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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 8/12/17

Guess what folks, the healthcare fight is not over

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Follow Me on Twitter     Message Charles Idelson

We can all stop hyperventilating now. With the collapse of a dystopian Senate healthcare bill that would make Ebenezer Scrooge or Nero blush -- and Trump and McConnell retreating to throwing potshots at each other, everything is hunky dory now with our supposed best in the world healthcare system.

Well, maybe not.

As National Nurses United Co-President Jean Ross writes, we still have a lot of work to do.

Hardly a day passes when we don't see reminders in the news (when they can stop talking about Trump and Russia or Trump and North Korea) that there are a ton of people still struggling with lack of access to critical care or massive medical bills.

The ivory tower policy wonks, those folks who don't have to worry where their next paycheck is coming from, or whether to pay for the colonoscopy they need to reduce the risk of colon cancer or put food on the table for their kids, actually like those huge costs.

With a dysfunctional, profit-gorged healthcare system, they even have a charming name for it -- "skin in the game." It's the callous theory that making out of pocket cost so prohibitively high, millions of people will just self-ration the care they need, no matter if it puts their health at grave risk or drives up societal cost when people walk around in public with untreated communicable diseases or end up getting more expensive emergency care.

Yep, tens of millions are supposed to sacrifice their skin for the game so health care CEOs can buy more mansions and yachts, and the politicians who collect campaign checks from them can lecture us all about the "freedom" of not being able to afford health care when you are sick and in pain.

If you're keeping score at home, think about this. CEOs of the top 70 healthcare corporations have accumulated $9.8 billion in the seven years since the Affordable Care Act, still the law of the land, was enacted.

Number one on the list is a fellow named John Martin, ex-CEO of Gilead Sciences collected $863 million just by himself.

Gilead (not sure, but I think the term comes from the Latin word for extortion) makes a drug called Sovaldi, considered a key breakthrough drug for people suffering from the liver disease hepatitis C.

In its exquisite beneficence, Gilead markets Sovaldi for a mere $1,000 a pill, or $84,000 for a 12-course of treatment. The cost is so high that public programs have had to ration the drug for patients they serve or face bankruptcy. As a New Mexico nurse practitioner told The Atlantic in 2015, those who don't get Sovaldi "can die some of the worst deaths I've seen."

Nurses rally for Medicare for all
Nurses rally for Medicare for all
(Image by National Nurses United)
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Back to that note about being the best in the world. Did you know that Sovaldi sells for just $900 for the same 12-week treatment in Egypt, and for much less than in the U.S. in many other countries?

No, we're not Number 1. According to a recent comparison with 195 other countries, University of Washington researchers ranked the U.S. 35th in "amenable mortality," what the Washington Post described as deaths that "could have been avoided by timely and effective medical care."

Then again, all those other countries have a fundamental different view of health. It's not a commodity to be savagely exploited for mega profits, or ripped away as House Speaker Paul Ryan fantasized about at kegger parties in college.

In those parts of the world, healthcare is viewed as a public good, a public responsibility. Even it they have private insurers in the mix, the government still sets rates, and guarantees everyone is covered for healthcare at all times.

Nurses and healthcare and social advocates have been campaigning for sometime to establish the same sanity here as well. And we have a model to base it on. By taking one of the most popular reforms in U.S. history, Medicare, patching the holes (mostly caused by the neo-liberals who never stop trying to privatize it) and extending it to everyone under 65, we could have a rational, far more humane system

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Guess what folks, the healthcare fight is not over

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