GOP rhetoric distorts the health care debate

JOHN MACDONALD

For decades, right-wing
Republican politicians have
tried to sell Americans a utopia
in which there is minimal government
and taxes are extremely
low. In a country dominated
by aggressive, capitalistic corporations,
this vision is as
unrealistic as that of the radical
Islamist conservatives that
seek a unified Islamist world
ruled by a single caliph who is
the ultimate political and religious
authority.
The ongoing healthcare
debate is the latest example of
the Republicans portraying
socially-beneficial legislative
as an attack on freedom. Sen.
Jim DeMint, R., S.C., calls the
healthcare legislation “a trillion
dollar assault on our freedoms.”
Other Republicans
referred to the legislation as
socialism and a government
takeover of healthcare.
So what is the nature of this
“government takeover” of
healthcare and what freedoms
have Americans lost under the
new healthcare law?
The 32 million Americans who
will now get healthcare coverage
have lost the “freedom” to
go without health care.
Children and adults have lost
the “freedom” to have their
health insurance companies
arbitrarily stop covering their
medical costs simply because
they are sick.
Chronically ill children and
adults have lost the “freedom”
to have their health insurance
companies refuse to cover their
medical expenses for their
“pre-existing” conditions or
arbitrarily put a cap on the total
amount of medical costs that
the companies will pay.
Insured Americans lost the
“freedom” to have the appeal
process for claims denials solely
controlled by the same company
that denied their claim.
Americans lost the freedom
right to have to pay 100 percent
of their preventative medicine
costs and will be forced
to have 100 percent of their
preventative medicine costs
covered by their health insurance
companies.
Small business owners lost the
“freedom” not to be reimbursed
for the costs of healthcare
insurance they provide to
their employees and will have
to suffer the tyranny of getting
a tax credit of up to 35 percent
of their health insurance premiums.
Dependent students and young
adults lost “freedom” to be
uninsured for their medical
expenses and now have the
right to stay on their parents’
health insurance policies until
age 26.
Functionally disabled adults
lost the “freedom” to be denied
health insurance coverage and
can voluntarily obtain longterm
health insurance coverage.
These are sensible reforms,
most of which are designed to
regulate or eliminate current
abuses by the health insurance
industry. They hardly seem
like an assault on Americans’
freedoms.
The healthcare system was
taken over several decades
ago, not by government but by
the giant corporate health
insurance companies. These
big companies managed the
private healthcare system by
restricting access to medical
care and procedures while
maximizing company profits.
According to the World
Health System, we only rank
37th in healthcare, behind such
notables as San Marino,
Andorra, Singapore,
Colombia, Chile, Dominica
and Costa Rica and only barely
ahead of Cuba and Slovenia.
The CIA World Factbook for
2009 list the U.S. as only 45th
in infant mortality, with double
infant death rates of Hong
Kong, Japan, Sweden,
Bermuda and Singapore.
Most Republicans on the
right oppose healthcare reform
for the same reason that they
oppose most socially-beneficial
legislation. They are
against anything that restricts
the freedom of big corporations
to do whatever they want
to make huge profits, regardless
of how that affects the rest
of us.
The red-herring charges of
“socialism” and loss of freedom
are nothing new. These
terms were also used by
Republicans to oppose New
Deal legislation that created
the Social Security System, the
Federal Deposit Insurance
Corporation (to protect individual
depositors from bank
failures), and the Securities
Exchange Commission, which
was formed to regulate large
financial institutions.
They used “socialism” to
oppose unemployment insurance,
and, more recently, the
formation of the Medicare and
Medicaid systems which provide
affordable healthcare to
tens of millions of Americans–
the elderly, disabled and poor.
What would our country and
economy look like today without
Social Security, unemployment
insurance, or Medicare
and Medicaid benefits? Not
very pretty, I assure you. As
the dust settles and Americans
begin to reap the real benefits
of the recent healthcare reform
legislation, we may come see
that legislation become as popular
and necessary as these earlier
social reforms upon which
tens of millions of Americans
have come to depend.