The Candidates on Health Care

DFL Candidates

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The issue of health care is on the minds of millions of American workers. The crisis of the health care industry is well-documented in Michael Moore’s popular new film “SiCKO”. After two terms under Bush, many are looking to the Democrats as an alternative.  Every Democrat running for President has a “health care plan” – but what exactly does this mean? Can any of these “liberal” representatives of the ruling class really offer American workers a way out of the disaster of private health insurance?

Hillary ClintonHillary Clinton is well-known for her failed attempt to introduce a “managed competition” health care plan in the 1990s. Today, even that compromise-with-private insurers plan is too “radical” for her. She is now proposing an altogether vague plan for health care “reform”.  This should come as no surprise, since she has received more campaign money from health care and insurance lobbyists over the last few years than any other candidate. Hillary, like her NY cohort Giuliani, both agree on “market-based” solutions as the only acceptable route for health system reform. She maintains that a single-payer system is “politically unrealistic”. She is working with former Speaker of the House, Republican Newt Gingrich, for “incremental” reforms that would include private insurers, with the government subsidizing insurance premiums for those unable to pay.
Barack Obama, who previously resisted making any concrete proposals for health care reform, has recently come out with a plan not dissimilar to Clinton’s market based plan. Obama has said he opposes a national single-payer system, in favor of “voluntary solutions” instead of “government mandates”.

Barack ObamaObama’s plan includes a requirement that employers either provide coverage to their employees or pay into a government fund to subsidize the health care for those with low incomes. It would also create a National Health Insurance Exchange, a regulated marketplace of competing private health plans that would aim at “reforming” the private insurance market. Under the Obama plan, the federal government would reimburse employer health plans for the cost of “catastrophic health expenditures”. John Edwards, who presents himself as a “man of the people” is not proposing a universal health care system either. Rather, he proposes dividing the country into “Health-Markets” in which various Medicare-like programs would offer lower cost care; these new programs would compete against private programs for members. The plan would subsidize health insurance purchases for those with lower incomes, and requires employers to offer health insurance through the Medicare-like system as one option for their workers.

This would likely lead to increased coverage for those with lower-incomes., but Like Obama and Clinton, the plan would keep intact the basic structure of a market-based, for-profit health care system. Apparently, the idea is that, “over time, the system may evolve toward a single-payer approach if individuals and businesses prefer the public plan.”  But all experience shows that a market-based system based on private profit never “gradually slips” into a socialized system based on meeting the needs of society. His plan attempts to reconcile the irreconcilable, while sowing illusions that somehow, everything will just work itself out. As with the other candidates, Edwards ultimately defends the interests of private corporations over the interests of working people.

The health care “crisis” is really just another example of how capitalism exploits working people in the pursuit of profits. U.S. workers deserve nothing less than free, quality health care for all.


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