Health Care U.S.A.: It’s Enough to Make You Sick

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It is a basic truth that the United States is the only industrialized nation in the world to lack a comprehensive, universal health care system.  And the basis for this fact is that health care is a multi-billion dollar concern for pharmaceutical and medi-corporate businesses whose prime motivation is bottom line sales and profits over health. 

No one understands this better than working people, who must live daily under the shadow of a reality that long-term illness could wipe out overnight whatever savings they’ve managed to acquire – and the pro-corporate politics of both the Democrats and Republicans have increasingly reduced the possibility of saving any money as ever greater numbers of families struggle to survive from paycheck to paycheck. 

This reality also impacts millions of senior citizens and disabled who are often forced to make a choice between eating and paying for much needed prescription medicines; for those who are HIV positive or have AIDS and who are forced to buy drugs necessary to keep them alive via the “black market” or “underground” once insurance companies (and many never had insurance) cancelled their policies because they were “bad risks” according to statistical tables. 

Within the past decade, Medicare premiums have increased by more than 200 percent and the much-touted Medicare D prescription drug plan, developed with the full input and blessing of the pharmaceutical industry, would have been rejected by most senior citizens had they not been confronted with a deadline and mandatory government-induced enrollment. 

It’s enough to make you sick … but the only people who can get sick are those who can afford it.  Consider the statistics:  

  • In 2004, it was reported that workers’ costs for medical insurance increased by 36 percent in the three preceding years while wages went up by 12.5 percent over the same period. 
  • That same year, Families USA, an organization focused on health care issues, reported that the number of families spending more than 25 percent of their incomes on health care increased from 11.6 million in 2000 to 14.3 million in 2004 
  • In recent testimony before a hearing on health care reform, Families USA executive director Ron Pollack made the following points: 
  • 46 million non-elderly households are without medical insurance
  • 85.2 million individuals under age 65 were uninsured at some point during the two year period studied (2003-2004).  This number exceeds the population of 32 states and the District of Columbia.
  • More than half of this number were uninsured for extended periods of time
  • 18,000 people die prematurely and unnecessarily due to lack of medical insurance (2 people per hour)
  • 45 percent of households living at or below the US-designated “poverty line” lack health insurance. 

These numbers are profoundly disturbing.  But these numbers recited in Mr. Pollack’s testimony tell only part of the story.  The second part is that as health care costs increase, the level of care has decreased. This has been a trend since the advent of Health Maintenance Organizations, also known as HMO’s, which should be more truthfully called Profit Maximization Organizations, since such things like hospitalizations are all carefully rationed out to insure the maintenance of capital. 

Since both the Democratic and Republican parties have been well aware not only of these facts but also the trends in the health care industry as they have developed in the past several decades, it is inaccurate to say they are powerless to do anything about them.  The medical-pharmaceutical-insurance combine has invested heavily in the form of financial contributions to both parties.  Therefore, it seems logical to conclude that the solution to this state of affairs will not emerge from either source. 

The solution, instead, will come only when the U.S. working class, united across all racial and ethnic lines, organizes itself on a mass scale independently from the two parties of corporate boardroom politics.  And with this liberation will come the attainment of universal health care based on the proposition that quality care is not a privilege but a basic and fundamental human right. 

When a system becomes so dysfunctional that it has literally reduced human beings to the sum of an equation impacting the “bottom line” in matters of life or death it must be replaced.  And its replacement is called socialism.

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