Jerry West
U.S. health care reform: A better bad system

| March 24, 2010

The U.S. Congress finally passed a health-care bill, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. As health-care programs go, it holds no candle to the Canadian system or some of the other public systems around the world. However, compared to the free-market nightmare that the U.S. was suffering under, it is a step forward. The insurance companies and other big corporations still rule, but now with a bit more government restraint on their rapacity.

What is amusing about this whole affair is the rabid reaction of the opponents to the bill. One wonders about the intellectual level of a great number of Americans, and about the disingenuousness of some who do have more than average intelligence. One friend sent me a cartoon from the U.S. showing an American flag with the maple leaf sewn over the stars. How uninformed are they to think that the U.S. program resembles anything remotely comparable to the Canadian one.

I read a wide variety of news stories every day, from right, left and out there somewhere. The so-called conservative information sources are often a hoot. Rabid frothing at the mouth and inane fantasies pass for news and commentary. One commentator on the health-care bill said that the Democrats "decided to ignore the citizens and pass the legislation that furthers the road to socialism and communism." Wow! Passing a bill that still leaves a private, for-profit health-care industry in place, albeit with a few more regulations, is hardly a sign of impending socialism or communism. This tells us how far off the deep end on the right that the commentator is.

The day before, the same commentator said "Even though a majority of Americans are against the health-care bill, and an even larger majority think it should be scrapped and started over from scratch, the Democrats think they can pass this obscenity." One must either come to the conclusion that this is propaganda spin a la Joseph Goebbels or the commentator is operating under the influence of some mind-bending substance.

A majority of Americans, barely, may have been against this particular bill, but the inference the commentator would have you make is that they opposed any health-care reform other than that which the conservatives might put forward. Fact is, earlier in the year a majority supported the bill in its initial stages, and dwindling support may be more a case of people believing that it was not progressive enough, particularly without a public option.

The rabid right may have all the press with their Teabagger shenanigans and hate-filled demonstrations, and they may want to lay claim to being the voice of a majority of Americans, but it isn't so. A CNN poll conducted this month found that 72 per cent of those polled favoured increasing the federal government's influence over the health-care system. A number of polls taken by various organizations over the past few years have returned results that favour a government single payer system. States are considering this, and in some districts ballot measures were passed overwhelmingly, instructing elected representatives to support a cost-effective single-payer system.

It is pretty plain to see that aside from the corporations that have a lot to lose if a cost effective, universal public system is created to replace the private one, and the mindless rabble that they can motivate to agitate for their cause, most people in the country want something better, and public. If wealth did not speak so loudly and vested interests didn't have so much power, Americans would have had it years ago.

Today the regressives are predicting that passing the current bill will be the death of the Democrats in the next election. That could be, or if the public starts to perceive benefits from it by then, it could be the death of the Republicans as people decide not to risk what they have gained.

Watching all of this from here makes one glad to be living in Canada.

Jerry West is the publisher, editor and janitor for The Record, an independent, progressive regional publication for Nootka Sound and Canada's West Coast.


"The insurance companies and other big corporations still rule, but now with a bit more government restraint on their rapacity." We'll see. Do you believe it? Why would you believe it? I've recently listened to Ralph Nader and Michael Moore commenting on the passage of this health care bill and both of them make the point that the protections written into the agreement are most likely toothless. Can we agree that these men, however flawed they may be, are more than casual observers of the American political scene and the health care reform process in particular?

Memory is a good thing, to some. Consider:

I'm reminded of the "toothless side agreements" that rightwingers Jean Chretien and Roy McLaren had inserted into NAFTA, with which the Liberal Party struggled due to the fact that Canadians didn't like it and were led to believe that the Liberals were listening to them. The Red Book was the explicit Liberal Party platform published by the Party going into the 1993 federal election and it talked about renegotiating NAFTA. Apparently Chretien didn't say a lot about the book's stated intention to renotiate NAFTA while on the hustings, and when he became prime minister, he and his zealous free trader, Roy McLaren, dealt with the whole mess by accepting "three pages of toothless side agreements" alongside an untouched 2000 page document. ("Silent Coup - Confronting The Big Busines Takeover Of Canada" - pgs 99, 100, by Tony Clarke)

