By Ralph Nader
Before recommending a practical way to reverse the devastating impact of Congressional Republicans’ attempts to strip tens of millions of Americans of health insurance coverage, and the non-stop anxiety and dread that comes with such cruel and vicious legislation, note the impact of having gerrymandered (the politicians pick the voters) Washington rulers.
The arrogant Republicans in Congress have good health insurance, life insurance, pensions, salaries and expense accounts paid by you the taxpayers. This perversely has led them to drop any empathy their residual consciences might have possessed before they came to Capitol Hill – many as millionaires.
At the same time, in a country that spends well over $3 trillion a year on ‘healthcare’, the GOP’s various bills leave millions of families fearing loss of insurance, reduced coverage, larger deductibles, unaffordable co-pays and inscrutable insurance and billing fine-print trap doors. This is producing serious fear, anxiety, depression and in many cases absolute terror for sick children and ailing parents.
We have the New York Times to thank for bringing this vast human toll, day after day, night after night, to their readers. In a recent article, reporter Jan Hoffman interviews people who are wondering “whether they would be able to continue screenings and treatment.” Hoffman writes that patients “are postponing” – so as not to set up a preexisting condition – “or accelerating major medical decisions, weighing whether to move to more insurance-friendly states” and worrying about “their own inability to control critical matters in their own lives.”
“‘I’m so done,’ moaned Cathy McPherson, 58, a retired court clerk in Sonora, CA, with hypertension…It’s what I think about all the time and I am totally burned out. They go over and over it. Can you stop? Just stop it for a little bit?’”
The Times also interviewed a psychologist, Nancy Molitor in Wilmette, IL, who describes “escalating anxiety about healthcare for all her patients. Many want to spend entire sessions about how to handle the stress and the feelings of fear, powerlessness, rage and frustrated paralysis.”
Perhaps Meghan Borland, who, with her husband, owns a small business in Pleasant Valley, NY, gives voice to this preventable despair in the USA most pointedly. They have a two year-old daughter, Amelia, receiving chemotherapy for leukemia. Meghan said, “For months it’s been: Here’s a bill, we’ll vote. No, we won’t. Now it will change. Maybe not. Will that one person in the Senate vote or not? Except for us, this is not a game.”
Well it’s a stupid, but lucrative, ideological game for the Republicans, whose various factions juggle their corporate paymasters and reactionary dogmas, as they try to give the rich and powerful another $800 billion in tax breaks at the expense of millions of their neighbors’ lives and livelihoods.
Without health insurance, about 35,000 Americans die each year; many more stay sick or injured because they cannot afford insurance to get diagnosed and treated in time. About 30 million people fall into that helpless, hurtful category.
Those tens of millions more Americans who are underinsured can barely figure out where they are covered and how much they have to pay or go without.
For the most vulnerable of these Americans, the choice is morbidly clear: pay or die.
In Canada, everybody has a Medicare card to use a system that is simple, affordable, comprehensive and universal. They hardly see a bill. They have better health outcomes, cover everyone and spend less than half per capita than does the corporate dominated US that excludes tens of millions of human beings from healthcare. Canadians do not have the anxieties, dread or fear of losing all their personal savings or bringing financial ruin on their families, as so many Americans do.
In Canada, no one has to decide whether to take or not to take another job based on health insurance factors. They are free to choose any physician or hospital – no narrow networks, with hidden charges, in that country.
In Canada, where there is public funding and private delivery of healthcare, profits are not the king, people come first. The large majority of citizens, liberals and conservatives, love their healthcare system, especially when they hear of the horrors going on south of their border in the US (Canadians need to be more alert to corporate forces trying to undermine, restrict budgets and bad-mouth their system, which is a shining example of what is possible with equitable public investment in healthcare).
A majority of Americans, including a significant number of conservatives, favor single payer, full Medicare for all. So do a majority of physicians and nurses, currently in thralldom to corporatist dictates.
How to get there from here? Listen to Warren Buffett, the multi-billionaire and sage from Omaha; he favors full Medicare for all as being more efficient and humane (A single payer system has far less administrative costs and billing fraud). Then he tells us the pathway to turning this whole madness and mayhem around. To paraphrase what he once said, there are only 535 members of Congress (100 senators and 435 representatives), and we’re over three hundred million people. Why can’t we control these legislators?
Imagine if a very rich, enlightened person pledged one billion dollars to fund the organizing of a few thousand serious volunteers in every Congressional District, each having four full-time advocates. Working with these volunteers, each dedicating 300 to 400 hours a year in Congressional watchdog associations, this watchdog initiative would immediately represent a majority of Americans. Within 36 months, with a consequential election in 2018, our country would have comprehensive, universal, affordable, simpler single payer (full Medicare for all), saving lives, livelihoods and endless family anguish and fear.
That would be quite an historical achievement for any one of numerous billionaires each worth at least $10 billion. Any takers?
For more information, visit singlepayeraction.org and read my small paperback, Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think.