Obamacare is unraveling, not because the administration is particularly incompetent or unlucky, and certainly not as a result of the Republicans’ unrelenting hostility to the Obama health insurance plan. Indeed, ever since the bill’s passage in early 2010, the GOP’s holy war against Obamacare has served to solidify reflexive Democratic support for what has always been a Republican-inspired bill.
The truth is, the Affordable Health Care Act is coming undone because of its own, tortured internal logic. At root, it is a fraud on the public: a scheme to subsidize and more deeply embed a private insurance system that can only make profits by denying sick and vulnerable people health care, and playing different demographics of Americans against each other. As every other industrialized country in the world has already learned, it is impossible to build a genuine, universal healthcare system on a cut-throat capitalist foundation. Private insurers make money by betting against the health interests of their customers. Obama served his corporate masters by conspiring to make tens of millions more Americans into customers of private insurers. He tried to dress up one of the greatest corporate subsidies in history as if it were a solemn national mission, a rebirth of the social compact between the American people. But of course, Obamacare is no such thing; it is a racket to prop up private insurers with public money, while allowing the profiteers to continue to run the show.
You can’t hide a truth that big. The Obamacare website has suffered from terminal complexity because white collar crime is usually quite complex. The web site attempts to reconcile the profit margins and various products of a universe of private insurance corporations, while at the same time pretending to serve the health needs of the people at an affordable cost. Obamacare claims to be in the business of serving both the public and corporate stockholders. But that’s mission impossible. If Obamacare is based on making profits for private corporations – if that is what keeps the system going – then the public’s health care needs will always be an afterthought. And, that will be obvious in the way that the website is organized as a sales platform that matches federal subsidies with corporate products, rather than matching people with the medical resources they need to survive and thrive.
Website complexity and failures aside, Obamacare can never become part of a national social compact, something of which all Americans can be proud. That’s because, by definition, corporate insurance schemes divide people into “winners” and “losers” – although, of course, the big winner is always the corporation. Young, healthy people know they are the fatted calves of the insurance business, and they are avoiding Obamacare like the plague. If this were really a national health care program, like Medicare for All, then most young people would join in the national health care mission. But this is just Obama working a scam for the insurance companies, and young folks know it. Anybody who manages to get access to the web site knows it.
The fatal flaw in Obamacare can’t be fixed. The best thing that could happen would be a quick and total collapse. Large majorities of Americans still support Medicare for All, but Obamacare stands in the way of a real national health plan – just as the Republican right-wingers that invented Obamacare back in 1989 intended.
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
- That Popping Noise? The Obamacare Bubble! (correntewire.com)
Here I sit, in West Virginia, staring down at January 1, 2014.
That’s when my health insurance policy expires and I have a decision to make — renew or not renew?
Right now, I’m paying about $7,000 a year in premiums for a monster deductible and yearly out of pocket of about $15,000 for myself and my family.
My health insurance company informed me yesterday that my premium will be doubled to $14,000 on January 1.
I’ve been trying to get onto the Obamacare web site now for ten days to search for an alternative. No luck. I made it through four pages yesterday — then got a message saying I’d have to wait because there was too much traffic. When I clicked the continue button, it wiped out the information I had typed into the first three pages.
But even if I do get onto the exchanges, it’s probably not going to matter.
I read in a newspaper that Highmark is the only health insurance company on the exchange in West Virginia. Yesterday, I called Highmark and spent an hour on the phone with a nice young man — but the results were not good. The skimpiest plan is going to cost me more than I’m paying now for a higher deductible and out of pocket result.
Thank you Obamacare.
My insurance agent told me yesterday I had only one alternative — wait for six years until Medicare kicks in and keep fighting for single payer.
Obviously, the Democrats and anyone who defends them are not going to be of any help in the next round. They are irrevocably tied to President Obama and Obamacare and even those Democrats nominally in favor of single payer refuse to criticize it for the industry written law that it is.
I agree with Dr. Quentin Young of Physicians for a National Health Program when he says that Obamacare should have been defeated because it enshrines and solidifies corporate domination of the health care system.
But what to do next? Well, first thing is to watch a movie called Healthcare — The Movie. It’s a short documentary — 62 minutes — but packs a big punch. The movie was produced by a husband wife team — the wife Canadian — Laurie Simons — and the husband American — Terry Sterrenberg.
The movie toggles back and forth between the USA and Canada — with Americans struggling with bankruptcy, death from lack of health insurance and the dark cloud of health insurance armageddon menacing their lives from cradle to an often early grave.
The Canadians, by contrast, are living in a relative health care nirvana, thanks in large part to Tommy Douglas, a boxer and Premier of Saskatchewan who stood up to the red baiting being dished out at the time by the Canadian medical establishment. Douglas emerged victorious and his efforts resulted in the creation of Canada’s single payer Medicare for all. The movie is narrated by actor Kiefer Sutherland — Tommy Douglas’ grandson.
The film features great historic clips — including a remarkable scene where a CBC television show host asks the question — who is the greatest Canadian? And then, in reality show format, puts it up to a vote.
“After six weeks, ten finalists, and more than a million votes,” the CBC host says, “it ended tonight with one name. And I have the envelope here. The greatest Canadian as decided by you is — Tommy Douglas.”
Imagine that — the country says that Tommy Douglas, the father of single payer in Canada, is greater than its greatest hockey player — Wayne Gretzky.
Tommy Douglas’ courageous act — standing up for the people of Canada against the vicious attacks of the powers that be — has resulted in a system that delivers health care for all Canadians — no complex bills, no deductibles, no deaths from lack of health insurance, no medical bankruptcies — all funded by a progressive tax system.