What was it Maude Barlow reported in "Global Showdown" when recounting how the American and Canadian governments dealt with the contentious issue of culture in NAFTA and WTO negotiations? (Americans were determined to not bend at all, just because. They saw that resistance in Canada was being noticed internationally and giving other countries ideas and Canada therefore had to be put in it's place.) "The Mulroney and Chretien governments insisted that they had gained full protection for Canadian culture in NAFTA by calling for the inclusion of an exemption for cultural industries and policies. However, this so-called exemption is subject to a "notwithstanding" clause, which gives the U.S. the right to retaliate with measures of "equivalent commercial effect" in any other sector, if Canada invokes the exemption clause. In other words, Canada would have to be prepared to pay for the right to maintain a distinct culture. U.S. negotiator Peter Murphy called the exemption a "joke" and said he used it to wring other concessions out of Canada." -pg 111

I was apalled - again - when I listened to Michael Moore's discussion of Obama's health care reform on Democracy Now! Like Dennis Kucinich, he supports Barack Obama, and by extension, the corporatocracy that uses him, while stating very clearly that Obama is wrong and what he's doing is wrong. "“The healthcare bill that was passed ultimately will be seen as a victory for capitalism,” Moore says. “It protected the capitalist model of providing healthcare for people—in other words, we are not to help unless there is money to be made from it.”" -Democracy Now!

What was it Tommy Douglas said about fascism?:

"Let me remind you what fascism is. It need not wear a brown shirt or a green shirt - it may even wear a dress shirt. Fascism begins the moment a ruling class, fearing the people may use their political democracy to gain economic democracy, begins to destroy political democracy in order to retain its power of exploitation and special privilege." -pg 261 of "Straight Through The Heart," by Maude Barlow & Bruce Campbell

When did Barack Obama first make it known, in no uncertain terms, that the option of 'single payer', which he acknowledged was a good system, would not be discussed with him at that table where all options and ideas were going to be on the table?

And why are progressives still trying to sell this man and his Party to the rest of us?

Arby wrote:
We'll see. Do you believe it? Why would you believe it?


I guess it depends on ones definition of a bit more Smile

Did you understand what I wrote?

Certainly, but what does it have to do with whether or not the insurance companies have a bit more restraint on their racpacity?  Fact is, even if they only have to fill out one more form than they used to, it constitutes a bit more restraint, whether toothless or not. 

That aside, even the most minor improvement for some that may come from this bill (whether it is a good bill or not) will create stakeholders that will now have a reason to defend the bill against those who would repeal it for something less.  The problem that both sides face going into the 2010 election is whether or not some of those being lead around by the nose by the Teabag bunch, and others until now uncommitted, will discover personal reasons to want to keep what little may have been gained.


This might be of interest:

Health Care Reform’s Hidden Tax Gem

Okay. But if the little bit of restraint is 'no restraint' because, like those free trade side deals, they actually won't work, then there is not only nothing, but there is potentially less than nothing. You see, When the Americans now, and for who knows how long going forward, ask for 'more please', they can be told 'You just had more'. Right?

The question remains if the new limits will work to some extent, or whether the corporations will find a path around them.  And there is the possibility that if people see that changing the system actually makes it better, or at least not worse, that they might be receptive to further changes.

Keep in mind that the insurance companies are not the only big players in this game.  After being screwed over by the insurance companies for the past few decades I am sure that there are plenty of doctors ready to acknowledge that something similar to Canadian style health care is more preferable. Then, there is the issue of those other corporations who have to pay health care benefits.  Improvements that reduce their costs would pit them against the insurance companies, too.

If this were just a case of the public vs big money you could be right.  But I see it as more complicated than that.

And, all that aside, what effect this will have on the upcoming midterm election is going to depend on whether enough people decide they have something to defend or not, no matter how little it is.

I just now re-read my blog post about this, and the above article. I don't know why I was so harsh on Jerry. I feel like I was imagining things. Jerry didn't really say anything here that I can't agree with.

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