The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Children’s Health Care—Just a CHIP in a Political Game

Oct 8, 2007

George Bush vetoed a bill that would have expanded the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The Democrats promised to override the veto.

Bush says the bill would have expanded coverage to too many undeserving children. The Democrats say Bush is mean and miserly. Both avoided the real questions.

Even if this bill were passed, there is nothing in it that challenges the basic assumption that health care should be limited to those who can pay. This bill is simply about extending a band-aid to a few more people.

Just as government is obligated to provide schooling for the population, so it should be obligated to provide health care for EVERYONE! And if health care were organized, funded centrally and administered by the government, service could be extended to everyone and expenses reduced at the same time.

As it stands now, the U.S. spends more on health care than any other industrialized country in the world and gets less for it–and all because private interests own, run and profit from the health care system: insurance companies, hospitals, nursing homes, rehab facilities, home health care companies, ambulance services, etc. And there are gigantic administrative costs because of all these multiple layers.

This private system spends two trillion dollars per year, or 16% of the Gross Domestic Product on medical care. Yet despite all that spending, a smaller portion of the U.S. population has coverage for health care than in any other industrialized country.

The consequences are clearly seen: the U.S. ranks only 38th in the world in life expectancy, according to the United Nations. Thirty-one countries have proportionately fewer infants dying in their first year of life than does the United States.

In other words, the United States comes in at the bottom of the industrialized countries and even behind many so-called underdeveloped countries. Even tiny, underdeveloped Cuba has a higher life expectancy and a lower infant death rate than the U.S.

That’s not to say there are not problems with health care in countries with national health care programs. They too still exist within a profit making system, and government still works in the interests of that system. But countries with a centralized, government-run system spend much less than the U.S. and get more.

Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats are ready to call into question this U.S. system of health care organized to produce vast amounts of profit. For both parties, the current deliberations on children’s health care are essentially a political charade.