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

Medical Care "Reform"—Insuring Industry Profits

Aug 3, 2009

There are eight or nine bills supposedly aimed at improving medical care in this country winding their way through Congress, all behind closed doors.

There is no doubt the health care system is in need of an overhaul. The United States spends almost twice as much money per capita as most other industrialized countries. Canada, for example, spent $3,895 per person in 2007, compared to $7,290 for the U.S. Health care consumes a larger part of the economy in the U.S. than other countries as well; 16% of GDP compared to 9% for Norway and Sweden.

Yet we get much less coverage than every other industrial country. Today, nearly one child in nine and one adult in five under 65 goes without medical insurance.

Those who do have insurance pay out much more each year to see a doctor and for hospital care, prescriptions, and tests than do people in other countries. Total out-of-pocket expenses for people who have insurance through their employers rose more than 115% between 2000 and 2008.

The United States, the wealthiest country in the world, ranks far behind other countries in measures of health like life expectancy and infant mortality. It’s a complete disgrace. Life expectancy in the U.S. increased by 8.2 years between 1960 and 2006, compared to 15 years in Japan and 9.4 years in Canada. In the U.S., around seven infants died in their first year out of every 1,000 live births in 2006, compared with around two or three in northern Europe and Japan.

Other countries provide better medical care for much less money because there is more control over profit in their centralized, state-run systems. In the U.S., the pharmaceutical and medical supply industries are regularly among the most profitable in the country. They ranked number three and four in the Fortune 500 rankings in 2008. The insurance industry was not far behind. Moreover, every part of the U.S. system has its own administrative bureaucracy–layers and layers of bureaucrats–a big waste.

So why didn’t Congress or the Obama administration look at other countries when crafting their plans for changing the health care system? Because the insurance industry owns Washington. USA Today found that 20 large insurance and drug companies spent 35 million dollars on lobbying in the first quarter of 2009, an increase of 41% compared to the same period the year before. They are working to guarantee they wring more profit out of medical care.

Whatever comes out of this "reform," we can be sure of four things:

" We will be mandated to have medical coverage.

" Employers will not be mandated to provide health insurance.

" Subsidies will not nearly cover the cost of premiums.

" And we will pay for the medical industry to make even greater profits.