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”—Attacking the Population to Benefit the Medical Care Industry

Mar 29, 2010

After weeks of pretending to fight the Republicans, the Democrats finally passed and Obama signed the so-called medical insurance “reform.” Obama called it a “historic reform”–on the scale of Social Security, passed in the 1930s and Medicare passed in the 1960s.

It’s historic alright–a historic rip-off of the population it claims to serve!

Today’s uninsured will be forced to buy insurance they can’t afford, insurance that has been shown to be practically useless, from private insurance companies, whose main aim is to make profit.

Nothing in the law prevents drug companies and hospitals from raising their prices–Obama had already last summer cut a deal with them, promising no attempt to control prices for the next ten years! And those prices will be passed through in higher insurance premiums–with a little extra tacked on for the insurance companies!

Very little in the law interferes with the way the private medical insurance industry functions. There are no controls on prices. As for “administrative expenses”–which today gobble up nearly half a trillion dollars due to the waste built into a private, for-profit system–they will go up as new layers of bureaucracy build up in all these private insurers. There isn’t even a “government option,” which might have offered a tiny bit of competition, forcing the private companies to keep prices a little lower.

But Obama says an insurance company can’t charge you more if you develop medical problems. No, but it can charge you more every year, as you get older. Given that most illnesses occur as you age, insurance companies will simply charge you more for your older age–including even when you don’t get sicker!

Obama says they can’t deny you coverage for a pre-existing condition–no, but for the next four years you can get that coverage only from a high-risk, very high-premium pool–like those that already exist in most states! After that no one knows, because the “regulations” haven’t been written yet!

Penalizing People for Not Buying Insurance

What happens if you don’t buy the insurance? You will have to pay a penalty, a penalty which will get bigger year after year. In other words, you won’t have insurance, but you will pay!

What about the so-called subsidy you’re supposed to get if you can’t afford insurance? It will cover only the part of the insurance that exceeds 9.5% of your income–if your income is $50,000, you will pay nearly $5,000 in insurance premiums, plus two or three thousand dollars in “deductible” charges each year before the insurance kicks in, plus a 10 or 20% co-pay on services, etc. etc. etc.

In reality the subsidy will be enough only to let you buy so-called “catastrophic” coverage, which covers no regular medical expenses–no drugs, no doctor’s visits, no exams, no clinical tests, etc.–only hospitalization.

Yes, if your income is low enough you can qualify for Medicaid–which doesn’t mean you can see a doctor. Two years ago already, only 1/3 of family doctors and 1/3 of gynecologists would take Medicaid patients–and that was before states instituted all the cuts in Medicaid payments over these past two years. Some states have even cut out CHIP–the government program insuring children of the working poor.

Add insult to injury–the very same “reform” bill supposedly extending Medicaid has established a “commission” to look for ways to cut Medicaid!

“Reform”? No this is an outright attack on the very people it pretends to serve.

And Who Else Will Pay?

Under the guise of paying for this “reform,” the government will tax insurance policies provided by employers. A 40% tax will be tacked onto so-called “Cadillac” plans, a tax that will be passed on to those who have insurance in the form of higher co-payments, higher premiums and reduced services. Half of all health benefits provided under union contract fall into this category. And two thirds of big employers, when surveyed, have already said they intend to cut benefits as the result of this reform.

Retired people on Medicare will pay. The Congressional Budget Office just estimated that the government will save 427 billion dollars on Medicare as the result of this “reform.”

Workers and retired people are not paying to insure the uninsured. They are paying so the government can cut down on its budget deficit–a deficit produced by the bank bail-outs.

A Profit-making Scam? Dressed up as a Social “Reform”

Obama says his “reform” is comparable to the big social reforms of the last century: Social Security and Medicare.

Obama lies! Both of these programs were socially organized and funded, with workers and their employers paying into a central fund, held and disbursed by the federal government. The organization of Social Security and Medicare effectively excluded private profit-makers from putting their hands deeply into the pie–it’s what has made them so much more efficient and less costly than anything else.

The new medical care “reform” is not a socially organized program. It doesn’t touch the profits of these big companies that grow fat off the misery of a population badly served by medical care.

It is simply one more rip-off of the population to pump up the profits of big financial interests and their friends.