◻︎ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: FRIDAY, MARCH 10, 2017
Republicans have hated Obamacare from the start. The term “Obamacare” was initially coined as an epithet against the Affordable Care Act (ACA). And it worked to a degree. For years “Obamacare” rated poorly in opinion polls. If polls asked about the “ACA,” however, responses were better. And when polling asked about specific provisions of Obamacare/ACA, the response was often quite positive — with the exception of the mandate. Acknowledged. Only gluttons for punishment liked the mandate.
Unfortunately, the mandate — a penalty extracted by IRS from those who fail to buy insurance — is the glue that holds Obamacare together. Obamacare’s biggest failing, and my biggest criticism of it, is the fact it’s based on the for-profit insurance industry. To make a profit, insurance companies need a large body of healthy young people paying into the system. Without them there’s not enough money, and without enough money there’s no profit. And with no profit, shareholders are unhappy. And that’s bad. Because in for-profit health care, “Happy Shareholders is Job 1.”
Enter “Trumpcare,” the American Health Care Act . I think “Abominable Health Care Act” is more apropos. This week House Republicans introduced the long-promised “replace” to go with the long-promised repeal. Both the bill and the process have been a train wreck from the very start. The Republicans have been railing against Obamacare since it passed in December 2009. They’ve pledged “repeal and replace” for seven years. You would think by now they’d have a carefully designed and vetted plan ready to go.
Not so. Perhaps they never believed they’d have the opportunity to actually repeal and replace. All I know is that when the Republicans swept Washington in the November elections they found themselves scrambling. Republicans this week look like a student who ignored his term paper until 10:00 the night before it was due. Just slap something together and turn it in!
Like I say, it’s a train wreck. The Republicans aren’t even united behind their own plan — and none of them know what the cost or impact will be. They introduced it and rushed to hearings before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reviewed it. And now, before it has a chance to report, Republicans and the White House are disparaging the CBO saying it’s unreliable and does faulty work. Apparently they expect a bad assessment from CBO, so they’re running advance interference.
In addition, a crowded and growing list of organizations are finishing their own reviews and lining up in opposition. These include AARP, the American Hospital Association, Federation of American Hospitals, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American College of Physicians, MoveOn.org, Center for American Progress, and more. There’s opposition on the left and the right.
The White House and Congressional leadership, of course, support the bill. Buddy Carter (R-GA), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told Shepard Smith on Fox News that the new plan is designed to ensure the U.S. health care system will remain the finest in the world. Finest in the world?
Think again. The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks the United States at #37! Great Britain and Canada rate higher than us, and France is #1. Cuba ranks just below us at #39 despite the embargo and everything else the U.S. has done for half a century trying to strangle the country.
As you may notice, I’m not drilling down here to examine the specific pros and cons of the new Republican plan. Having just been introduced, numerous assessment are in progress at this moment. Watch the papers. Early reports, however, suggest the new plan won’t cover as many people as Obamacare, or do so as affordably. And even if it will, that’s not good enough. No health care plan based on the private, for-profit insurance industry is acceptable.
The thing that France (#1), Great Britain (#18), Canada (#30) and Cuba (#39) have in common is a national health care system provided by the government — a “ single-payer system.” Health care is a right in these countries. It’s free, or nearly free, and available to everyone from cradle to grave. Coverage ranges from preventative medicine all the way to terminal illness and hospice care. No one in these countries goes bankrupt or loses their home because of catastrophic illness.
Some will undoubtedly condemn these systems as socialized medicine. They’ll tell us that people have to wait for months to see a doctor and once they do, the care is substandard. Everyone knows that socialized medicine is terrible, they’ll say.
Did I mention that France is ranked the best health care system in the world? Did I mention the United States is just a notch or two above Cuba, essentially a poor Third World nation?
The United States certainly has the capacity to provide superior health care, but it’s not treated as a right in this country. Health care here is treated as a commodity to be purchased. If you can afford it, you get it. If you can’t, you don’t. And if you get really sick, you can end up pauperized and in the street. Except perhaps during the 2008 financial crisis, catastrophic illness is the leading cause of bankruptcy and home foreclosures. Even people with good plans can find themselves exhausting their coverage limits.
Filmmaker Michael Moore is a controversial figure. A lot of people don’t like him and there’s plenty I disagree with him about. That said, I strongly urge everyone to set aside any biases and watch Moore’s 2007 movie, Sicko. I frankly consider it Required Viewing for everyone. Moore looks at health care in the United States, Canada, France, Britain and Cuba.
For your convenience and as a preview, I’ve assembled a collection of excerpts below. But I don’t want you to feel it’s all just Michael Moore propaganda, so I start with a report on France from CBS News.
As you watch these videos, think about life here in the United States. How much better, easier and more just would life be here in the U.S. if we could implement free cradle to grave health care? And it’s possible!
If all leading industrial nations can do it, and if Cuba can do it, certainly the United States can — supposedly the richest nation on Earth.
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