Levellers

Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Why We Will Never Have “Socialized Medicine” in the U.S.A.

By “socialized medicine,” I mean, of course, systems like those in the United Kingdom or Spain where all hospitals (clinics, etc.) are government owned, private insurance can only be supplementary, and doctors, nurses,  and other healthcare workers are all government employees. It’s simple: That system may have its strengths (the Spanish and the British seem to like it), but it would violate the  U.S. Constitution–specifically the “takings” clause which forbids  nationalizing private firms without just compensation.  So, if you fear socialized medicine –don’t worry.  If you  long for it–move to Spain or the U.K.  It ain’t happening here.

What COULD happen here (although not with this current legislative session on healthcare reform) is socialized health INSURANCE similar to systems in Canada, Australia,  New Zealand, France, and almost every other industrialized, capitalist, democracy.  The doctors, nurses, etc.  do not work for the govt. They just BILL the govt. for fee for service.  This is usually called a “single payer” system.  Instead of thousands of rival health insurance plans (all looking over doctors’ shoulders authorizing or forbidding procedures),  the doctors, patients, and families make all the medical decisions and the govt. foots the bill through taxes.  It is possible, and certainly legal, that such a system could be put in place here: Simply expand Medicare (which ALREADY IS socialized health insurance) from covering everyone 65 and up to covering all U.S. citizens, PERIOD.

However, that option is NOT being considered currently in Congress. It was removed from discussion at the very beginning of the year. In my mind, that was a mistake, but there it is. What could happen, is that we could get a “public option” of govt. health insurance that COMPETES with private insurance. We also might get permission for the states that want to do so to experiment with single payer healthcare in their states (Canada’s plan began in one Province). If the public option proves popular, Americans could turn it into a single payer system.  So, what is being considered is NOT socialized medicine (no matter what Glenn Beck says) or even single-payer (no matter what all of Fox News says), but a centrist reform that, IF DESIRED BY THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, could one day become a Canadian style system.

It simply gives the American public more choices–something Republicans usually claim to want. If the private companies are superior, then they will beat the public option in the competition of the marketplace. If the govt. option is superior, it will win out.  Insurance companies and Republicans seem to be afraid that they cannot compete–or cannot without lowering their  prices. But isn’t that capitalism?

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August 16, 2009 Posted by | economic justice, healthcare | 6 Comments

Defending Private Property Through Universal Healthcare

At this link, there is an excellent article that argues that single-payer, universal healthcare would NOT lead to socialism, communism or fascism. Rather, it may be the best way to defend widespread home ownership and small farm ownership in America. ( 3 of 4 home foreclosures are healthcare related. 70% of bankruptcies are healthcare related.) I would also argue that it encourages small businesses (they don’t have to wonder how to provide healthcare to employees and can then offer higher wages) and makes large businesses more competitive (lack of universal healthcare adds $500-=$1000 to every car made in America, reducing our competitiveness with other countries).

I am sending this article to the WH and to leaders in Congress. We need to change the way the debate is being framed on healthcare. Please read and distribute widely.

August 15, 2009 Posted by | economic justice, healthcare | 8 Comments

Good News on Healthcare!

UPDATE: If the House bill is used, universal healthcare will create a $5 billion SURPLUS!.  We can afford this. We can’t afford to put it off. We can’t afford the status quo and we can’t afford 2 wars, a military budget higher than the next 25 nations combined, and constant multi-trillion dollar bailouts for Wall Street.  There is a moral dimension. Healthcare is a right. Failure to provide this because of fears that rich people will pay more taxes (or, as rightwing radio is trying to convince elderly whites in Appalachia, fear that Medicare will be taken away from poor whites to give to “undeserving” African-Americans and Latinos in the cities–or whatever fear is given) is an utter moral failure as a society:  on the level of slavery, child labor, segregation,  denial of workers’ rights to organize, etc.

