When candidate Donald Trump called Obamacare a failure because health insurance premiums were skyrocketing, insurance companies were pulling out and Americans deserved something better, I found myself nodding in agreement.
Now President Trump has signed an executive order eliminating billions of dollars in federal subsidies for Obamacare, calling those payments a health insurance company bailout. I found myself nodding again and thinking “bribe is more like it.”
Democrats ridicule Trump for having no plan to replace the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) and criticize the president’s executive order ending $7 billion in federal payments to insurance companies. Those payments were created by a Barack Obama executive order because Congress would not approve them.
Supporters of Obamacare contend the federal payments are not an insurance industry bailout but part of a plan to keep insurance premiums for high-risk individuals affordable.
But I see those payments in another way. Instead of proposing true national health care with a dedicated funding stream – as provided by almost every other civilized country in the world – we have a system that fails to control medical or prescription drug costs while encouraging millions of people to sign up for private health insurance. It is in essence a system designed to provide the private insurance industry with millions of new customers while we (taxpayers) act as underwriters to minimize the industry’s risk.
That’s because when the Clinton administration proposed real national health care reform, the insurance industry launched a massive campaign in opposition. The industry told Americans they would no longer be able to select their own doctors and that death panels would decide who would get medical treatment.
Drug companies, fearful of government cost control regulation, said they would no longer be able to invest in research.
The Clinton administration withdrew in defeat and the Obama administration decided to try a different approach.
Instead of going to war with the health insurance industry, it made them partners in the new enterprise, handing out billions of dollars to subsidize the cost of the program with no controls on the premiums private industry could charge.
Drug companies also could continue to charge Americans far more for prescription drugs than people paid in other countries without fear of government intervention.
Ever since the Obama administration passed its landmark health reform legislation, the central battle has been between those who want to patch the plan’s massive holes and those who oppose national health insurance.
The real debate — the argument that has been settled elsewhere throughout the world — ought to be over the best possible universal health care plan for this country.
I am talking about a plan that would cover everyone and allow all of us to share the cost burden.
The United States is in the enviable position to determine what has worked best in all those other countries and fix any flaws. There are decades of medical research available and massive amounts of economic data.
Yet, we have failed to do the hard work to create our own single-payer universal health insurance system. That’s because our government remains fixated on rewarding the private insurance companies, whose primary goal is to make a profit, not improve patient care.
Obamacare is fatally flawed. Republicans have no plan to replace it. Trump, unable to lead, seems content to let Obamacare fail without regard for the sick and working poor. Democrats see political advantage in avoiding blame for Obamacare’s failure.
This is an issue that demands serious attention because lives are at stake, but we have political clowns holding scalpels and performing medical triage. That is a scary sight.
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