Monday, March 29, 2010

The Mandate of Wall Street

The Democratic Party’s right-wing leadership claims that the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” is “genuine health care reform,” while their Republican opponents say that it is “socialized medicine.” Both are wrong, because the bill does not improve the US medical system and it is certainly not “socialized medicine.” Looking at the bill’s actual provisions and examples of other countries’ universal healthcare systems reveals both the true nature of the USA’s terrible private medical system and also the best way to reform it.

The bill’s worst provision, the individual mandate, forces nearly everyone to buy “health” insurance from private, for-profit companies. The IRS will annually fine almost anyone who refuses (or is unable) to buy insurance, with only a few exemptions (such as for prisoners). Starting in 2014, the fine will be (whichever is higher) $95 or 1% of taxable income, then increased to $325 or 2% of taxable income in 2015. By 2016 the fine will be $695 per year up to a maximum of three times that amount ($2,085) per family or 2.5% of household income (whichever is higher). After 2016 the fine will be increased annually by a cost-of-living adjustment. The mandate, combined with the bill’s lacking of any effective cost controls, will result in skyrocketing premiums.

US insurance monopolies’ major goal over the past decade has been to pass laws that force people to buy their products, to increase super-profits. Their first victory came in 2006 when Massachusetts’ Republican governor, Mitt Romney, together with the Democratic legislature (and then Republican legislator Scott Brown) imposed the mandate. Barack Obama claimed to oppose mandating insurance during the Democratic Party’s 2008 presidential primary. Recently, Dennis Kucinich also claimed that he would not vote for a bill that lacked a token “public option” (the “public option” itself was simply an attempt to keep single-payer out of the “debate”). Both Obama and Kucinich lied, showing the capitalist Democratic Party’s ideological and moral bankruptcy.

While the individual mandate makes the bill bad enough, it also contains an unprecedented attack on abortion rights. NOW president Terry O’Neill warns that, “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.” No progressive person can support such attacks on women’s reproductive health.

Physicians for a National Health Program explain that numerous loopholes in the bill’s so-called “insurance regulations” (which allegedly will end denials due to pre-existing conditions) exist, because insurance companies played a central role in crafting the legislation. In addition, they warn that the bill will, “drain about $40 billion from Medicare payments to safety-net hospitals, threatening the care of the tens of millions who will remain uninsured.” And even worse, “People with employer-based coverage will be locked into their plan's limited network of providers, face ever-rising costs and erosion of their health benefits. Many, even most, will eventually face steep taxes on their benefits as the cost of insurance grows.” Progressive physicians recognize that this bill is a dangerous step backwards and away from real healthcare reform.

Finally, the bill does nothing to stop the 1974 ERISA law from preventing individual states from implementing single-payer systems, which is a violation of the US Constitution’s 10th Amendment (i.e. it violates states’ rights). Obviously, insurance magnates demanded this, because they fear single-payer winning out in individual US states, like it was initially created in North America in Saskatchewan, a Canadian province. Knowing that private insurance is inferior to single-payer, insurance monopolies try to make the implementation of that progressive alternative illegal.

Clearly, this bill is not a first step towards universal healthcare, which can be achieved in at least two ways (by either “single-payer” or by truly “socialized medicine”). Single-payer systems (like Canada’s) eliminate the “health” insurance middlemen (therefore, cutting costs), while leaving some or most hospitals, clinics, and pharmaceutical companies privately owned. True socialized medicine (the USSR had the world’s first such system) has an entirely nationalized medical industry (i.e. all hospitals, clinics, and drug manufacturing factories), therefore vastly cutting costs because the system is purely non-profit.

Only true socialized medicine can provide both universal coverage and reasonable rates, by completely cutting profits out of medicine. Obviously, the capitalist Democratic Party’s political machine will never back such an idea, considering they even rejected a token “public option.” In order to truly reform healthcare, workers must break with the Democrats, create a mass labor party (while simultaneously building an ideologically solid Marxist-Leninist Communist Party) and win political power. We also must campaign against Wall Street’s reactionary, monopoly-empowering, individual mandate.

Further Reading:

Health Insurance Industry Bailout and Profit Maximization Act of 2010, by Alan Maki.

Fact Sheet: The Truth about the Health Care Bill, by Jane Hamsher.

The Scalpel, the Sword: The Story of Doctor Norman Bethune, by Ted Allan and Sydney Gordon.

Constitution of the USSR, Chapter X, Article 120: “Citizens of the U.S.S.R. have the right to maintenance in old age and also in case of sickness or loss of capacity to work. This right is ensured by the extensive development of social insurance of workers and employees at state expense, free medical service for the working people and the provision of a wide network of health resorts for the use of the working people.”

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