 

1) The mainstream media (whose real biases are laziness, love of conflict, love of the sensational, and a bias toward corporate interests) and the Conservadems joined forces yesterday to claim that the Congressional Budget Office had just pronounced healthcare reform “too expensive.” As if the current system isn’t too expensive. But they were using an incomplete report on an incomplete bill. The final CBO report on the House healthcare bill finds it at least revenue neutral and may even generate a surplus! [Update:  New info. shows that the link may be wrong. The original figure of $1 trillion over 10 years may be right. Thanks to K Gray for calling to my attention that the link was wrong. Unlike the mainstream media, I’m always ready to correct myself.  But don’t panic–the military budget costs more than $1 trillion EVERY YEAR. And a universal healthcare system would save more American lives than the military.  We could pay for universal healthcare by cutting the military budget (get rid of the nukes and “missile defense”), cutting out agricultural supports for commercial farmers [our biggest form of welfare and it doesn’t go to family farms but to agribusiness], adding a nickle surtax to every all fast food and an additional quarter on every pack of cigarettes.  Plus once cost controls are put in for drugs, and we push hard on preventive medicine, those healthcare costs start dropping dramatically.)

2) The final House bill not only includes a robust public option, but an amendment that allows individual states to be laboratories in democracy by  adopting single payer systems! Canada’s excellent single payer system (socialized health insurance, not socialized medicine–government funded but privately delivered) began in one province and then spread.  I expect the large states, CA, NY to adopt single payer first (provided we can get this amendment in the final version that the president signs). When it proves successful, others will follow. States where health insurance companies have large presences (NE, KY) will be last to adopt this.

Since both the House and Senate versions have actually gotten out of committee, we are closer to success than ever before.  We may actually cease to be the only industrial democracy that thinks treating sick people should be a way to make a  profit and that sick people who are poor should just die already! 72% of the nation wants a public option (90% of Democrats and even 50% of Republicans) and we are ONLY facing an insurance industry spending a million dollars per day to stop it! 

People power! Call your Representatives and Senators and tell them to pass universal healthcare!

P.S.  In Bush’s first year of office, he passed a tax cut (aimed mostly at the upper 1%) which cut over $1.5 trillion in revenue over 10 years time. (Then he cut taxes for the rich again in 2002 and again in 2003.) So, even if the “healthcare will cost $1 trillion over 10 years” meme is accurate, we can pay for it by ending the Bush tax giveaways. Oh, and of the 6  Senators begging Obama to “slow down healthcare reform”(code for “keep the status quo”), 4 of them: Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Ben Insurance-Companies-Own-Me Nelson (D-NE), VOTED FOR THAT 1.5 trillion tax giveaway.

July 18, 2009 Posted by | healthcare | 12 Comments

Debunking American Myths About Canadian Healthcare

From the Denver Post comes this great article by an expatriate Canadian living for a long time in the U.S.A.  I’d love to get this reprinted everywhere. Americans pay more and get less from our healthcare “system” and we deserve better.

July 16, 2009 Posted by | healthcare | Comments Off on Debunking American Myths About Canadian Healthcare

Public Option Healthcare: Where Senate Dems Stand

The “public option” a robust, competitive public health insurance plan mandated for all, is the key to REAL healthcare reform that isn’t just a giant taxpayer giveaway to the “death-by-spreadsheet” health insurance corporations.  If we had gotten single-payer universal healthcare in 1948, when Harry Truman tried to get it to complete the New Deal, we wouldn’t be fighting the health insurance companies because most of them didn’t exist then. (This is the time period when most Western democracies instituted universal healthcare. Ours was shot down because Southern senators were afraid it would mean integrating Southern hospitals and clinics. Yes, racism destroyed our first great chance at universal healthcare. Look it up.) So, now we have to get something which is cheaper and better than the private insurers so that it can compete head to head and win–to lower costs and cover everyone.

Don’t listen to those saying “the health insurance companies won’t be able to compete.” They could if they would stop paying obscene amounts to their CEOs and on advertising and to lobby against universal healthcare. Competing against the private companies IS THE POINT. 

