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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 1/8/13

It's Time For A Real Debate On Health Care Reform

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Medical insurers around the country are announcing a new round of double-digit
premium increases, belying the promise that Obamacare would reduce costs of
health care. Although the "Affordable" Health Care Act is not yet fully implemented,
it is reasonable to assume that the further expansion of benefits will dwarf
the promised savings as detailed in the error-filled CBO report Democrats use
to justify the claim. The fact is that the ACA was never meant to be real
health care reform, which can only be achieved through truly universal health
care in the form of a single payer, Medicare-for-All model or something
similar. What it amounts to is a taxpayer bailout of a failing medical
insurance industry.

People who wonder how the tremendously profitable insurance industry can be
failing need only consider the basic fact that as medical insurance costs rise,
fewer people can afford it and profits drop, forcing further premium increases
to maintain profit margins. This is the "death spiral" that single payer
proponents have talked about from the beginning of the health care "reform"
debate but which was ignored by the corporate media and both major Parties. It
is time that taxpayers demand an honest discussion about the one option for
addressing the crisis in health care access and affordability. Congress will
continue to avoid this debate if we do not force them to. We need to make them
fear us more than the anger of their political patrons in the
medical-industrial complex of the insurance, pharmaceutical and corporate
health care delivery industries.

Democratic politicians used a very clever strategy to avoid talking about true
universal health care. At the outset of the debate, they took single payer off
the table, arguing the self-fulfilling prophecy that it was "not politically
possible." Knowing that many of their own members were as dependent on campaign
contributions from these industries as are the Republicans, they deliberately
undermined support for Medicare-for-All by presenting a classic bait-and-switch
in the form of a public option that had no chance of leading to single payer.
The cat was out of the bag when Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer assured the
medical insurance industry that they had no intention of creating a public
option that could compete with for-profit insurance.

It should have been obvious from the beginning, when Senate Finance committee
chair Max Baucus was put in charge of the debate. He was the recipient of $6 million
from corporations in the medical-insurance complex in the election cycle preceding
the debacle. It is no surprise that he had 13 doctors, nurses and lawyers
arrested during the first two days of hearings for "disrupting" the discussions
with the representatives of industry by calling from the gallery for
consideration of a single payer option.

To assure that there would not be mass dissension in the Democratic rank and file, Rahm Emanuel cleverly convinced Democracy for America and MoveOn to make the spurious claim that there millions of members supported the public option, without questioning those members or having any sort of open debate that would have demonstrated the overwhelming
support for single payer that was evident at NetRoots Nation in Pittsburgh in
2009. In the end, Democrats gave up even the pretense of universal health care
in accepting what was essentially Ron Wyden's Healthy Americans Act.

insurance exchange, the mandate and other features of Obamacare came straight
from that plan, which was put on the back burner while the phony debate about
the public option was going on. Democratic leaders declared victory and told their
supporters to go home and tell everyone what a good job they did against the
big, bad Republicans and the insurance industry that got millions of new
customers at the taxpayer's expense. Health care costs are approaching 20% of GDP, with no prospects of improvement
in sight.

If Democrats and Republicans do not unite to demand their politicians
have an honest debate on the merits of single payer they will continue to see
personal and taxpayer costs escalate, adding to personal and federal debt in a
time when Congress claims the latter is a crisis. What most Thanks to the fact
that corporate interests control the terms of political debate, most Americans
don't realize that they are already paying more than the full costs of a
universal health care system through taxes, subsidies and personal health care

Taxes for Medicare, Medicaid and the uninsured alone are nearly
enough to fit the bill for a system of universal health care that already
exists in other countries and costs about half what we pay in the American
system that leaves an estimated 23 million uninsured, mostly working Americans.
Other hidden costs include medical bankruptcies, loss of competitiveness by
employers who pay the brunt of the cost of insurance, lost productivity by the
uninsured, failed businesses for entrepreneurs who lose their businesses when
they are sick or injured and on and on.

Peter DeFazio (D-OR) has a well-deserved reputation as a fighter for the average
American, but he gave in far too readily to the fallacy that we cannot afford
to give Medicare to everyone because "it has (financial) problems of its own."
Belatedly, he has acknowledged that the worst of these problems is the
Wyden-supported Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 that gave us an unfunded
Medicare prescription benefit plan under which pharmaceutical manufacturers can
name their own price and the government is not allowed to negotiate. Even now,
he refuses to discuss single payer with members of Physicians for a National
Health Program. I know this because I have repeatedly asked him myself. This explains
why he is still ignorant of the fact that the reason universal Medicare
coverage will save Medicare is that it covers both the healthy and the sick,
creating a universal risk pool so that everyone pays and everyone has access when
they need medical care.

A universal health care system is inevitable unless Americans choose to give up
their own access to health care. Even Republicans can't make that seem like a
good thing. If Democrats don't join third parties and independents in calling
for an honest debate on single payer health care, they will follow Republicans
in the ashcan of history when Americans wake up to their 
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Rick Staggenborg, MD Social Media Pages: Facebook Page       Twitter Page       Linked In Page       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

I am a former Army and VA psychiatrist who ran for the US Senate in 2010 on a campaign based on a pledge to introduce a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood and regulate campaign finance. A constitutional amendment banning (more...)

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