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Healthcare should be for people, not profit

In his column of July 19, Senator Greg Hertz details the burden Obamacare places on small business. He does so ably and factually. The points he makes are valid, have been stated by others of equal credibility, and predate Obamacare. During the years Ford Motors owned Volvo, CEO/Executive Chairman Bill Ford often pointed out that the price tag of a car made in the USA included approximately $3,000 of employee health benefits not present in the cost of a car built in Sweden, where healthcare is funded through the government.

Senator Hertz also alludes to the growing, debilitating burden healthcare imposes on honest, ordinary Americans. Effectively, a working family in this country has three primary, unavoidable, fiscal imperatives: 1) rent, or a mortgage if they’re so fortunate, 2) monthly healthcare premiums, often approaching or exceeding that rent or mortgage in cost, and 3) sometimes the greatest burden of all, medical bills not paid by that insurance in a game rigged by deductibles, denied claims, patent laws, med prices that include astronomical profit margins, avalanches of baffling paperwork, lobbyists, so-called providers, and politicians purchased from both parties.

Increasingly, we’re reminded what we’ve known all along, that health insurance is not healthcare, any more than car insurance is car care.

And while the Senator points out some of the factors accelerating our healthcare costs, unnecessary emergency visits, etc., he makes no mention of the expensive overlapping redundancies in our system, present long before Obamacare, and the blurred boundaries of private sector, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Health Administration, often used against one another to deny us any of it.

And he leaves out entirely the reason our healthcare system, if it can be called that, is the most expensive in the developed world, even though it fails to reach every citizen: corporate parasitism.

Take for only one example Mr. Stephen Hemsley, CEO of United Healthcare. Mr. Hemsley is not a medical person. His degree from Fordham University is in economics, and prior to UHC he worked on Wall Street for the accounting firm Arthur Anderson, famous for shredding Enron documents. In 2015 Mr. Hemsley’s earnings, salary, benefits and stock options, were $62,000,000, but that was not his best year. In 2010, he took home $100,000,000. Those of us down in the self-supporting world remember that year as part of the Great Recession. While people who work for their livings were losing their homes, jobs, and pensions, Mr. Hemsley was raking it in off sick kids, injured humans and denied claims, and without a medical degree. And Mr. Hemsley is only one person in the tiers of obscene largesse and predatory greed that we, down here, pay for with our premiums.

Senator Hertz offers his solution, and I agree with part of it. Obamacare must go. But any fix that involves insurance companies and Wall Street money manipulators profiting from human suffering will give us something no different and no better, only something renamed and slightly nuanced. Obamacare is an idea stolen from the Heritage Foundation, a rightwing think tank, and its only imperative is to preserve and protect an obscenely lucrative industry that shouldn’t exist, one that can only thrive in a moral vacuum. The wellbeing of people can never be its first directive.

The only solution, our only salvation, as Obamacare slowly implodes, as a corrupt majority congress tries and fails to save it by renaming it, while funding tax breaks for the rich and powerful by dropping the coverage of millions of poor people and hoping no one notices, is a government system similar to what 30 other countries have enjoyed for years, in some instances for decades.

Surely if Iceland can pull it off, so can we.

But it will take more than turning away from our worship of money and those who have it, and vilifying and victimizing those who don’t, or abandoning our fear and ignorance and the lies, myths and misinformation fueled by both; i.e. “death panels” apocryphal hordes of Canadians spilling over the border for healthcare inferior to their own, and welfare for the wealthy, always more of it, being the only answer to all things.

Ultimately, we need to ask ourselves if we’re comfortable with persons not even required to hold a first aid card becoming infinitely wealthy from illness and tragedy they themselves do nothing to alleviate, and make more tragic with their expensive parasitism.

Currently, we are that culture, and of that moral mindset. So we need to ask ourselves if we wish to continue as such, and if a sick child, or an injured neighbor, or a dying parent, should benefit the highest peerage of our economic system and the lowest strata of the moral spectrum, or if those we care about are deserving beings entitled to safety, dignity and healthcare by right, not commodities to be traded and capitalized on by Wall Street Shylocks.

If our answer is yes, we, our checkbooks and our children, remain the volunteered prey of Mr. Hemsley and his ilk, and a system already in place.

But if the answer is no, and we’re finally able to relent and accept a proven, common- sense, moral and humane solution, we may catch up to those other countries in ways we haven’t yet imagined.

Medicare for all. Now. For ordinary citizens, for small businessmen, even for Wall Street shysters. Healthcare for people, not for profits and parasitism.

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