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Gains for Healthcare, Despite Obama
by Steven Argue
Wednesday Feb 1st, 2012 2:13 PM
The movement for single-payer achieved its first major victory in the United States in 2011 when the Governor of Vermont signed a single-payer bill into law. Under rules of the Obama-care bill, however, Vermont will not be able to enact the legislation until 2017, but Vermont is seeking waivers to enact the bill in 2014. Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is also asking for a waiver from the federal government to set-up single payer health care in Montana.
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(Nurses Protest for Singl-Payer Health Care, Photo: National Nurses United)


Gains for Healthcare, Despite Obama

By Steven Argue

The set of healthcare “reforms” pushed and signed by Obama at best only slightly regulate the out of control for-profit insurance industry. At worst they raid money from a program that does work, Medicare, and keeps the insurance companies in control of the health care of Americans who are lucky enough to be able to afford insurance or have it provided by their employers.

Yet, a vocal grass roots movement has been demanding better. And here I’m not talking about the Tea Party, the people who cheered the idea of letting someone without healthcare die when the question was put to Ron Paul. The Tea Party, despite their small size and lack of popular support get plenty of coverage in the corporate media because they push an agenda friendly to the ruling 1%. Not the Tea Party, the vocal grass roots movement I’m talking about are the people to the left of Obama who support single-payer health care (Medicare for all) and / or fully socialized medicine (i.e. Medicare for all plus government take-overs of the for profit hospitals and the big pharmaceutical industry (big pharma) in moves to take all capitalist profit out of health care). This movement includes groups like the California Nurses Association and socialists of all stripes. The California Nurses Association has put $200,000 into a campaign for single-payer which has included advertising and they have organized rallies for the cause.

The movement for single-payer achieved its first major victory in the United States in 2011 when the Governor of Vermont signed a single-payer bill into law. Under rules of the Obama-care bill, however, Vermont will not be able to enact the legislation until 2017, but Vermont is seeking waivers to enact the bill in 2014. Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is also asking for a waiver from the federal government to set-up single payer health care in Montana.

In California, single-payer was been defeated once again with the bill SB-810 failing to get the needed votes to pass on January 31, 2012. Previously, SB-810 was passed only to be vetoed by Republican Governor Arnold Swartzenegger. Now the bill has been defeated in the Senate with the help of key Democrats including Calderon and Correa who voted against it and abstentions from Senate Democrats Wright, Rubio, Vargas, and Padilla. These votes could have saved the anti-working class governorship of Democrat Jerry Brown from another potentially embarrassing veto. His administration has already vetoed legislation to protect farm workers (SB 104) and has been pushing government austerity to destroy jobs and needed social programs.

These changes in Vermont and Montana will decrease costs for health care and cover everyone. Single-payer is much cheaper than private insurance because it eliminates capitalist profit (i.e. theft). Two main arguments are encountered when discussing socialized medicine. One argument is that it will cost too much. The second argument is that socialized medicine doesn’t work to provide adequate healthcare. Neither argument stands up to scrutiny.

Socialized medicine and single payer medicine actually cost less than the United States’ current for profit capitalist health care system. Both statistics and common sense back this up.

According to statistics from 2003, the United States spends $5,711 per capita per year for health care while Canada spends about half of that, $2,998 per capita per year (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2007). In fact, the costs per capita are much cheaper in every other developed country with some form of socialized healthcare. In other examples Sweden spends $2,745, Germany $2,983, and the United Kingdom $2,317 (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2007). In addition, Cuba , with their well-known socialized healthcare system, spent only $251 per capita on healthcare in 2006 (United Nations World Health Organization, 2006).

The reason socialized insurance is much cheaper and more efficient than private health insurance is because single payer eliminates the health insurance racket with all of its waste in capitalist profits, paperwork, and overpaid CEOs. In addition, such insurance practices as routinely denying needed medical procedures to keep profits up are eliminated, thus reducing capitalism as being the cause of death.

