other day I went to a community meeting sponsored by my Congressional
Representative, Ms. Donna Edwards. Donna Edwards is a very progressive,
long-time activist in Prince George’s County, Maryland. The meeting was organized for the purpose of going over,
with her constituents, some of the issues and challenges that she
is facing on Capitol Hill.
listened to the comments. Nearly all the people who raised questions/issues
raised personal problems that they are facing due to the economic
crisis (in that sense, they were actually not “personal”). One of
the comments particularly struck me. A woman, probably in her 40s,
who is the owner of a small business, has been completely unable
to obtain health insurance. The insurance companies, according to
her, have given myriad excuses as to why she is NOT eligible. There
was a moment when the woman was close to tears, pulling back at
the last minute from completely letting go.
Congresswoman Edwards supplied her with a good and supportive response,
the bottom line is that the challenge facing this woman and at least
44 million other individuals cannot be resolved individually. Add
to that, however, is the point that film-maker Michael Moore so
well documented in Sicko: even for those of
us with healthcare, it is largely tied to whatever job we happen
to have…if we have a job.
wife told me a story of a friend whose daughter is now no longer
eligible to be covered by her mother’s healthcare plan due to her
age and being out of school. So, she is out of luck. While you are
in your 20s (as is this young woman), you can think you are immortal
and pretend not to need healthcare insurance, but that illusion
soon evaporates, particularly if you are a woman and want to consider
having children. So, if this young woman either has no job or has
a job without healthcare insurance, she is s.o.l. [and I will not
bother spelling out that acronym…take a guess].
Obama has discussed the need for healthcare reform and some version
of universal coverage but will not go as far as supporting what
is known as “single payer” healthcare. Single payer means,
in essence, Medicare for all, i.e., that the insurance companies
are OUT of the equation entirely and that the program is a government
program, much like healthcare coverage in most of the rest of the
world. In other words, just like unemployment insurance, everyone
is entitled to it. Congress Rep. John Conyers from Michigan, along
with Ohio Congress Rep. Dennis Kucinich, have been two of the most
prominent and consistent supporters of single payer healthcare on
keep trying to figure out why President Obama has retreated from
supporting Single Payer. Why do we need the insurance companies
in healthcare? How can we reduce the overall costs of healthcare
if there are companies trying to make a buck, speculating on whether
we are going to live or die? Why do we need the insecurity that
comes with employer-based healthcare?
me just focus on this last point. As repeatedly demonstrated and
documented, most of the personal bankruptcies that have been declared
over the last 10+ years have been the direct result of healthcare
costs that individuals have been unable to assume. So, we in the
USA end up having the worst of both worlds: we have private, employer-based
healthcare on the one hand (which means that you need to have a
that job that offers healthcare, which employers are not obligated
to do), and on the other, we have Republican-imposed bankruptcy
laws that make it very difficult for individuals - rather than corporations!
- to declare bankruptcy, particularly if they find themselves overwhelmed
with healthcare expenses.
Obama has declared that reforming healthcare is near the top of
his agenda. I think we should take him at his word. In
doing so, we need to remind him that there is a need to push for
a solution to the healthcare crisis that addresses the nature and
scope of the problem. Partial answers, such as the healthcare plan
in Massachusetts that mandates that everyone PURCHASE healthcare
insurance, but continues to rely on private insurance companies,
does nothing to reduce costs, increase efficiency, or guarantee
that if one loses one’s job - which is a very real thing in an economic
recession - that one will have quality healthcare coverage
for you and your family that does more than keep you breathing.
Yes, President Obama, we need true universal healthcare,
and that is known as single payer. Let’s join the rest of the world in a more civilized
approach toward the health and well-being of the population, rather
than throwing bones to the insurance companies.
Executive Editor, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the
Institute for Policy Studies,
the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and co-author of, Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path
toward Social Justice
(University of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized
labor in the USA. Click here
to contact Mr. Fletcher.