As we go to press, Congress is still arguing over healthcare. The bottom line is that we, the people, need healthcare for all, no exceptions. At a minimum we need a single-payer system. But none of the recent Republican bills are acceptable, and the Democrats refuse to unite behind a single-payer bill.
Protests have erupted across the country, including many on Capitol Hill, where disabled people in wheelchairs and on respirators came to denounce the dismantling of Medicaid contained in the Senate bill. One group of protesters chanted, “We won’t let our people die!”
“I can’t bring myself to call the bill a health care bill at all. It is a death bill. It robs from the poor to give to those who already have luxuries beyond our imagination,” said Rev. Jennifer Butler. “It is time to stop calling God by other names when you really want to call God ‘capitalism,’” said Rev. Traci Blackmon. “This [government] should be where we come for help. Yet, we are coming, crying out on behalf of the people to stop some of the most egregious legislation that we have seen in a long time.”
Why the assault on people’s healthcare and the ongoing efforts to restructure healthcare? Technology is eliminating jobs permanently and driving down wages for those still working. This means fewer and fewer people can afford to buy things, so it’s getting harder and harder for the corporations to make a profit by selling things. So they are trying desperately to boost their profits by cutting the cost of doing business, and by diverting public money to the corporations and the rich.
For the corporations as a whole, like the auto companies, healthcare is a cost of doing business, and the US spends nearly twice as much on healthcare as any other country. For the $3 trillion healthcare industry, healthcare is a source of profit. The corporations don’t want to provide healthcare for workers they can’t employ, and the healthcare industry wants to keep its profits up. The rich folk are fighting among themselves over how to sort out their own competing interests. But there are few in Congress who are speaking for the people.
There is no doubt that real healthcare reform is needed. Even with the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) and its Medicaid expansion, there are still millions without healthcare, and rural hospitals are closing. But nearly all the healthcare “fixes” put forward by the corporate parties (Democrats and Republicans) so far revolve around continuing to use government funds to subsidize the privately owned healthcare industry, giving huge tax breaks to the pharmaceutical and health insurance companies and the rich, and cutting back on care. The most recent Senate bill would dismantle Medicaid as we know it. People will die, and the stage will be set to take away anyone’s healthcare.
Thousands of people are going on the offensive for healthcare for all. We need a system that guarantees actual healthcare for every single person, regardless of ability to pay. Single-payer is a first step, and any single-payer system created must eliminate the private health insurers and create one government-run insurance system. It’s worth noting that Rep. John Conyers’ single-payer bill, HR 676, would do this by improving Medicare and extending it to everyone. Conyers has introduced HR 676 in every Congress since 2003, and it now has over 100 co-sponsors, more than ever before.
Eventually the people need to take over the whole healthcare system, so that even the hospitals and drug companies, the medical supply companies, etc., are publicly owned. Either we are going to protect the property rights of the wealthy, or we are going to do what is right for the people, but it can’t be both.