By Ralph Nader
It is time Americans rise up against the corruption, inefficiency, and cruelty of our healthcare system and tell its corporate captors and Congress – Enough Already!
For decades other countries have guaranteed universal health insurance for all their people, at lower costs and better outcomes (President Truman proposed it 72 years ago in the US). When are we going to break out of this taxpayer-subsidized prison built by the giant insurance companies, drug goliaths and monopolizing hospital chains?
How long is Uncle Sucker going to pay through the nose for gouging drug prices, patient-denying health insurance companies and all the brutal fine print rules in consumer contracts whose trap doors are maddening tens of millions of Americans?
Deductibles, exclusions, waivers, co-pays, corporate immunities from injured patients, disqualifying changes in patients’ status and just plain stonewalling are just some examples of this cruel madness.
Not to mention the endless electronic bills with their inscrutable codes and unchallengeable charges – that is if you can get anyone on the phone to answer your questions. Billing fraud and abuses alone cost us up to $330 billion a year!
Why do we put up with “pay or die” drug prices? Why do we tolerate our fellow Americans dying in the tens of thousands each year because they cannot afford health insurance to get diagnosed and treated in time?
Do we know that the profiteering drug companies regularly are given a slew of handouts, including huge tax breaks, free drugs developed by our National Institutes of Health, and few restraints on their high pressure sales of dangerous and addictive drugs (eg opioids) or, together with their corporate middlemen, return the favor by charging Americans the highest prices in the world? Other countries put limits on such blatant greed and exploitation.
Groping for ever more profits, the big drug companies offshore production to less regulated labs in China and India, which amount to 60% of the drugs we buy and 80% of the active ingredients in all medicines sold in the US. Unpatriotic in the extreme!
Compounding these inhumane practices is a supine Congress, with few exceptions like Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D, TX), and state legislatures, misusing the power we entrusted to them. These legislators see large pharmaceutical companies as honey pots for campaign cash that work as hush money paid by hordes of drug industry lobbyists. So craven was the majority in Congress in 2003 that, when the drug benefits bill was passed, it prohibited Medicare from negotiating volume discounts for this lucrative corporate sales bonanza (Past Congresses authorized the Pentagon and Veterans Administration to bargain and they get lower prices as a result).
Despite the fact that these healthcare challenges have been dealt with more humanely and economically by other Western countries in the world, Americans are consistently told to tolerate an aggravating status quo. Scores of books, articles and television exposés highlight all the ways we’re pushed around, denied, excluded, harmed, overcharged and deceived, yet so many of these authors still maintain that our system of health insurance/healthcare can’t be replaced with a much better one? So these writers continue to advise us how to duck, slide and swivel our escape from a few of these commercials chains and scams.
In all the fine articles written to help consumers navigate Obamacare, Medicare, and private health plans, the authors trap themselves in this vast corporate cul-de-sac by never mentioning the way out.
That way is Single Payer or Full Medicare for all, everybody in, nobody out, with free choice of doctors and hospitals – at far lower costs, mortality and morbidity. These narrow reformers can’t escape their “it ain’t going to happen here” syndrome.
Really? Don’t they know that the public has long viewed Single Payer favorably (including a majority of doctors and nurses), even without political leaders standing up for it or mass media reporting this proven safe path.
The surrender to corporate tyranny infects the 112 members of the House of Representatives who have co-signed HR 676 to create full Medicare for all. They signed, but then gave in to a silent resignation by not fighting for it in Congress and back home.
When the companies and their apologists argue for a “free market” approach to healthcare, you can retort – what free market? Half the money coming to these companies is from the federal, state and local governments. Taxpayers also pay tens of billions of dollars for much of the discovery and testing of drugs. Tax breaks and loopholes in patent laws block generic drugs and distort the free market.
Drug patents are by definition monopolies. Concentration by mergers and acquisitions of hospitals, clinics and physician practices (note dwindling independent cardiology practices) raise serious anti-trust issues. Fine print contract peonage takes away the consumers’ freedom of contract, as do the daily buy and sell equations, so often rendered by third parties for patients. Corporate billing and other crimes are endemic. What free market?
Each of you can help the Single Payer movement build momentum. Ask your members of Congress in writing if they support HR 676 and, if not, demand their appearance in person at a town meeting arranged by people like you to answer why. If they refuse, peacefully picket their local offices.
Ask the newspapers, radio and television stations, including the culpable public radio and public television, when are they going to cover the basic full Medicare reform supported by tens of millions of their listeners and viewers?
Finally, go to the website SinglePayerAction.org to find out what other people are doing and what more you can do with your friends and co-workers.
One percent of you, together with popular backing, can make it happen, through a persistent civic hobby. Remember, you only have to turn around less than 450 members of Congress.