Saturday, August 1, 2009

Why Lobbyists Love Health Care Reform

The more we learn about the Democrats’ plan for health care, the more it seems that, though it might help to cover more people—which would be good—it really won’t address the underlying problem. That problem is simply put: as long as health care is a multi-billion dollar industry run not to care for people but to make huge profits, the profit makers will find ways to continue to drive themselves into profit Valhalla, and the public into sickness and ruin.

As confirmation, we have a recent report, by the Associated Press no less, informing us why there will indeed be a health care bill this year, even though the industry, and their Republican (and Democratic) stooges would prefer to keep things as they are. The report—“Lobbyists the silver lining in health care storm?” by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar—tells us why “the drug industry, the American Medical Association, hospital groups and the insurance lobby are all saying Congress must make major changes this year.” What? THEY want health care reform? How could this be?

The answer is elementary. First, they see the writing on the wall: Joe Sixpack can’t afford health care any more. Second, government programs have “gotten increasingly friendly to private insurance companies,” giving them “major roles as middlemen” in Medicare and Medicaid. You know, like Bush’s great prescription-drug boondoggle for Medicare, called, cynically, Medicare Advantage.

But the real bonanza for these guys is the central requirement, in both House and Senate plans, to require health care for all. That is, the new plan will require everybody to buy coverage. And what will this do? Why it will “guarantee a steady stream of customers subsidized by taxpayers not only for insurers, but for all medical providers.” In other words, 47 million more customers will now have to procure health insurance. And if they can’t afford it—otherwise, why wouldn’t they have it in the first place—good old Uncle Sam, which is the taxpayer, will help them to pay for it. No matter how high the costs go.

Dr. Marcia Angell, who was a guest on Bill Moyers’ show last Friday, said essentially the same thing. Unless, she said, there’s a change in the system—the economic system of unfettered capitalism willing to sacrifice anyone and everything for profit—all President Obama’s health care reform will do is increase the profits for private health care companies, doctors, and hospitals by presenting them with a CAPTIVE MARKET—i.e., of Americans now REQUIRED to buy health care.

The thing is, we already know how this turns out. Massachusetts and a half dozen other states have already enacted this kind of reform, giving subsidies to the poor in order for them to buy insurance from the private health industry. And it has turned out to be more expensive, not less. So it appears that the only way our obscene medical costs will ever be reduced is by means of a government-run plan (the so-called “public option” the Republicans have tried to characterize as, ugh, socialism!), or, even better, a single-payer plan like Medicare. It would be a real plan that, by virtue of the numbers enrolled and the government’s power of mass purchasing, for instance from drug companies, but also from doctors and hospitals, would be able to reverse the trend of ever more expensive treatments for the ever more numerous conditions the industry can soak us for. Without that—and it is not clear at this moment if a “public option” will survive the congressional bartering and lobbying process—the sharks will remain in business, with the predators growing ever fatter, and thus ever more able to bludgeon our so-called representatives in our so-called representative democracy (including the President himself) into doing their multibillion-dollar bidding.

Lawrence DiStasi

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