By Donna Smith –
It’s coming. You and me and every middle class, working person in this nation is about to start handing over more and more of their hard earned cash to the private insurance industry, courtesy of our own elected members of Congress and our very popular President. Fire up those Treasury Department presses. We’re going to be printing and providing money for insurance companies like no bail-out we’ve seen yet this economic crisis cycle.
The healthcare legislation under design and so far under wraps for the American people is slowly being leaked via carefully staged forum and meetings and a few well-timed hearings and grand press announcements. Much of the work is still going on behind closed doors in private meetings attended by those who are deemed appropriate participants and industry friends.
Remember how open these proceedings were to be following all the Clinton plan debacles of the early 90s? Well, today’s stagings are far more sophisticated and planned out. So learning did occur by the industry giants and their political friends over these last 17 years, I will give them that.
And what do we know so far about what middle class Americans can expect from the legislation being privately crafted?
First, no matter what percentage of your take home pay it takes, you will be legally required to buy private health insurance. Second, if all you can afford is a policy that leaves you financially exposed to bankruptcy and foreclosure, then you will still be legally required to purchase that private insurance product. Third, should you fail to buy a policy, you will pay a fine.
Like it so far? Feeling free and protected? Like the choices so far? It gets better.
The private, for-profit insurance industry has made concessions we are asked to celebrate. First, they’ll issue every one of us a policy provided every one of us is legally forced to buy coverage. Second, they stop discriminating against women because they have uteruses and child-bearing capacity, provided we all have to buy their product. And third, and this was a real coup according to our leaders, the insurance companies, medical equipment folks and providers will slow the rate of increase in charging for their products to charge just a bit less in terms of percentages of overall costs than they had planned to do and as is predicted. Laughable concessions sold as real compromise.
It’s as if we’ve been beaten a few times every month by an abuser whose violence and anger is increasing over time, and we know by calculating the trend that we’ll be beaten daily within a very short time. Up steps the abuser to say, “Wait. I will still have to beat you more than I do now, but I think I can hold it to 25 times a month instead of every day.” That’s the sort of promises we’re supposed to see as victories with the healthcare industry involvement in crafting the legislation that will determine our families’ financial well-being and matters of life and death.
Let me spell this out for families like mine. You’ve been getting overcharged for underinsurance for many years and you’ve seen the costs out of your own pocket rise to the point where it is truly driving whether or not you even try to seek care when ill. You’ve seen premiums rise and coverage shrink in employer based coverage, and 14,000 of you a day are losing those employer based benefits in this stinking economy.
And most importantly to me and millions of other middle class folks, when you do get sick and need care, you are forced to see only those doctors and providers your insurance company says you can and those providers can only give you the insurance company says they can give you. That’s the way our insurance companies want it now and forevermore, and that’s what they are going to get.
Feeling free? Your choices broadening? Your costs lowering?
Wait. There’s more. In order to make sure every single American buys the private products from insurance companies and knowing some families won’t make enough to afford what is offered, we’ll all chip in and pay our taxes to subsidize those who cannot afford to buy the pricey plans. So, when each of us calculates our own monthly costs for healthcare, we’ll need to factor in not only our own health insurance premium, our co-pays and deductibles, our medications and other out-of-pocket costs, but also the percentage of our payroll taxes dedicated to pay for the subsidies for low-income folks, the agencies to collect the fines paid by health-insurance-mandate-evaders, and the agency envisioned to be our clearing house for selling us the private product we’re all forced to buy. If our real costs are added up, there will be a substantial increase for most middle class families.
These folks are really hoping you will not do the math. They think middle class folks are too dumb to figure it out.
Let me repeat. This Congress and this President are about to give us healthcare reform that will make the middle class burden for payment higher and will even more deeply restrict personal choices in medical care. And they are about to do it all with great fanfare claiming just the opposite.
No doubt many of you have feared really looking at a single payer approach as something scary and restrictive of your personal freedoms. I can promise you that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, your freedom to choose would be greatly enhanced under a publicly funded, privately delivered national program. Greatly enhanced freedom. Lowered costs as we each pay the percentage we can afford from our income. Greatly enhanced choice of providers – no more being told who is in-network or out. No more risk of financial ruin if medical care is not approved by a profit-driven entity. And no more being told a service we already received isn’t covered after all – the great bait and switch the health insurance industry is allowed to do all the time, leaving so many people with bills they never even knew they were accepting responsibility to pay.
I like being free to choose. And if this healthcare reform plan restricts my freedom, takes my hard-earned money and makes my life more difficult, I won’t have any problem at all assigning blame to the folks who forced it on me.
Look, what’s the old saying about excrement rolling downhill? This president is very popular. He won’t get blamed when middle class folks figure out the ruse. And the Senate is pretty safe, as they get to sit for six years before answering to the people – and they get oodles of cash from the industry to make sure they are comfy, cozy. It’s the U.S. House of Representatives – the people’s house, they say – that will take the hit when the moms and dads of this nation figure it out that they didn’t get healthcare reform at all. The middle class will get a huge burden to bail-out the health insurance and healthcare industry under the plan moving so carefully but swiftly through the process.
The kicker? When it’s finally unveiled in all its bi-partisan glory, it’ll be sold as a human rights victory. And on that day, 60 more American families will bury a loved one denied care. And on the day after that, 60 more will die. And the day after that, they’ll be a big damn party paid for by you and by me for all of those who helped craft the monstrosity. And the insurance industry CEO salaries will be enhanced by your money paid to them. Bail-out bonanza for Karen Ignagni and America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry very fond of its government entitlements.
Costs will be successfully shifted even more heavily onto the backs of America’s middle class workers. I mean, middle class chumps. And then, my fellow worker-bees, it will be mid-term election time again.
Donna Smith is a community organizer for the California Nurses Association and National Co-Chair for the Progressive Democrats of America Healthcare Not Warfare campaign.