Socialized healthcare does work. It is working very well in Cuba. Cuban life expectancy in 2006 was 77.6 years, while the life expectancy of the United States for that same year was slightly less, 77.5 years (United Nations Development Program, 2006). It is interesting that poor Cuba with a history of poverty before their 1959 socialist revolution, and a devastating U.S. imposed economic blockade since, is able to provide good healthcare for everyone through socialized medicine. Cuba, unlike the United States, does not let people die in the emergency rooms without treatment, turn sick people away from receiving healthcare because they lack insurance, or allow insurance companies to decide, based on profit motive, whether the insured actually receive the care they paid for and need. The Cubans have done this by taking the profit out of illness and injury and providing healthcare as a basic human right.

Canada, like Cuba, has a higher life expectancy than the United States. In 2004 the life expectancy of Canada hit 80.2 years (Statistics Canada, 2004). With Canada’s socialized health insurance system, like Cuba’s socialized medical system, every single person is covered. In the United States 45.8 million Americans do not have health insurance (U.S. Department of Health and human Services, 2005).

On another key indicator of health, infant mortality, the United States is also nearly the worst in the developed world, only worse than the recently turned capitalist country of Latvia (Green, 2006). The infant mortality rate in the United States in 2002 was 7.0 deaths before the age of one per every 1,000 live births (Center for Disease Control, 2005). In comparison, other advanced countries with forms of socialized medicine and socialized health insurance have lower infant mortality. This includes rates per thousand births in Japan of 3.2, Germany with 4.4, Italy with 4.5, France with 4.6, and the United Kingdom with 5.6 (Treasury Board of Canada, 2003).

Cuba, with their system of socialized medicine, has an infant mortality rate of 6.2 per thousand live births, a rate much lower the United States rate of 7.0 per every thousand live births (BBC News, 2002). This is also lower than every other Latin American country (BBC News, 2002).

The only other country in the Americas with an infant mortality lower than Cuba is Canada with their system of socialized health insurance. The Canadian infant mortality rate in the year 2000 was 5.3 (Treasury Board of Canada, 2003).

In addition, a United Nations report on the status of Native Americans in Canada has credited Canada’s relatively recently established socialized health insurance system with drastically reducing an extremely high infant mortality among Native Americans (United Nations, 1993). In 1979, that death rate for Canadian Native Americans was 27.6 per thousand live births, but by 1999 it had dropped to 8.0 deaths per thousand live births (Treasury Board of Canada, 2003). These improvements coincide with Canada’s passage of the Canada Health Act in 1984 that brought their socialized insurance system to the entire country at that time (Health Canada, 2002).

For Blacks in the United States between 1995 and 2002, the infant mortality rate was 13.9, more than double the rate of 5.9 for whites in the same time period (Center for Disease Control, 2005). Canadian statistics are a strong indication that a socialized insurance system in the United States could both decrease the infant mortality rate of the general population and dramatically decrease the infant mortality of oppressed and impoverished minorities such as Blacks, as it did for Canadian Native Americans.

The statistics show that socialized medicine is cheaper, saves lives, and helps alleviate class and racial inequalities in healthcare.

Unfortunately, the Democrats and Republicans running for president in the United States are hostile to both single-payer and socialized medicine. Both Obama and the Republican candidates are heavily funded by the insurance industry. In stark contrast, Socialist Party Presidential candidate Stewart Alexander stands-up for both single-payer and socialized health care:

“I favor a fully socialized medical care system, with as a first step a single-payer system similar to Medicare, but covering people of all ages. I favor eliminating the "co-pays" that are such a burden, and keep people from seeking needed care. We should take the profit out of the health-care system, and fully fund it. (The money now spent on health care in the USA is about twice as much per person as is spent in Western Europe, with less effective delivery of care. No additional money would actually be needed, but taxes on the wealthy few should be used initially to help fund improvements.) Eventually, I favor a fully-socialized system, funded from the surplus of the socialized economy, with an emphasis on prevention and public health.”

The Revolutionary Tendency of the Socialist Party is giving critical support to the campaign of Stewart Alexander calling for people to register their opposition to the Democrats and Republicans, twin parties of capitalist exploitation, by voting socialist. In addition, we see that it would be far more helpful for the labor movement to stop funding the Democrats and Republicans and instead put our union money into strike funds. A general strike for single-payer health care would do far more to bring real change and electrify the working class into realizing our real power than continued prostration before the ruling parties of capitalism.

For Single Payer and Fully Socialized Medicine in the United States!

Join the Revolutionary Tendency of the Socialist Party (RT-SP)!



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