Heath care reform: socialist or capitalist

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Posted Thursday, August 27, 2009 - 4:40pm

Many Americans are protesting current health care reform, calling it Socialism. This illustrates a clear misunderstanding on the part of the American voter on the difference between Socialism and Capitalism.

In a socialist government, health care providers and administrators would live in housing provided by the government; receive vouchers for food, clothing, fuel and perhaps a small cash stipend.

The health care planned is more like the American education system. Our teachers and administrators are paid a salary that is drawn from taxpayers, but they are responsible to buy or rent their own homes and pay for food, clothing and fuel from their own pockets. These individuals are purchasing produced goods, contributing to the gross national product and thus are participants in the capitalist system,

Furthermore America has public and private education systems that co-exist and function quite well independent of one another. Consumers are free to choose where they send their children. The public school system is not Socialism; however it is a Socialist style system, the same system that would work for health care.

Looking back, it seems incredible that congress passed the "No Child Left Behind" Bill insuring education for every child and excluded health care. What good is education to an individual who is in such poor health they are unable to put an education to use?

Another concern voiced by these so called educated Americans is cost. Diane Rowland, Sc. D., executive vice president of the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation and executive director of the foundation's Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured testified before Congress regarding the unseen costs of a lack of health care to our society.

According to Rowland, society bears a substantial cost for leaving Americans uninsured. An estimated 22,000 Americans died prematurely in 2006 as a direct consequence of being uninsured and lost productivity due to diminished health and a shorter life span costs the United States between $102 and $104 billion annually.

During a recession, imagine what an additional $104 billion in productivity would do to boost a sagging economy. Cost to the individual family is another factor which is damaging us as a society in the form of rising health care costs.

According to Rowland, the average premium for a family in 2007 was $12,106, or about the same as the annual earnings of a minimum wage worker. A family earning $1,600 a month spends 90 percent of their income on basic survival. This means that out of an annual income of $19,200, they must spend $12,106 on health care alone, leaving $7,094 to live on.

Obviously this is not practical, so the family does without insurance. In many cases if an illness occurs, the medical bills go unpaid, end up in collections and are often included in a bankruptcy. The debts are then written as tax deductions, hurting the nation with lost tax revenues.

Even families who can afford insurance are not guaranteed access to health care. Insurance companies are profit-driven and, just like any profit-driven organization, they are out to protect the bottom line.

This is done by cutting unprofitable practices. In the insurance industry this results in a practice known as purging. What good is insurance that only insures people who never get sick; they are not the ones in need of health care!

The dynamics of purging were explained to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation June 24, 2009 by Wendell Potter, a former executive with several major insurance providers.

Potter testifies, "To help meet Wall Street's relentless profit expectations, insurers routinely dump policy holders who are less profitable or who get sick. They also dump small businesses whose medical claims exceed underwriter's expectations.

"All it takes is one illness or accident among employees at a small business to prompt an insurance company to hike the year's premiums so high that the employer has to cut benefits, shop for another carrier, or stop offering benefits altogether, leaving workers uninsured."

According to Potter, as a result of purging, the number of small businesses offering coverage has dropped from 61% to 38% since 1993. He provides an excellent example of how insurers use purging to shore up the bottom line.

In October of 2006 CIGNA notified the Entertainment Industry Group Insurance Trust they planned to increase premiums for some policyholders in California and New Jersey to as much as $44,000 per year, more than their annual income.

Potter concluded his testimony by saying "The industry and its backers are using fear tactics, as they did in 1994, to tar a transparent, publicly accountable health care option as a government run system.

"But what we have today, Mr. Chairman, is a Wall Street run system that has proven itself and untrustworthy partner to its customers, to the doctors and hospitals who deliver care, and to the state and federal governments who attempt to regulate them."

The word the insurance industry uses to create that fear Mr. Potter speaks of is socialism. They seek to capitalize on the same fear that made people build bomb bunkers in their backyards during the fifties and sixties, hoping to make the people they are victimizing protect them. It is much like the fox guarding the hen house.

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