The movie profiles Canadians with serious medical illness — who come out financially unscathed — no bills, no bankruptcy, no health related financial worries.
And then compares those Canadians to the suffering human beings south of the border.
The movie does a good job of making us Americans feel like crap compared to our cousins up north.
Check out this sequence, for example:
How many people in the United States die each year because they have no health insurance?
How many people in Canada die each year because they have no health insurance?
How many people go bankrupt each year in the United States because of medical expenses?
How many people go bankrupt each year in Canada because of medical expenses?
How many Americans do not have health insurance?
How many Canadians do not have health insurance?
How many Americans go without medical care because of costs?
How many Canadians go without medical care because of costs?
One of the stars of this film is a young American from Portland, Oregon named Lindsay Caron.
“I was a free-lance artist for a long time,” Caron says. “I gave that up to go sit in an office and file papers so that I could have health care. And it amazed me that other people in other countries never had to think about that. I kept hearing that Canada’s system was broken, and that Canadians were flocking over the border to get US care. And so I wanted to go to Canada with a camera and ask a couple hundred people. I bought a ticket up to Vancouver, Canada. I rented camera equipment. And I took my bicycle. I thought maybe I would stay in Vancouver for a couple of days and cycle on back to Portland. I ended staying there the whole week. I got up in the morning, set up a camera on the street and just start asking people questions.”
Caron finds out what polls in Canada consistently confirm — that the vast majority of Canadians would never in a thousand years give up their Medicare coverage for the nightmare south of the border.
It all came about because Tommy Douglas had the guts to stand up to the political and medical establishment and do what is right for the Canadian people.
Canada did it.
There is no reason we can’t do it.
It’s simply a matter of reordering our priorities.
Let’s put aside, for a moment, our millions of copies of Grand Theft Auto 5 and start playing a new game — Grand Theft — Health Insurance.
The goal of the game is to become a boxer, like Tommy Douglas — and fight back against the insurance industry and its Frankenstein monster — Obamacare.
Replace it with single payer.
Russell Mokhiber edits Single Payer Action.
That is undoubtedly the question that many NYT readers were asking when they read an article warning that insurance companies in the exchanges were not paying enough money to attract many doctors. At one point the piece told readers;
“Dr. Barbara L. McAneny, a cancer specialist in Albuquerque, said that insurers in the New Mexico exchange were generally paying doctors at Medicare levels, which she said were ‘often below our cost of doing business, and definitely below commercial rates.’”
The claim that Medicare payments are “below our cost of doing business” might seem rather dubious to readers since most doctors accept Medicare patients. The median earnings of physicians are well over $200,000 a year (net of malpractice insurance), which means they are heavily represented in the one percent. Given their extraordinary incomes, which they vigorously protect by excluding foreign and domestic competition, it seems implausible that many doctors are willing to lose money by treating Medicare patients.
It is more likely that doctors are getting less than their desired pay when they treat Medicare patients, but still pocketing far more money than the overwhelming majority workers for their time. It would have been useful to clarify this point for readers rather than letting Doctor McAneny’s assertion pass unchallenged.
- Study debunks myth of doctors fleeing Medicare (dailykos.com)
The NYT has difficulty finding pundits who can write knowledgeably about economics. Thomas Friedman made this point in his Sunday column. At one point he quotes Gary Green, the president of Forsyth Technical Community College, in Winston-Salem, N.C.:
“‘We have a labor surplus in this country and a labor shortage at the same time,’ Green explained to me. Workers in North Carolina, particularly in textiles and furniture, who lost jobs either to outsourcing or the recession in 2008, often ‘do not have the skills required to get a new job today’ in the biotech, health care and manufacturing centers that are opening in the state.
“If before, he added, ‘you just needed a high school shop class or a short postsecondary certificate to work in a factory, now you need an associate degree in machining,’ a two-year program that requires higher math, I.T. and systems skills. In addition, some employers are now demanding that you not only have an associate degree but that nationally recognized skill certifications be incorporated into the curriculum to show that you have mastered the skills they want, like computer-integrated machining.”
Actually there are simple ways to identify labor shortages. First and foremost we should be seeing rapidly rising wages. If employers cannot get the workers they need then they raise the wages they offer to pull workers away from other employers. This is how markets work. (We should also see longer workweeks and increased vacancies.)
In fact there is no major sector of the economy where wages are rising rapidly. This shows rather conclusively that workers do not have skill shortages although it may be the case that many managers are so ignorant of markets that they don’t know that the way to attract better workers is to raise wages. Of course that would suggest the need to better train managers, not workers.
At one point the piece tells readers;
“We need to reform Social Security and Medicare so they can support all the baby boomers about to retire. ….
“As Bloomberg News reported on Monday: ‘Typical wage-earners retiring in 2010 will receive at least $3 for every $1 they contributed to the Medicare health-insurance program, according to an Urban Institute study.’ That’s unsustainable.”
It would have been helpful if Freidman had also mentioned that the same Urban Institute study shows workers already paying slightly more into Social Security than they get back. Yet Friedman wants to cut benefits.
The main reason that the Medicare benefits workers receive are more than they pay in taxes is we pay more than twice as much per person as people in other wealthy countries for our health care. This is due to the fact that we pay close to twice as much for our doctors, drugs, and medical equipment. It is not due to the fact that we get better care. This might suggest the need to reduce payments to health care providers rather than cut Medicare. Of course health care providers are a powerful lobby that Friedman apparently does not want to anger.