So, Open Left has a chart on where the Democratic Senators stand on the public option. With Harry Reid openly proclaiming his weakness  and inability to be an effective Democratic Majority Leader (“I don’t tell people how to vote.” Really? THAT’S YOUR JOB! “I’m not very good at arm twisting.” Wimp! Step down and let someone take your gavel who IS good at arm twisting or else grow a BACKBONE!), it’s up to us citizens to corral the votes needed for this. Apparently polls showing 72% of the country wanting a public option (and 90% of Democrats, even 50% of GOP!) isn’t enough to compete with the insurance company money for senators’ attention. So check out Open Left’s chart. Anyone who isn’t listed as a YES  should hear from you–every day until this passes. It”s now or never, folks. The 2010 budget ALREADY pays for universal healthcare. Now we need to get it–or healthcare costs will cripple our economy even faster than global warming.

We know it works.  We have seen Medicare work. We have seen that senators, of both parties, like govt.  health insurance FOR THEMSELVES. Now it’s time for the rest of us. Healthcare, quality healthcare, is a RIGHT, not a privilege. But it’s a right we are going to have to organize and fight for. Remember the words of Mother Jones, “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”

P.S. Citizen Pressure DOES work. Sen. Hagan (D-NC) said last week that she wasn’t sure about the public option. After her office was flooded with calls, letters, emails, etc. from her constituents, she announced that she  supports the public option! The others will fold to the same pressure. And keep up the pressure on Wimpy Reid to do  his job or surrender his gavel!

July 4, 2009 Posted by | healthcare | 7 Comments

Take Action for Universal Healthcare

If you believe that universal healthcare, high quality healthcare for everyone, regardless of ability to pay is a RIGHT, take notice,–you are going to have to organize and (nonviolently) FIGHT for it.  If you believe, as I do, that medicine is for PEOPLE, not PROFITS, and are tired of the U.S.  being the only remaining industrial democracy (and one of the few industrial nations, period) WITHOUT such basic care for all citizens, then it is TIME TO ACT. 

Because without action, without pressure, the “healthcare reform” proposed by the Obama administration and moving slowly through Congress will end up being  paper reform that does not address the root of the problem.  At best, it will be a half-measure.  At worst, it could end up being giant taxpayer subsidies to the for-profit healthcare insurance industry!!!

It’s time for ACTION.  Here is a link to a ton of actions you can take.  Get organized, folks, and get in the streets, in Congressional offices, in the press, in people’s faces.  Power never gives up any unjust privileges without struggle. On their side: the huge money of Big Pharma and the healthcare industry.  On our side: morality, the will of the people, doctors, nurses, unions, struggling auto companies, and the power of organized nonviolence.  No more waiting until a better year.  No more half measures.  No more “Harry and Louise” commercials.  No more stalling. We want universal healthcare for EVERYONE and we want it NOW, this year!

Take ACTION NOW and HERE.

May 13, 2009 Posted by | economic justice, healthcare, human rights. | 1 Comment

Health Care Blues

The video of the salaries of healthcare CEOs is from James Pence of The Hillbilly Report, a great populist progressive blog here in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  The song, “Health Care Blues” is by my friend, Paul Whitely, Jr., one half of the  folk duo, Down to Earth. (The other half is Paul’s lovely wife, Kate Sanders.) Paul and Kate double as the volunteer music ministers in our church.

To get rid of the health care blues, we need single-payer health care in this country, Medicare for everyone.  It would also solve the economic problems of Medicare and Medicaid, allow people to keep their own doctors (or switch), would save billions, cover everyone, and allow American businesses to compete on an even global playing field.  The House Bill for Medicare for all is H.R. 676.  Go to Physicians for National Healthcare Plan and write your Congressperson to co-sponsor H.R. 676 here.  (I’m pleased that my Rep., John Yarmuth (D-KY-03) is a co-sponsor.  The Senate version of H.R. 676 is S. 709, The American Health Security Act, introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and is far more comprehensive (and ultimately cheaper) than the health reform package being worked on by Sens. Kennedy  (D-MA) and Baucus (D-MT) and championed by Pres. Obama.  Let’s try to see if, instead of tinkering with a broken system, we can’t get healthcare for people, rather than profits.

