’s inevitable shortcomings to justify their faux “small government” policies, the left will be criticized for the failure of legislation that no real leftist really wanted, women will have their rights curtailed even further, immigrants will continue to be ignored, the elderly will find Medicare weakened through compromise, and millions more will continue to suffer.
Photo by the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative.