Shutting Down Insurance Companies

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But won't that cost more? And who will pay for it? Actually, it will mean tremendous savings, because all of the endless paperwork, bureaucracy, advertising, and pointless expenses of the insurance companies will be gone. Medicare is much more efficient than insurance companies, and what we are describing is essentially the expansion of Medicare to cover everyone and everything. This could be paid for, by the government (the single payer), with an employment tax that would cost most businesses significantly less than they now pay to health insurance companies. In fact, this shift would take an enormous burden off American businesses that businesses abroad do not carry. And, according to a study produced by the California Nurses Association, single-payer would provide a net gain of 2.6 million jobs. It would stimulate the economy significantly better than getting Wall Street banksters those second and third yachts.

When he served in the Illinois state legislature, Barack Obama favored single-payer. He now says that it would be the best solution if he could start from scratch. The claim that he and others make is that we cannot start from scratch, that change is too difficult, that Americans are in fact reluctant to part with their dear beloved and familiar HMOs. But this picture is wildly divergent from the real world, in which Medicare was implemented very rapidly and in which few things are more despised than health insurance companies. The explanation, I'm afraid, is the financial influence in Congress and the White House of the insurance industry. When you add to this the desire of most Congress members to simply obey either the president or the Republican leader, rather than acting independently, reform becomes very difficult. We are likely to see a dramatic change in healthcare policy this year, but probably at best it will include a limited expansion of Medicare or the creation of a limited public option alongside tweaks to the private, for-profit system still dominated by businesses that make money by avoiding providing healthcare. At worst, we'll see something called a "public option" that will actually amount to requiring people to purchase private health insurance, a solution already implemented with horrible results in Massachusetts. The White House recently even proposed privatizing health coverage for veterans, giving the insurance companies profits out of the Veterans' Administration at the expense of the provision of care. That proposal went over like a brick and was immediately withdrawn, but that is the force we are up against.

We do, however, have a tool with which to go up against it. A bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, HR 676, is sponsored by Congressman John Conyers and 75 other congress members. Last year it had 93 cosponsors, and I expect it will soon have more than that in this congress. The chances of passing the bill this year are slim, but its value in compelling a compromise that includes a partial solution is critical.

Your congress member may be like mine here in Virginia's Fifth Congressional District, Congressman Tom Perriello. He has not taken a position, and has frequently expressed his belief on this and other issues that the president will be the decider. Of course he's right that, to a great extent, we now have a monarchical rather than a legislative government. But we don't have to accept it. The people of this district, like yours, are not well represented by someone who informs us of what the president is doing. A journalist could do that. We are only truly represented if our congress member pushes for what we want, in hopes that the ultimate compromise will be moved somewhat in the direction of what we want. Opening a political negotiation by asking for what the other side is offering is no negotiation at all. And failing to support a necessary proven solution to our healthcare crisis that also creates 2.6 million jobs would be an outrage.
 
 

About author

David Swanson is the author of the upcoming book "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union" by Seven Stories Press and of the introduction to "The 35 Articles of Impeachment and the Case for Prosecuting George W. Bush" published by Feral House and available at Amazon.com. Swanson holds a master's degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including press secretary for Dennis Kucinich's 2004 presidential campaign, media coordinator for the International Labor Communications Association, and three years as communications coordinator for ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Swanson is Co-Founder of AfterDowningStreet.org, creator of ConvictBushCheney.org and Washington Director of Democrats.com, a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, the Backbone Campaign, and Voters for Peace, a member of the legislative working group of United for Peace and Justice, and convener of the accountability and prosecution working group of United for Peace and Justice.  
 
 

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