It’s my vote, not yours

We can’t afford to do this anymore. It’s time for Medicare for all.

I’ve taken a lot of criticism lately for saying I won’t vote for anyone who doesn’t support a single-payer health care system.

Here’s the thing: You don’t get to decide who gets my vote, not in the primary and not in the general election.

I have good reason for my position. I call it the Dead Kid Card (only because that’s what my son called it before he died from lack of access to health care). I suffered a loss most parents only have nightmares about. I sat beside my precious child as he breathed his last, and his cause of death was neglect for profit.

My son should not have died, nor should any of the half million people who have been murdered by our profit-driven “system” since his heart stopped beating.

Universal access to care was proposed by Theodore Roosevelt more than a century ago, and we’re still waiting. The rest of the world has found ways to do it, but we still prostrate ourselves before the altar of profit. We spend twice as much per person as any other system in any advanced nation, and our outcomes are always the worst among the industrialized nations. Hell, Cuba has better outcomes than we do, and that’s because everyone has access to the care they need.

I’m not willing to wait any longer. I believe enough people have died, and it’s time to stop the unnecessary deaths so some insurance executive can take home another few million dollars and stash it in an overseas tax-sheltered account.

Health insurance companies are parasites. They add nothing of value to our system, but they suck billions of dollars out of our economy, and they deny lifesaving care that causes the deaths of tens of thousands of people every year.

OK, so now you’ll argue that some people love their plans. Well, I have a couple of problems with that. First of all, Medicare for all will get care to everyone, not just the few well-to-do people who have their access to care but don’t even think about people who have little or no access. That’s called selfishness, or greed. Remember, Jesus never said, “I got mine, get your own.”

Secondly, we know that 70 percent of employer-sponsored plans are high-deductible — meaning you have to spend $1,000 or more before you see a penny in coverage — The average deductible is $3,000. This is in a society where nearly half of the people say they can’t pay a surprise bill of $400 without borrowing money.

No one can make me believe that most Americans love their health insurance in light of those statistics.

And it’s getting worse.

According to a study by The Commonwealth Fund, (https://www.commonwealthfund.org/ ), median household income in the United States between 2008 and 2018 grew 1.9% per year on average, rising from $53,000 to $64,202. But health care costs rose 6 percent per year in the same time, and the Affordable Care Act has been in effect for about half of that time.

“The most cost-burdened families live in southern states,” said Sara Collins, lead author of the report and vice president for health care coverage, access and tracking at The Commonwealth Fund.

In general, those states tend to have lower median incomes, so even if the sticker price for premiums and deductibles is lower than in higher-income regions, health insurance costs take up a greater share of Southerners’ income.

The next argument I get is that people who work for insurance companies need their jobs. Well, jobs administering Medicare will be plentiful. Even managers will be needed, although the CEOs who have been skimming billions in our national treasure can go and live on their blood money because they won’t be stealing any more from us.

The longer we wait to do this, the worse things are getting, as for-profit companies take over health care systems, especially in rural areas.

Rural hospitals are cutting services or closing altogether, especially in states that refuse to take the federal Medicaid expansion money that their citizens are already paying for. Here in Western North Carolina, women in labor have to travel up to two hours to get to a labor and delivery facility. Ambulance rides can cost up to a whopping $40,000. People are dying because they have to call an Uber because they can’t pay for an ambulance.

Under the current administration, the Affordable Care Act’s protections have been weakened. Premiums and deductibles have skyrocketed. Since the mandate that everyone buy insurance has been lifted, people of moderate means have dropped their coverage so they can afford to pay for food and shelter.

Meanwhile, plans have become more and more restrictive, putting drugs and care on tiers so that if a doctor comes to see you while you’re in the hospital and they are not on Tier 1 in your plan, you could be faced with thousands of dollars in uncovered care. That lifesaving antibiotic could wind up costing you $300 per pill.

So, when I hear a candidate say we can wait for Medicare for all, my response is, “Nope.”

Our corporate overlords may not care if you die from lack of access to care, but I do.

I will not vote for someone who thinks people can wait for health care, and you have no right to tell me I have to. People are dying NOW, and we have to fix this NOW. I really don’t care if the rich don’t like it. They’re not the ones I’m worried about.

My vote will ONLY go to someone who’s ready to fix this.

We are not a moral nation. Why does this surprise you?

Image by CNN

All over social media these last couple of days, I see people who are shocked, shocked, I tell you, over the Occupant ending DACA.

“I can’t believe this,” people are posting with all due righteous indignation.

Really? This surprises you?

I do believe what’s happening.

This is a nation built on the blood of enslaved people.

