Obama ignores health care solution

Patrick Miner

During the election season, Obama ran on the idea of health care “reform.” He said he wanted to make health care more available and more affordable for all Americans. What he never said he’d do is remove for-profit corporations from the industry. During the final debate, when McCain claimed Obama’s object to be a single-payer system, Obama replied simply, “It is not.”
Now, as Obama mulls over his empty Secretary of Health and Human Services position, Americans are struggling more than ever to pay their medical bills and insurance payments. A month ago, Tom Daschle withdrew his name from consideration for the job after it was revealed he neglected to pay over $126,000 in personal taxes. Some controversy also surrounded his relationship with several insurance companies that paid him for his “advice.”
Monday, Obama announced current governor of Kansas Kathleen Sebelius as his choice for Health Secretary and Nancy-Ann DeParle as “Health Reform Czar,” filling a position that will lead the newly created White House Office of Health Reform. DeParle has worked for major for-profit health care corporations including DaVita, Cerner, Boston Scientific, Triad Hospitals and Medco Health Solutions. She also worked as an “investment advisor” for JP Morgan.
Meanwhile, over half of bankruptcies are filed by citizens who are unable to pay their medical bills despite being insured by private corporations. This, of course, does not account for the 60 million Americans who don’t even have health insurance. Some 20,000 Americans die each year because they don’t have health insurance.
The United States National Health Insurance Act, H.R. 676., which would guarantee that every American, regardless of income, race, gender or employment status, has access to quality, affordable health care, was first introduced to the House by Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan in 2003, and has been introduced in every session since.
Last week, Conyers attended a Congressional Black Caucus meeting at the White House. He spoke with President Obama and asked him for an invitation to the March 5 health care summit at the White House – Obama declined.
David Himmelstein, associate professor of medicine at Harvard University and cofounder of Physicians for a National Health Program, said “[Obama]’s caving in to corporate health care interests and completely shutting out advocates of single payer reform. The majority of Americans favor single payer, and it’s the most popular reform option among doctors and health economists, but no single payer supporter has been invited to participate in the administration’s health care summit.”
Most arguments against single-payer claim that we’ll have long lines and no choices if we move to such a system. Yet there has never been evidence to support these claims. The oft-insulted Canadian and French systems sport shorter lines than those of the U.S., and under the proposed single-payer plan, Americans would have free choice of doctor and hospital – something we do not currently have. We are restricted by the rules and regions designated by our insurance companies – that is, if we can get insurance. We spend twice as much money per capita than other nations on health care, yet according to the World Health Organization, 36 countries have better health care than us. In contrast, the U.S. spends as much as all other nations combined on its military.
Another common argument is something along the lines of “everyone comes to America for surgery and special treatment. We have the best health care.” This is a somewhat valid point. Many people do come to the U.S. for experimental and difficult treatments; we have many research institutions and experienced doctors. But this doesn’t mean we have the best health care. It means that if you have a lot of money, you can buy really great health care. If you are one of the tens of millions of Americans struggling to put food on your children’s plates, you will not get satisfactory health care, if any at all. Congress is not working to help you, and neither is President Obama.
We will never have a successful health care system in this country while private corporations still make money on the poor health of people. We must pressure Congress and Obama to put the people before insurance executives’ wallets.