the Winner Is: Big Insurance
Washington, “health-care reform” has degenerated into a sick
At this point, only spinners who’ve succumbed to their own
vertigo could use the word “robust” to describe the public
option in the health-care bill passed by the House of Representatives.
main argument was that a public plan would save people money,”
The New York Times has noted. But the insurance industry—claiming
to want a level playing field—has gotten the Obama administration
to bulldoze the plan. “After House Democratic leaders unveiled
their health care bill [on Oct. 29], the Congressional Budget
Office said the public plan would cost more than private plans
and only 6 million people would sign up.”
At its best, “the public option” was a weak remedy for the
disastrous ailments of the health-care system in the United
States. But whatever virtues the public option may have offered
were stripped from the bill en route to the House floor.
What remains is a Rube Goldberg contraption that will launch
this country into a new phase of health-care apartheid.
People who scrape together enough money to buy health insurance
will discover that they’re riding in the back of the nation’s
health-care bus. The most “affordable” policies will be the
ones with the highest deductibles and the worst coverage.
We’re hearing that large numbers of lower-income Americans
will be provided with Medicaid coverage in the next decade.
Translation: If funding holds up, they’ll get to hang onto
a bottom rung of the health-care ladder. Many will not be
able to get the medical help they need, from primary care
providers or specialists.
Not long ago, we were told that the Obama administration was
aiming for a public option that could provide coverage to
one out of every four Americans. Now the figure is around
one out of every 50.
Not long ago, the idea was that taxpayer-funded subsidies
were to be used only for the public option. But now the entire
concept has been hijacked by and for the private insurance
industry. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put it on Oct. 8,
private insurance companies “are going to get 50 million new
consumers, many of them subsidized by the taxpayers.”
Pelosi was making the argument that the least the insurance
industry could do, in return, would be to accept a higher
level of taxation. But her comment was a telling acknowledgment
that all the “public option” proposals now provide a massive
funnel from the U.S. Treasury to the insurance conglomerates.
The individual mandate is a monumental giveaway to private
The specter of “health-care reform” that requires individuals
to stretch their personal finances for often-abysmal insurance
coverage is the worst of all worlds—government intrusion for
corporate benefit without any guarantees of decent health
In effect, the individual-mandate requirement tells people
that obtaining health coverage is ultimately their own responsibility—and
the quality of the coverage is beside the point. In essence,
when it comes to guaranteeing quality health care for all,
the gist of the policy is: “Let’s not, and say we did.”
The predictable result is reinforcement of vast—and often
deadly—inequities in access to health care.
With Washington making such a corporate mess of “health-care
reform,” the best way to get what we need—health care for
all as a human right—will be to enact single-payer health
care in one state after another.
But the House Democratic leadership has not been content to
serve up a grimly pathetic “health-care reform” bill. Speaker
Pelosi has used her political leverage to quash Congressman
Dennis Kucinich’s amendment—approved months ago by the Education
and Labor Committee—that would grant waivers so that states
could create their own single-payer system. Pelosi removed
the Kucinich amendment from the House bill.
The California legislature has twice passed a strong single-payer
bill, both times vetoed by the state’s current execrable governor.
The official position of the California Democratic Party is
unequivocally in favor of single-payer health care. And yet
Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, did what she could to
sabotage the single-payer position of her own party in her
Solomon is a columnist and the author of the new book War
Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to