Not having health insurance kills. We live in the richest country on the planet, yet 28 million people remain uninsured. Many more are under-insured, without prescription benefits. Mitch McConnell’s “Trumpcare” bill, the so-called Better Health Care Reconciliation Act, aims to make things even worse.
The provision of health insurance and medications only to individuals who can afford it, or who have the right immigration status, is a cowardly act of class warfare imposed by the rich capitalists on poor and middle income people for personal profit. When millions of uninsured people are made to endure the ravages of untreated diabetes, hypertension, asthma and other serious conditions simply because they are poor and lack insurance, that is the definition of cruelty. Some would even argue it’s a form of genocide. For the undocumented, the option of even buying medical care through the health care exchanges was taken off of the table during the creation of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
With the new proposed bill, even more people living in this country face unprecedented threats to their well being. The Trump regime makes no pretense of caring for human beings. Democrats and Republicans in Congress have for many decades opposed the concept of health care as a right. Although some Democrats have recently become supporters of Single Payer Health care, many are not, and still insist on supporting the status quo, even though the majority now support single payer.
The proposal of the Republican plan, ironically titled the Better Health Care Reconciliation Act, offers no assistance for the 28 million who are now uninsured, but would cause an additional 22 million to lose health care benefits. If Congress really believes that taxes should not be used for an “entitlement,” as they call subsidized care, then they should give up their own generous health care and benefits packages which are supported by our taxes. Why are they entitled, and others not?
Insurance a gateway to medical care
Having medical insurance is the gateway to medical care which has as its aim to save lives, and is necessary to relieve human suffering. Under what code of morality or rationale can I explain to my 30-year old uninsured patient who has had a catastrophic stroke and is wheelchair bound, that he will have to wait for months to see a kidney specialist? Hasn’t he suffered enough? How do I explain to a young woman with severe rheumatoid arthritis that the medications she needs are not available to her? It is not only the poor who are suffering, but the middle class as well.
The lead article in the Annals of Internal Medicine this week, entitled “The Relationship of Health Insurance and Mortality: Is Lack of Insurance Deadly?” estimates that the Trump/McConnell proposal will lead to an additional 29,000 deaths every single year. This is likely an underestimate as the numbers of uninsured will rise over time. The orchestrators of this bill were 13 Republican white men who constitute the real “death panel,” (not the distorted and illogical use of the term by Sarah Palin in 2009 related to an effort by Medicare to improve communication between doctors and patients at the end of life.)
The bill proposes the complete gutting of Medicaid, to the tune of $800 billion over a decade, and eliminating taxes to the rich that helped expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. These savings would be transferred directly to the wealthy. One out of five U.S. citizens uses Medicaid at some point in their life including children, the disabled, and the elderly. Two thirds of nursing homes residents rely on Medicaid. Planned Parenthood would be eliminated, as well as adequate funding for psychiatric and maternity care.
While many people did receive medical insurance for the first time through the Medicaid expansion, many did not, and were left paying exorbitant amounts to the insurance companies. Many patients, like mine, were never covered because of their immigration status. People are dying now in this country, even under the Affordable Care Act because they lack insurance, and it will only get worse.
Genocidal attack on poor and working people
The United Nations 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide excludes mass death as a result of being poor as constituting genocide. An initial draft of the Convention from 1947 however did include death or injury resulting from “lack of proper housing, clothing, food, hygiene, medical care, or excessive work or physical exertion” within the definition of genocide. This version did not appear in the final version, but the creators of the concept of genocide believed that the charge should include mass murder of persons because of their belonging to a particular economic class.
Although there are Democrats who now support single payer, we cannot rely on the Democratic Party to overhaul a corrupt and criminal health care system in this country. When they had the opportunity in 2010 to fight for single payer, Obama took it off the table, telling an audience: “The Canadian model won’t work in the United States.”
Just recently, the Democratic National Committee sabotaged Bernie Sanders’ call for single payer as irrational and out of touch. They have refused to confront the pharmaceutical industry in any challenging way; many Democrats have close financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies.
It is up to us to fight back against the the criminal and genocidal nature of the capitalist class and to force them to retreat as we demand what we deserve: affordable quality health care for all.
There is an exciting grassroots movement growing throughout this country, challenging the notion that Congress represents us. It is creating a new Congress, called The Peoples’ Congress of Resistance, which will convene at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Sept. 16-17. It will be the antithesis of a Congress of millionaires and billionaires. It is an organization of resistance, made up of activists and organizers around the country who aren’t afraid to stand up and oppose the genocidal nature of the new health care bill, convened by activists and organizers like Gloria La Riva of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Dennis Banks of the American Indian Movement and many more.