The healthcare debate has gotten so weird, I think it’s time someone (I guess me) says what’s actually going on. I do not presume to have the answers to all of these problems (well, actually I think I have most of it figured out) but all I mean to do is share what appears to be happening. It is bizarre. Let’s start simple.
Obama said he wanted national healthcare, and presented Congress with a bill that would create a public health insurance option for people who can’t or won’t afford the ones offered by the private sector. It’s like having public school for people who can’t/won’t afford private, or even public libraries for people who don’t want to buy and own books. The idea was that it would save so much money by preventing poor people from showing up at the emergency room in crisis (or just being sick at all), it would pay for itself. The insurance companies got really upset, and got Republicans to argue that this would hurt competition, and upset the free market.
Obama understands this perspective: that the sanctity of the free market is in some ways more important than the health of the nation’s people, and has begun to back down. What is being ignored is that health insurance is not a free market. It is part of a monopoly of corporations currently controlling what we call healthcare in America – a healthcare system that promotes the use of costly patented pharmaceuticals over preventative care, nutrition, and basic health education. If we had a truly free healthcare market… well, don’t get me started.
But all that aside, when Obama suggests he is open to removing the national healthcare part of the national healthcare act, he is turning it from social spending to straight corporatism. Now, instead of requiring everyone have insurance, and then subsidizing a person’s participation in a government health plan, the act will still require everyone have insurance, and then subsidize a person’s participation in a private health plan. So the net effect of the law is to use public funds to subsidize a private, highly inefficient healthcare insurance industry which has been documented to care much more about profit than anyone’s health.
This is corporatism.
And it is not even a step in the right direction, not a step towards getting America healthier or more people properly insured. It promises only to exacerbate the very features of private-sector healthcare that already puts America fiftieth in the list for life expectancy and general health (Canada is 8th, UK is 36th).
But the weird part is that Republicans – in the thrall of the insurance companies – are now still making a show of arguing against the bill on grounds that it’s socialism, when in fact it’s really just corporatism or corporate welfare. This is the bill they actually want passed. But in addition to making sure it passes (all they need is enough Democrats to stupidly vote for it) they want to earn political points by arguing against the steamroller of socialism that Obama is supposedly driving over us all. Get it? It’s all backwards.