This is the only nation to have used a nuclear bomb.

This is the nation of Jim Crow and strange fruit.

It is the nation that abetted the political famine in 19th Century Ireland and then exploited the people escaping that famine.

This is the nation that refused to stop Stalin in the USSR as he killed millions through purges and political famine (an entire class of people, the Kulaks, were starved when they balked at turning their farmland over to the state).

This is the nation that turned away boatloads of Jews who were trying to escape genocide in Hitler’s Germany. And many Americans wear the symbol of that attempted genocide today while chanting white supremacist themes.

This is the nation that wiped out 90 percent of the people we found living here already when we “discovered” it.

This is the nation that turned a blind eye to genocide in Rwanda in the 1980s, to the genocide in Cambodia in the 1970s …

This is the nation that started a preemptive war with Iraq, the consequences of which will echo through the decades to come — perhaps longer.

This is the nation that refuses to pass laws allowing people to make enough money to support themselves when they work full-time.

This is the nation that allows people to die horrible deaths rather than offer access to lifesaving health care.

This is the nation that forces young people to mortgage their futures to get a college education.

This is the nation that cuts funding for Meals on Wheels, food stamps and free and reduced-price school lunches.

This is the nation that allows corporations to poison the water supply with farming and fracking chemicals in the name of profits.

This is the nation that allows privateers to run prisons for profit and to assess its future “inventory” based on fourth-grade reading scores.

We are not good people. We are a nation of thugs.

You and I may be righteous people, calling out the crimes committed in our names, but this nation, collectively, is not just or moral.

We as a nation committed these crimes and continue to commit crimes.

If our people won’t put a stop to these policies by getting out and voting for something better, we can not call ourselves a righteous people.

The myth of government dysfunction

By my friend and former colleague Matt Davies.

As a Supreme Court announcement on the Affordable Care Act nears, the volume on the rhetoric is rising almost to the pitch it was before President Obama signed the bill into law. House Speaker John Boehner is promising to eviscerate the law if it is upheld so that President Obama won’t be able to boast about success during the coming election season. GOP nominee Mitt Romney is denying he had anything to do with the Massachusetts plan on which the federal law is based. He now says he would work to repeal the ACA.

So, what about the good of the American people? Is our current “system” really worth defending? Are we really OK with more than 45,000 unnecessary deaths a year and hundreds of thousands of bankruptcies because of massive medical bills?

Big Insurance is fighting anything that will pinch its profits, and the GOP spin machine is talking about how the ACA will remove all control of their health care from people, and how the system will drown in an avalanche of paperwork.

But over here on the left with the ghost of Ted Kennedy, we’re talking about how to expand coverage, possibly to single-payer.

Here’s a little truth for you: Medicare spends 97 percent of its funds on direct services; health insurance companies are whining about having to spend 80 percent of the money they take in from customers on care. Why? Because of executive pay and bonuses, lobbying, advertising, marketing.

Here’s another uncomfortable fact for the right: Since 1970, the number of physicians has less than doubled, while administrators’ jobs have grown by about 3,200 percent, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. Those administrators work for insurance companies and for doctors’ offices, mainly because doctors need so much help coping with the different forms, codes and requirements of each insurance company. In the US, we spend more than $700 per person on health care administration than they do in Canada, which has a national system.

About 31 percent of everything we spend on health care goes to this administrative mess, and the worst of it comes from the private sector. Under an improved Medicaid-for-all system, bills would go to one place; forms and codes would be universal instead of having a different set for each of dozens of companies.

If everyone has the same coverage, there will be no tricks to deny people coverage, such as denying a claim for a colonoscopy because it was done in a doctor’s office instead of a free-standing clinic.

Doctors and patients can make decisions based on the needs of the patient, not on what the insurance company will or will not pay for. The bureaucrats who interfere with doctor-patient decisions work for the insurance companies, not the people.

A nurse complained to me a couple years ago that she was on the telephone with a Medicare representative for almost two hours as they tried to come up with a code that would pay for what the patient needed.

I told her a private insurance company would have denied the care and hung up, and she agreed that likely would have been the case. The bureaucrats in the government might be somewhat burned out, but they aren’t eligible for a bonus just for denying you care.

We could save somewhere between 45,000 and 101,000 lives every year because we all would have access to appropriate health care, not to mention the money saved by managing chronic illnesses so they don’t become crisis care.

Insurance companies are spending billions to avoid letting everyone have access to care because there’s no money in it for them.

We are the only one of the so-called wealthy nations that does not see health care as a basic human right.

No matter what the Supreme Court decides in June, we all need to demand a better solution — one that puts people before corporate profits.

 

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