Let’s get three things straight about the health care “debate” in America:
· “Access to” health care is not health care.
· “Health insurance” is not health care.
· “Civilized nations” protect their citizens’ physical and mental well-being with freely available, high-quality health care, and have been doing so for more than 100 years.
If you need some very old words to help you decide, consider this passage from the Christian Bible: “’Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.’” And what about Gandhi? “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”
You are going to hear the word “Trumpcare” applied to the Republican-Libertarian endgame for health care in America. Many of us know by now that this health care plan is a mistake for many reasons, one of the most outrageous reasons being how completely the GOP has turned its back on people in need.
The Cruelty of ‘Trumpcare’
You don’t have to look very far to uncover the several very specific types of cruelty lurking in the “American Health Care Act.” For example, included in the Republican Party’s plans to “overhaul” Medicaid is the promise to strip $880 billion from the program.
Who benefits from this type of funding? Children, mostly. About 36 million children under the age of 18 receive health care coverage through Medicaid. In fact, children represent just over half of all participants in Medicaid.
Together, in 2016, Medicaid and CHIP — or the Children’s Health Insurance Program — provided health coverage to nearly half of America’s special-needs children. As you may recall, CHIP was one of the government programs Republicans held hostage as they negotiated for stricter immigration policies. CHIP covers 9 million children and shuts off like a spigot every time either party grinds the government into another shutdown.
Adding universal health care to the list of things we collectively pay into and benefit from is not a crazy leap to make. If implemented correctly, as American progressives wish to do, the increase in taxes necessary for this expansion of our safety net will only affect — and then, only barely — the absolute richest people and companies, many of whom pay zero effective taxes currently.
This idea is about raising the minimum standard of living for everybody — just as we did when we dreamed up Social Security. We thought, “Nobody should face the possibility of retiring in poverty or working until they die.”
But many Republicans called Social Security “slavery,” just like they cried “slavery” about Obamacare. Many of them have been calling common-sense ideas “tyranny” for longer than you or I have been alive.
But what is tyranny, if not getting in between somebody who’s suffering and the means to address their suffering? “Trumpcare” provides “health care” the same way Pepsi provides hydration. It’s unpalatable, it only barely gets the job done for the people who can afford it — and, if you cannot afford it, you have even bigger problems on your hands.
What People Want From American Health Care…
We already know what ultra-conservative politicians and their corporate puppet masters want the American health care system to be: They want a very loosely regulated shopping mall where privately owned, privately profitable corporations can sell inexpensive, bare-bones health care plans or outrageously expensive satisfactory ones.
Slapping a price tag on every essential service and commodity only works in a world where everybody is guaranteed a minimum wage, and where that minimum wage accurately reflects the current prices of those services and commodities. Presently, America’s corporate-controlled health care system and its paltry minimum wage are not meeting these requirements.
Moreover, giving privately owned corporations fewer and fewer rules when it comes to ethics and coverage practices for something as hugely important to us as health care — versus allowing an accountable government to negotiate on behalf of Medicaid and Medicare customers, for example — is nothing but a recipe for cronyism and large-scale fraud at the corporate level.
In other words, it’s extremely common for independent health insurance companies to defraud the federal government — not to mention patients — by overstating services provided or ordering unnecessary tests. Obamacare was a small step toward closing some of the loopholes that result in these abuses. These republicans want to tear that progress apart — and then go even further backward.
Most Americans support the idea of universal health care. Not universal “health insurance,” not universal “access to” health care, but a system in which sick people can get the care they need without going bankrupt to pay for it. What a concept!
Here are just a few of the nations that began providing citizens with universal health care before “exceptional” America, and the years in which they did so:
· Norway (1912)
· New Zealand (1938)
· Japan (1938)
· Germany (1941)
· Belgium (1945)
· United Kingdom (1948)
· Kuwait (1950)
· Sweden (1955)
· Bahrain (1957)
Should we continue? There are several dozen countries whose leaders concluded one measure of a country’s greatness is how completely and gladly it provides for and protects its citizens’ happiness, prosperity, access to opportunity and peace of mind in the form of care and medicine for their mental and physical health.
…And What We’re Getting Instead
If our Republican representatives don’t succeed this year at dismantling our tiny baby steps toward a more social health care industry in America, they’ll try again next year. And the next. Here’s another look at the vulnerable populations their fetishization of “marketplace ideology” is actively targeting:
· The American Health Care Act would cumulatively rob 24 million people of coverage — including 14 million people under Medicaid, who are typically the working poor who can’t afford coverage any other way.
· The AHCA would impose a new “per capita cap” on Medicaid spending that would strip the program of billions of dollars of funding over the next decade and put seniors and the disabled at risk — most of whom had peace of mind even before Obamacare became law.
· The AHCA would also turn its back on the opioid crisis that’s cutting huge swaths through the poorest communities in America. Their intention is to shift almost the entire burden onto states and cease even the little relief they’ve provided so far.
Again, calling this a “health care” plan is disingenuous to the point of lunacy. This isn’t health care — it’s what happens when your entire country’s treasury is being gutted for the next 40 years.
And yet, we know about all of the strong economic arguments for universal health care. Both data and history thoroughly support them. Trouble is, if even money can’t sway us on this, none of the moral arguments stand a chance.