“Is anyone else getting as tired as I am seeing that mug? He’s becoming as annoying to me as Bush was and is and will always be. Amen.”
-Fred Face 7/20/09
July 20, 2009
On February 24, Barack Obama told a joint session of Congress that “we must….address the crushing cost of health care….caus(ing) a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes. In (each of) the last eight years….one million….Americans have lost their health insurance….Given these facts, we can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold….health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.”
Behind the facade of reform, Obama and leading Democrats ruled universal, single-payer coverage off the table before debate even began. Instead they’ve focused on taxing more, rationing care, placing profits above human need, disdaining vital change, shifting the cost burden to individuals and requiring everyone to be insured; imposing fines up to $1000 for non-compliance, and making a broken system even worse.
On June 10, Physicians for a National Health Program advisor Walter Tsou told the House Education and Labor Committee:
“Attempting to reconcile the dual imperatives of universal coverage and cost control through alternative methods besides single payer is an exercise in futility. When some congressional leaders declare that single payer is off the table, they are in effect saying that insurers will be protected, leaving the pain to patients, taxpayers and health care providers.”
At the same hearing, the California Nurses Association and National Nurses Organizing Committee co-president Geri Jenkins said:
“The current system rations care based on an ability to pay. Right now we are the only nation on earth that barters human life for money.”
The administration and lawmakers have been unresponsive in moving ahead with House and Senate legislation to enrich health insurers, Big Pharma, and large hospital chains. It will ration care, curb expensive treatments and surgeries for those who can’t afford them, leave millions in the country uncovered, deny it altogether to undocumented immigrants even though they pay income, payroll and other taxes, and claim it’s real reform like they always do.
On May 20, S. 1099: Patients’ Choice Act was introduced “to provide comprehensive solutions for the health care system of the United States, and for other purposes.” It was referred to the Senate Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committees (HELP) for consideration.
The Senate Finance Committee may craft its own version. On July 15 along party lines, HELP voted 13 – 10 to approve a $615 billion Democrat-sponsored bill that’s substantially similar to House legislation with provisions that Obama wants.
On July 14, HR 3200: America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 was introduced “To provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes.” It was referred to the following House committees for consideration: Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, Education and Labor, Oversight and Government Reform, and Budget.
House and Senate bills stress cost-containing “evidence-based” solutions with Obama appearing on a June 24 ABC News “Questions for the President: Prescription for America” infomercial touting his plan to carefully selected reporters and others invited to the White House East Room for a scripted Q & A.
Cutting costs and free-market solutions were emphasized, not real reform stressing human need with Obama saying “If we don’t drive down costs, then we’re not going to be able to achieve all of those other things.” Which ones he didn’t say before stressing the need for “evidence-based care,” meaning less is better for those unable to pay so that millions will be sacrificed on the alter of cost containment while enriching private insurers, Big Pharma, and large hospital chains that will flourish as community and public ones shut down for lack of enough resources.
Obama was callous in saying “Loading up on additional tests or additional drugs” must be curbed. “Maybe (some would be) better off not having….surgery, but taking (a) painkiller” instead. He showed disdain and indifference in stating that “the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80% of the total health care bill out there” – the inference being ration their care and let ‘em die to cut costs.
At the same time, he favored big insurers by saying that “One of the incentives for (them) to get involved in this process is that potentially they’re going to have a whole bunch of new customers, paying customers….insurance companies will thrive” under this plan.
As for a “public option” to fill holes, Obama was receptive to alternatives but adamantly against universal single-payer coverage in saying: “For us to completely change our system, root and branch, would be hugely disruptive.” Only market-based solutions will be considered along with huge cost-containment measures, mostly affecting millions of working Americans, the poor, elderly, and chronically ill.
Over the next decade, Medicare and Medicaid may lose over $600 billion in funding with recipients, of course, making up the difference or foregoing care. About $317 billion is proposed for “efficiencies” with another $313 billion in cuts for hospitals that treat the poor and uninsured. Many of them are already severely strapped as unemployment soars, charitable donations are down, expenses rise, vital services and staffs have to be cut to stay afloat, and growing numbers won’t make it as economic conditions worsen.
Instead of helping to fill budget gaps, Obama plans less aid to shut them down. It will leave some areas dependent on more distant ones for treatment, and let large chains consolidate for greater dominance. Accessible quality care will be less available and affordable so, of course, patients will lose out – mostly the elderly, chronically ill, those on society’s lower rungs, and all working Americans because an uncaring administration and Congress threw them overboard for profit and “efficiencies.”
If “Obamacare” passes, most working people, the disadvantaged, and those singled out as less important will experience large rollbacks in quality, readily accessible coverage. For them, future health problems will be more hazardous than ever because a callous nation doesn’t care.
On July 17 as expected, two of three key House committees passed HR 3200. Largely along party lines, Ways and Means voted 23 – 18. Education and Labor approved 26 – 22 with a Kucinich amendment that may not survive a floor vote or make it to the Senate.
It leaves HR 3200 intact but lets states create single-payer plans. Eight are now considering them – California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Missouri, and Washington with perhaps more to follow.
On June 11 in Pennsylvania, HealthCare4ALLPA organized over 400 people for a state capital rally, and its Executive Director Chuck Pennachio predicts pending legislation passage later in the year because bipartisan support backs it. So do most Pennsylvanians, and Governor Ed Rendell said he’ll sign what comes to his desk.
Kucinich hailed its importance in saying:
“There are many models of health care reform from which to choose around the world – the vast majority of which perform far better than ours. The one that has been the most tested here and abroad is single-payer. Under (it) everyone in the US would get a card that would allow access to any doctor at virtually any hospital. Doctors and hospitals would continue to be privately run, but the insurance payments would be in public hands. By getting rid of the for-profit insurance companies, we can save $400 billion per year and provide coverage for all medically necessary services for everyone in the US.”