January 31st, 2021
Joe Biden is off to a promising start. Nobody outside of Qtrumpville disputes that. He’s signed dozens of executive orders undoing many of the most hateful and cruel executive orders Trump signed. He plans to use the Reconciliation process to get a solid COVID relief bill through the Senate, and it looks like he has the 50 votes needed. Due to a quirk in the annual budgeting process (caused, ironically, by Republican intransigence) he’ll get a second opportunity this spring to use the reconciliation process, and various high-priority and dire items need to be addressed. Climate crisis, infrastructure, education, voting reform, campaign financing reform, minimum wage, racial justice…it seems an endless list, indicative of a nation left reeling and on the ropes by the nihilistic fascists of the GOP.
Major health care reform is very high on that long, long list of things that need to be done. The American system is the worst in the developed world, cruel, inefficient, and devoted not to treating the ill and injured, but to lining the pockets of insurance companies, the Catholic Church (which owns a majority of hospitals in America), lawyers, medical suppliers, and the pharmaceutical companies. It’s a disgrace, one in which people are dying because they can’t afford insulin and other common drugs necessary to treat the sorts of illnesses that are commonplace.
It’s cruel and viciously inefficient, but the medical profiteers don’t care: it’s a feature, not a flaw, because it enhances profits. And they use a small portion of those profits to buy up whores in Congress eager to sell out the United States because they love America. (America without the United States is just a wasted patch of land separating Canada from Mexico, but with the pretense of a nation in place, it is a cash cow for billionaires and international corporations.)
Medicare For All, the simple expansion to provide Medicare for all residents of America, is the easiest answer. The profiteers will fight it tooth and nail, of course, since they stand to lose trillions in profits, and will send their soulless minions out to spend billions of dollars assuring the American people that expansion of a largely successful and comparatively efficient system will turn the US into a Soviet wasteland in which people die because they can’t afford aspirin. Something like what we have now, only the party apparatchiks are corporate and church, rather than the state. A lot of businesses that don’t have a thing to do with health care will fight it because controlling their employees’ access to health care gives them more power over those employees, and a controlled workforce is a good thing.
In reality, Medicare for All will be a huge step forward. Various projections, even those provided by private insurance companies, indicate savings to the nation of anywhere from a half a trillion a year all the way up to 3.5 trillion.
Why such a huge range in estimated savings? Part of it is bias on the part of who is doing the estimating, of course. Aetna and Bernie Sanders could come up with the same proposals and data and be quite far apart on their hypothetical bottom lines. And private medical providers like to continue to keep their own presence in because profits. They know that a unified health coverage would save billions just in paperwork and redundancy alone.
Bad enough that it provides a raft of subsidies and entitlements to Big Pharma. A lot of those go to underwrite research of new drugs, which quickly became a joke since it’s mostly public universities and overseas firms that do the actual research, whereas “research” by American pharmaceuticals often amounts to legal studies on how to extend a trademark on a profitable drug by making it mint flavored or something.
Another provision was Medicare Part D, which mandated private insurance or personal wealth for drugs for amounts over $2,400 a year, creating an often insurmountable burden on retirees and low-wage workers. Obamacare lessened the burden, but didn’t get rid of it. It must go.
Finally, the Act forbade the government from negotiating drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies. Can you imagine running a business where you cannot bargain shop? Maybe in the Soviet Union, or its private sector alternate, the United States. But the provision left the companies free to charge whatever the hell they wanted, with the grotesque results we see today.
Billy Tauzin, R-LA, pushed through that particular poison pill, and was lavishly rewarded after he retired from Congress the following year.
Getting rid of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act alone will save trillions. Combining it with Medicare for All, and you would see the United States going from the worst medical system in the developed world to the best, where it was before Nixon inflicted HMOs on us and the US began a precipitous slide into a capitalistic nightmare of gouging, greed, and inefficiency.
It’s problematic what Biden can do against the trillions that will be spent to defend those profits, and the fascist lapdogs in the Republican caucus, but he can at the very least be a bully pulpit, informing and educating people as to what a parasitic rip off the medical system is, and who makes all the money denying us basic medical care. Anyone who says medical care isn’t a right is a thief, or a lickspittle for thieves.
We may never have a better opportunity to get these thieves off our backs.