In the aftermath of World War II, a Western Europe scarred by a protracted ground war and massive aerial bombardment unprecedented in human history, faced mammoth economic challenges. In spite of that, motivated by the fundamental human drive to care for one another, many of their devastated nations took the occasion to guarantee health care to every last one of their citizens.
In 1945, President Harry Truman announced that “the time has arrived” for America to guarantee care to our sick. He had proposed that we enshrine “the right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.” At sixty-five, that proposal has run into a Democrat death panel.
The health care reform ideas coming from the White House and congressional leaders were inadequate from the start, even before a punishing series of compromises stripped them of any hint of positive value. The final bill does more harm than good.
Our health care system is a failure. It leaves too many untreated, it favors expensive reactive medicine over smart and efficient preventive care, it contributes to innumerable bankruptcies and economic insecurities, it produces substandard results by international standards and is unbelievably wasteful. At the root of all these problems is the system of for-profit insurance.
A competitive marketplace of health care providers gives people the chance to choose the best doctors. But no one should be without insurance—without regular access to those doctors of their choosing. Monopolistic insurance companies drive the cost of health care in America through the roof with redundant bureaucratic overhead, advertising expenses, obscene executive pay (one former insider drew a dramatic line from the gold-plated silverware on the corporate jets to all the Americans with no healthcare) and all the money that is flushed out of the bottom of the system as profit. The right solution was clear—a single payer system that replaced the insurance corporations with one government plan, while maintaining a free market of doctors.
What the Congress has given us is the plan that has already failed in states like Massachusetts. Forcing people to buy private insurance is proven to fail on both fronts of the health care fight: it doesn’t get coverage to everyone and it doesn’t control costs. Single payer would do both.
President Obama recited more of his signature empty rhetoric after House passage of the health care bills. It’s hard to count how many times his remarks were 180 degrees from the truth. “We proved that this government…still works for the people,” said Obama. In fact, the health care bill is a crystal clear example of the suffocating grip corporate lobbyists (who essentially wrote it) have on the US government.
He spoke of “conviction that change in this country comes not from the top down, but from the bottom up” after he and his allies deformed the debate. They bent over backwards to silence and suppress advocates for genuine universal coverage, while promoting an impossibly compromised proposal written by the same selfish interests who should have been the targets of actual reform.
He said the bill “answers the prayers of every American who has hoped deeply for something to be done about a health care system that works for insurance companies, but not for ordinary people,” describing legislation that coerces ordinary Americans into buying coverage that is ineffectively regulated, and potentially prohibitively expensive, from insurance companies.
Perhaps most dishonestly, as he frothed to his conclusion, Obama said, “we did not shrink from our challenge. ” Shrinking from his challenge is all Obama has done on health care.
The Democrats made several attempts to stir emotions by anointing the bill as the legacy of Senator Ted Kennedy. Kennedy died this summer, but if he was behind this bill, who knows how long ago his heart died. Decades ago, he had this to say: “We cannot have a fair prosperity in isolation from a fair society. So I will continue to stand for a national health insurance…The President, the Vice President, the members of Congress have a medical plan that meets their needs in full, and whenever senators and representatives catch a little cold, the Capitol physician will see them immediately, treat them promptly, fill a prescription on the spot…If health insurance is good enough for the President, the Vice President and the Congress of the United States, then it is good enough for you and every family in America.”