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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/13/09

The Trouble With Health "Insurance"

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Washington is abuzz with news from the Senate Finance Committee's recent Health Care Roundtable Discussions and President Obama's announcement on Monday that he supports proposed voluntary action by the insurance industry and its allies to cut health care cost inflation by 1.5% per year.

However, as the National Coalition on Health Care points out, health care costs are actually rising at a rate of more than 6%.

One step forward, 4 or 5 steps back. Not a solution.

The problem is Washington's apparent acceptance of the health insurance industry as a necessary player in its health care reform efforts.

Insurance companies are in business to make profits for their shareholders. And they are profiting from the suffering of others, often by denying payment for necessary medical treatment. That itself is incompatible with the core definition of health care.

This is why we need single-payer health coverage for all Americans. By eliminating market competition and a for-profit business structure for essential health services, we can keep costs down.

Alternative or add-on coverage could be offered by the private insurance companies for those who can afford it, and could cover luxuries like elective cosmetic surgery and private hospital rooms.

Furthermore, government-managed health care could eliminate the link between your job and your health care coverage. When I've talked with people outside the U.S. about how most Americans get our health insurance through our employers, they were amazed.

Health care should be a right, not a privilege granted by one's employer or one's employment status. (Indeed, Article 25(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "[e]veryone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including ... medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of ... sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.")

And taking the cost of health insurance benefits off the shoulders of employers could serve as its own little economic stimulus plan that could help to keep some struggling businesses solvent.

On the campaign trail last year, Obama said he would consider a single-payer system. Unfortunately, however, it now appears that the insurance industry is stronger than our president.

The insurance lobbyists have apparently bought and sold our lawmakers to the point where a single-payer option is now off the table.

These are the people we elected to represent us. And indeed a majority of Americans support a national single-payer health care program.

Instead, however, it looks as though the majority in Washington favor the moneyed special interests over the people they were elected to serve.

This is not how democracy is supposed to work.

 

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
 
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