The fight for quality affordable healthcare for all as a human right is once again heating up. Demonstrations and rallies are taking place across the country against repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and in defense of Medicare and Medicaid.
Neil Yonts, Democrat, a coal miner for 35 years from Kentucky, voted for Trump because he said he’ll bring coal back. Now Neil, who has Black lung, thinks it might have been a mistake. If Obamacare is nixed, Black lung benefits for miners and widows could disappear. And healthcare for miners like Neil would be unaffordable. Thus thousands, from retired coal miners in the coal fields of eastern Kentucky and West Virginia to the increasingly dispossessed auto workers in Macomb County, Michigan, parents and young adults, doctors and others are voicing their opposition to repeal.
On the other hand, for millions more, health care is not affordable even with Obamacare and extension of Medicaid. Premiums, deductibles and co-payments have increased, forcing choices between healthcare and other necessities. Millions, including many migrants and undocumented workers, are excluded from healthcare insurance. And some states have refused to expand Medicaid, leaving millions who are most in need uninsured (75% of those are in the South). The poisoned people of Flint have yet to all receive healthcare. For these workers, the fight is for public healthcare that includes all, whether they can pay or not.
Our current system is the most expensive, bureaucratic, wasteful and ineffective in the world. According to key indicators—life expectancy, infant mortality, and preventable deaths—we don’t even rank in the top ten. We spend $3.2 trillion a year on healthcare, double what the United Kingdom spends. So while the healthcare industry makes hundreds of billions a year in profits, tens of millions of Americans have totally inadequate coverage and many suffer and die unnecessarily.
Originally designed to guarantee profits for insurance companies, corporate health care providers and pharmaceutical companies, Obamacare came under attack by those same interests as profits fell. Backed by insurance companies and their paid representatives in Congress (hundreds of thousands of dollars in hush money), a campaign was waged against the Affordable Care Act, first by associating it with the Black president by labeling it “Obamacare.” By telling those with rising costs and high premiums that they are “paying for the poor,” i.e., “undeserving Blacks,” the entire population became immobilized in fighting for quality healthcare for all workers.
As the representatives of the healthcare corporations move to guarantee that they have access to the trillions of healthcare dollars—providing healthcare to only those who can pay its skyrocketing cost— we, the people, must demand that health care not be sold as a commodity to profit corporations. Healthcare must be a human right provided to all.
As technology eliminates more and more jobs, we will have to move toward a cooperative society where we, the people, not a handful of billionaires, own the means of producing what we need, and everything, including healthcare, is distributed based on need.
We can take a step in that direction by doing what most other advanced countries have done: create a publicly financed health system that nationalizes every aspect of healthcare—doctors, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, emergency services, etc.—and that guarantees high quality healthcare to everyone.