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Why health care reform has no teeth

During the Democratic primary debates I would scream at the television screen as both candidates carried on about “universal insurance.” I said then, and I say now, that they don’t get it.

For-profit insurance is the problem, and all reform plans considered “on the table” do nothing to address it. In fact, plans that don’t include a public option but that require universal insurance, like the one proposed by the Senate Finance Committee this week, are just a gift to the insurance industry, much like the proposed privatization of Social Security would have been a gift to investment banks. It makes cries from the extreme right about socialism even more absurd than usual.

The following PBS interview is fairly long at thirty minutes, but it lays out the problem in franker terms than you’re likely to find in the media blitz surrounding the topic.

When people ask me what my problem is, why I don’t believe in the power of change, I tell them that we elected a center-right corporatist unwilling or unable to confront big business on any meaningful issue. To be fair, this is Congress’s bill, and they’re farther to the right than he is and much, much more beholden to industry. But the fact remains that FDR didn’t talk about public-private partnerships for the public good; he talked about the federal government employing people directly, without ten levels of subcontractors, to build something that would benefit society for generations to come. If Obama wants me to believe that his is a transformative presidency, then he needs to demonstrate that he, unlike his predecessors since hated Reagan, believes in direct government action to solve society’s problems — an idea so old and out of circulation that it seems new to us.

Posted in Politics.


2 Responses

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  1. Bryan says

    As you know, I basically agree with you on health care. But here’s (perhaps) a little consolation about the way things are going. We’re heading down very much the same path that Britain did — 30 years before they adopted their current not-for-profit, government-run medical system.

    With the National Insurance Act of 1911, the UK implemented a public-insurance program, not unlike the one we’re currently considering. That gave everyone health insurance for the first time. Private insurance started to become less important. And after a couple of decades, people basically wanted more out of the program — almost everyone was using it, but it wasn’t providing good enough care. So in 1948, the UK created their (current) National Health Service. With that, there was no more use for private insurance companies, and they finally disappeared.

    Think about how deeply ingrained private medical insurance is in the US. It’s actually going to take some time to dismantle that time-bomb. But government-funded public insurance might just be the very, very beginning of that dismantling.

    • Zach Musgrave says

      All that only applies if we actually get a public option out of this bill. As things stand, I’m not convinced we will.



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