By the way, the U.S. almost got single-payer, universal healthcare after WWII, like most of Europe, Canada, and, eventually, the rest of the industrial world.  It was pushed by Pres. Harry S. Truman (D) in 1948 and he had large Democratic majorities in both houses. Do you know what stopped it? Costs? Fears of socialism? Worries about “not keeping my own doctor” (which lie conservatives use to scare seniors)? Nope. None of that. It was RACISM.  Southern Senators refused to vote for it because they feared (rightly) that they would have to de-segregate Southern hospitals. So, even though the impoverished post-War South would have benefitted the MOST from universal healthcare, racism killed it.  Got to love the way we constantly cut off our noses to spite our own faces, huh?

April 27, 2009 Posted by | economic justice, healthcare | 2 Comments

Majority of Americans Want Universal Healthcare

UPDATE:  CNN just released a brand new poll72% of the American public want the federal government to take a large role in providing healthcare coverage for all.  I hope Congress is listening!

The following chart is from The Drum Major Institute and represents a poll conducted 08 August ’08. I have seen similar polls from the New York Times and Public Policy Poling since the election.

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Now, these numbers can change.  Similar numbers in favor of universal healthcare were around when Bill Clinton was elected president, but after the lobbyists for private insurance and Big Pharma ran their distorting “Harry and Louise” commercials, public support disappeared.  The commercials so misled older Americans that one retiree pleaded with then-Sen. Minority Leader Bob Dole (R-KS), “Please, Sen. Dole, don’t let the government run my Medicare!” Who did she think was ALREADY running Medicare???

The lobbyists will likewise attempt to derail current efforts at universal healthcare, too, even though it would help get us out of the recession. (The recession is global, but in no other industrial nation are people losing their healthcare, at a rate 0f 1,400 per month, along with their jobs.  That’s placing additional strains on state Medicaid programs and on hospital emergency rooms used for primary care–which is adding to state budget crises.) I mentioned back in December that if General Moters had been a CANADIAN company rather than a U. S. one, it would not have needed any government bailout money–even with all the bad management decisions over decades. Why? Because national healthcare in Canada would have saved GM’s biggest labor cost and given it an extra $22 billion per year.

Healthcare through jobs  or individual insurance plans means that U.S. manufacturers are not competing on even ground with European, Chinese, Japanese, Canadian, etc. manufacturers. It adds thousands of dollars to every American automobile, for instance.  It hurts small businesses (and leads many of our most creative entrepeneurs to forego starting their own small businesses) and to the death of family farms.

Think how much faster we can recover from this economic disaster if companies don’t need to factor in healthcare into their labor decisions?  National health insurance also saves hospitals in billing costs–which is why after start up costs, a single payer system is less expensive in the long run.

If you are a U.S. citizen, contact your member of Congress and Senators and urge them to pass universal healthcare THIS year.  Write letters to your local papers, too.  Make some noise: the lobbyists for Big Pharma and the HMOs sure will.

UPDATE: Originally, no supporters of single-payer plans were invited to the White House tomorrow for Obama’s Health Care Reform Summit.  Thanks to thousands of petitions, phone calls, emails, etc. by citizen activists, that has changed.  Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), a longtime proponent of single payer universal healthcare and author of the current House bill that promotes such, will be there.  This is how it’s done.

March 3, 2009 Posted by | economic justice, healthcare | 12 Comments

New Proof that Richard Land is a Moron

Richard Land, head of the misnamed “Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission” of the Southern Baptist Convention is a moron.  Oh, he has a Ph.D. from Oxford in Church History–and is fairly competent in the area of his narrow specialization.  But they should never have given him a job where he has to speak regularly on things like ethics, faith and public policy, church-state matters, etc.  That’s his job and he sucks eggs at it.

Latest proof of this is found in this article in which Land claims that the recently expanded State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) is a Trojan Horse for “socialized medicine.”  Only the UK really has “socialized medicine,” Mr. Land. Yes, in the British system doctors and health care workers work directly for the government–and the people LIKE it that way. (Don’t believe me: Ask yourself why even PM Maggie Thatcher didn’t DARE to privatize healthcare in the UK.  She would’ve lost an immediate vote of no confidence in Parliament and lost early elections–while protesters would have been at #10 Downing Street day and night until she was run out of town on a rail, “Iron Lady” or no!)  But Canada, France, New Zealand, Australia and most other Western democracies have “socialized health insurance” rather than socialized medicine.  Most doctors are still in private practice.  It’s just that everyone is covered by a single insurance program paid for by their federal taxes.

