First, if you haven’t already done so, you will need to follow this link to a Slate magazine article:
Now, if you’ve read the article, what I’m going to talk about will make more sense, but, if you haven’t, in capsule form, what it says is that the coming “debate” over Trumpcare in the Senate will have all the suspense of a pro wrestling event, and perhaps all the drama as well. Jim Newell, a staff writer for Slate, has done the analysis to show that the current hand-wringing by a few Republican Senators over “Trumpcare,” designed to overturn (for the most part) the Affordable Care Act, is all scripted, and that Mitch McConnell has reserved a few bones to throw to selected Senate colleagues (after an appropriate interlude, of course) so as to guarantee at least 50 Republican votes for the measure, and thus, its passage as soon as next week. One or two Republicans can opt out, for the sake of optics, but the outcome is foreordained.
Is Newell right? We’ll all know in a short time, but as I read his scenario, I could not help but hear the depressing ring of truth. The Congressional Budget Office markup of the House-passed version of this has forecast that 24,000,000 Americans will lose healthcare insurance and that Medicaid funding will drop over the next decade by billions; those of us who have insurance now and will continue to carry it even after all this will probably see our rates rise because, well, that’s what they do. We’re used to it, aren’t we?
I have Medicare, since I am over 65 years of age. Contrary to a common belief, it is not free. It costs me somewhere over $200 per month, as a deduction from my Social Security annuity. Also, contrary to a common belief, Social Security is not “welfare for seniors,” and should not be derided as an “entitlement.” I and millions of others who receive Social Security do so because we paid into the program for many years. And, primarily because I continue to pay for the group private health insurance that I had for upwards of 40 years during my careers, I keep that, too, both to maintain a secondary insurer, since Medicare only pays part of my own medical expenses, and because there are family members who can be covered under my membership. In all, I pay several thousand dollars per year for the privilege of handing a doctor or hospital a card to show that they will be paid if I need their help.
So, some ask, why would I care about the fate of the Affordable Care Act? It won’t affect me personally. And that attitude always causes me to shake my head, even if only mentally. You see, the whole idea of “civics,” which Wikipedia defines as ” …the study of the theoretical and practical aspects of citizenship, its rights and duties; the duties of citizens to each other as members of a political body and to the government,” is the give and take of those rights and duties among the citizens of an organized nation, whether it is a republic, a monarchy, a dictatorship, or any other type of governance you can think of. Suppose, in December of 1941, President Roosevelt had responded to the Pearl Harbor attack by noting that Hawaii was, at the time, only a territory of the United States, not a state, and that the 48 states (at the time) of the United States were not affected?
Get away from the keyboard–I know that hypothetical is ludicrous; I’m not stupid. Usually not, anyway. And anyway, citizens of the US and property were lost at Pearl Harbor. All citizens were called on to defend the wrong done to the civic body.
But I find it equally ludicrous that in the 21st century, the United States as a nation is choosing repeatedly to protect the privileged and the wealthy to the detriment of the weak and the poor. It’s nothing new; it’s been going on for nearly four decades now. One of our two principal political parties stands openly and proudly for that position, and the other lacks the unity and the moral standing to make a strong moral case against it.
It has been often said that where one stands on any issue can be told by determining whose ox is being gored. This particular issue–the American health care system, its ability to heal the sick, and maintain the public health, is being steered by interests rather than by principles. Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and other figures on the Republican side of it endlessly spout their credo that this country has the best health care in the world, but when pressed for why, in every important measure of how healthy Americans are, it is demonstrably not true that we have the best, they can not rebut the facts. We do not rank among those countries whose health is being well-maintained by that health care system. In one metric after another, be it infant mortality, average lifespan, maternal mortality, etc., we are outranked by other nations. The apologists have resorted to assertions that, well, those statistics fail to take into account that the average American has access to this or that medical specialty or facility.
Having access to something is not the same as having it. If your house is struck by a hurricane, and you must rebuild, and if your homeowner’s insurance retreats behind claims of “acts of God,” the facts are that the labor and the materials to rebuild your house probably exist in your community, but your access to that labor and those materials then are absolutely defined by the money that is available to you. If you are someone who has put aside enough to make a new construction fall within your means, then you will be able to rebuild. If not, you are reliant on the indemnification your insurance provides. No money, no insurance=homelessness.
Equally, the citizen who is struck by catastrophic disease will survive and prosper only if he has resources or if he is protected by insurance. But the consequences are not homelessness: they are death or perhaps disability.
Thus, my somewhat extreme analogy. The exercise of civic duty in every other developed nation in the world has led to the establishment of a base of public health freely (and truly) available to every citizen. The quality of that care may vary, but it is accepted by the populace that all should find the access to needed health care available as a common right of all citizens.
Getting back to the ox’s being gored, look at who stands to benefit by a return to an every man for himself, “survival of the fittest” system. Money flows from consumers of health care to its providers and its facilities, but also to another class: the insurers, and the purveyors of patented drugs. Corporations and executives of those corporations give no shots, bathe no infants, and dispense no medications, but they do donate to politicians. Into the millions of dollars.
And so, the senior Senator from Kentucky, who has been the beneficiary of a goodly share of those insurance millions (as well as pharmaceutical companies’ millions) should be able to look at his handiwork some day soon and tell his real masters that he has made the world safe again for enormous profits in insurance and pharmaceuticals.
And, just think, that same Senator, who proclaimed in 2008 that his priority would be to ensure that Barack Obama would be a one-term president, will also get his revenge by working so hard to undo Obama’s most famous legislative achievement. Mitch McConnell, you are a hateful old man who has used your office to glorify the pursuit of profit over the health of children and over the sincere efforts of a political opponent to protect the well-being of those children. Sleep well. You, too, are mortal.