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

Health Care “Reform”—Bailing out Insurance and Pharmaceuticals

Jul 20, 2009

The Democrats seem ready to push through some kind of health care “reform” bill. Nobody can say for certain what the final bill will look like–especially since all the nasty details will be worked out in a final Senate-House “conference” committee. But the current bills already provide warnings for working people: the final plan will wind up costing much more and providing much less than what has been promised.

Two things are certain.

One, the final plan will require almost everyone to have health insurance coverage whether they pay for it, whether their employer pays for it as part of the wage bill, or whether higher taxes pay for it.

Two, the plan will be outrageously expensive, no matter who pays. There is nothing in the current bills to control the costs charged by insurance companies or pharmaceutical companies. In fact, all these proposals to control costs have already been removed from the bills.

Of course, the medical care system in this country could be made somewhat more useful. But this country’s medical system cannot be reformed by simply adding a new program on top of the same basic underlying system that exists, a system driven by profit. Certainly other countries haven’t got rid of the profit motive in health care, but at least they have reined it in. And every industrialized country with a national health care system spends less than half what the U.S. spends, while every other country provides better health outcomes than the U.S.

You would think if the Democrats wanted to reform the system they would look to see how this was done.

No, they didn’t.

Supposedly this U.S. health care reform will solve the problems in other ways.

The Democrats say people will get subsidies to help pay for insurance. Yes, but even for those who qualify, most people would still pay between $3,000 and $5,000 a year–just in premiums, not counting other costs.

The Democrats propose to fine employers who do not offer health insurance. Yes, but the fines are so small–$750 per year per full-time employee–that it would be much cheaper for employers than providing insurance. And individuals who refuse to buy insurance will face the same $750 per year penalty!

Those without insurance from their employers supposedly could buy it from a government-run “public plan,” if it exists. Yet, the Democrats are already discussing dropping it, instead offering only a national “exchange” to help people find an insurance “co-op.” Such co-ops would be allowed to charge higher rates by age and health status.

The bills all say that no insurance company can deny anyone for “pre-existing conditions.” That doesn’t say people can get care for a price they can afford.

The Democrats say that they will expand Medicaid so that people unable to buy insurance can qualify–and yet one of the proposals to cut costs is to reduce the money spent on Medicaid!

There are also various proposals to pay for the program. The one that has gotten the greatest attention in the media is a surtax on the wealthy. Even if this isn’t cut back or eliminated, it leaves the greatest amount to be found elsewhere. But where?

The Democrats are proposing to find money by reducing money today spent on Medicare and Medicaid. In other words, they are proposing to cut the only government programs.

The Democrats are also talking openly about taxing the health care benefits provided by employers. The Communications Workers of America estimated that this would cost each of its members $3,165 per year.

In other words, in the end the new health care system would be the same as the old one, only more complicated, more unwieldy, and more expensive. In reality, under the guise of solving a problem for ordinary people, the Democrats are solving a problem for the big corporations, especially for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries that are to be given a much bigger captive audience.

It’s another “reform” like all their other reforms–an attack, in other words.

Of course, the Republicans have their own answer–leave the sinking ship of medical care alone–let it continue sinking.