Land thinks S-CHIP will crowd out private health insurance.  I doubt it.  Not by itself.  We NEED universal, not-for-profit healthcare in a single-payer system like Canada’s.  The easiest way to get there would be to expand Medicare to cover everyone.  But this is a GOOD THING–not an evil.  No one would fall through the cracks.  EVERYONE could get help when sick. The poor could stop using emergency rooms for primary care.  The U.S. could stop having infant mortality rates that are as low as some Third World countries. 

Further, it would help in our current economic mess.  What is the largest labor cost for big businesses? Employee health benefits.  This makes U.S. firms less competitive with foreign companies.  If General Motors was a Canadian company, even with the same poor management and same bad business model, it would not have needed a government loan last December–because it would have saved approx. $22 billion (rough estimate from GM back in December–I no longer have the source) in labor costs per annum!  Think how much cheaper we could make U.S. products without such labor costs.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy.  Well, if entrepeneur Smith has a brand new idea  for a business in nation with socialized health insurance, Smith can quit his job without losing health benefits and open up his business without worrying about how he can either provide health insurance for employees (much harder for small businesses to do this ) or attract good employees without such a benefit. 

And small family farmers can also have an easier time–not having to worry about either doing without or buying expensive insurance individually.

Medical expenses would drop in a few years time for several reasons:  1. Much less paperwork. The scores of people needed to deal with the huge number of forms for various insurance companies would stop clogging the system.  2. People would go to  the doctor sooner and catch things early–which extends life and cuts costs.  3. Since hospitals and other institutions would not be motivated by profit (just not losing money),  we would see less inflated costs. 4. The latter would be helped by placing caps on the size profits that Big Pharma can make with its drugs.

If S-CHIP is a tiny step on this road, as Land thinks, then that’s a good thing.  I want to see much bigger steps, such as supporting Medicare for ALL Americans. (Did you know that currently the only Americans with a Constitutional right to healthcare are convicted criminals in prison? Otherwise it is a form of cruel and unusual punishment and banned by the 8th Amendment.  That’s good for the prisoners–and bad for the rest of us.)  But even then  it wouldn’t be “socialized medicine,” just “socialized health insurance.”

Now why would a Christian minister (follower of One who passed out free healthcare miraculously all the time!) be against healthcare for children?

February 11, 2009 Posted by | Baptists, economic justice, ethics, healthcare | 11 Comments

Health Care for America Would Cover Everyone and Save Billions

The Economic Policy Institute has released a new report showing that the “Health Care for America” plan developed by Yale political scientist Jacob Hacker would cover everyone, allow for doctor choices, and save about $1 trillion dollars over a decade, while costing the U.S. government only about $50 billion more than we are paying now for a system that leaves millions uninsured and far more underinsured.  Since both the Clinton and Obama healthcare plans (and, before he dropped out, John Edwards’ plan) are based on Hacker’s “Healthcare for America” proposal, this is good news for Democrats and for American hopes for real healthcare reform.  It is likely that the Democratic Congress would propose legislation based on the Hacker proposal and, if Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate are backed by a Democratic President, it is likely that such legislation would pass and we would finally get universal healthcare in this country. 

Universal healthcare was first proposed in 1911 by Pres. Theodore Roosevelt (R), after he finished taking on the monopolies. (Remember when there were liberal Republicans?) Had TR succeeded in getting such a system passed then, the U.S. would have been the first, rather than the last, industrial nation to have universal healthcare.  It was next proposed by TR’s second cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (D), during the New Deal–but the GOP rallied enough votes to block it. And, as companies were recovering from the Depression and hiring new workers, they started offering healthcare benefits in place of higher wages because they were still strapped for capital.  Canada and most of Europe created universal healthcare systems in the wake of World War II (in Canada’s case, the cause was led by Tommy Douglas, Baptist minister turned politician–who has since been voted by the Canadian public as the “greatest Canadian.”).

We can do it here. Quality healthcare is a human right.

February 19, 2008 Posted by | healthcare | 5 Comments