Seal a Deal or Heal for Real?

James J. Devine

James J. Devine

by James J. Devine

Hoping to finalize his signature domestic policy initiative before he delivers his first State of the Union address in a few short weeks, President Barack Obama sat down with top Democratic leaders from Capitol Hill at the White House on Wednesday.

Essentially, Obama sought to muscle House and Senate Democrats to reach an accord on health care reform during the marathon negotiating session after taking a hands off approach to details being considered in Congress.

There has been a lot of misinformation about health care reform and what is in the proposals being considered by Congress.

From zany accusations about death panels and illegal aliens to fairy tales about the intentions of crooked lawmakers, this has generated more smoke than fire. The whole discussion is really about how we are going to pay for health care in the United States.

Almost nobody in Washington DC cares about the American people, because they are looking out for private companies that sell insurance for profit and the rich, who can afford whatever treatment they want.

Democrats want to enact a law and declare victory, allowing them to put the issue behind us regardless of what is accomplished. Republicans want to deny Democrats that victory to undermine Obama’s presidency and advance their own political prospects.

Our leaders are not even giving a though to the best, simplest, most efficient and effective way to address the issue: opening up Medicare for all Americans.

It is time to acknowledge that private insurance companies do not compete; collusion is legal in the insurance industry. It is time to acknowledge that 40,000 Americans die each year because they cannot afford health treatment. It is time to acknowledge that America is spending more than any other nation and getting results that are far from the best.

Negotiations on health care are not transparent, the proposed deal is not designed to benefit the greatest number of Americans and it will not be worth enacting.

“Today we made significant progress in bridging the remaining gaps between the two health insurance reform bills,” said Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a joint statement issued after the meeting.

“We’re encouraged and energized, and we’re resolved to deliver reform legislation that provides more stability and security for those with insurance, extends coverage to those who don’t have coverage, and lowers costs for families, businesses, and governments,” said Obama, Pelosi and Reid.

Despite these leaders’ optimism, Rep. Earl Blumenauer was right when he said, “Getting it right is more important than just getting it passed.”

The goal of the proposal now under consideration is preservation of private insurance companies, not the health or wealth of most Americans.

Medicare for all Americans would eliminate the role played by private insurance companies in delivering health care. While that is an extreme change, it would benefit most people by eliminating a good deal of waste, fraud and corruption.

Medicare for all would improve the quality of care, focus more on prevention and wellness, assure that no American will go without health care, and save billions of dollars. We can advance administrative practices and quality standards throughout the health care system, invest in medical research and training new doctors by funding universal health care.

There is a fair share of money now being spent on insurance premiums, which could be reduced by eliminating support for profits, marketing and high administrative expenses.

Applying the current Medicare payroll tax to investment income, increasing its rate on revenue in excess of $400,000, and combining funds now spent through SCHIP, the VA and Medicaid would help finance Medicare for all Americans.

A tax on the value of estates in excess of $3 million, indexed for inflation, would also produce substantial support for a comprehensive and common sense system for high-quality universal health care.

We might also produce a tremendous savings by reorganizing the Medicare prescription drug program, a system designed by George W. Bush to put taxpayer money in the hands of private corporations.

Unfortunately, quality care, public health and the general welfare are not priorities among today’s politicians. And that is really sick.

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