Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/496/2642
'Universal healthcare' plans of the Democrats fall short
WITH HEALTHCARE costs at an all-time high and one-in-five non-elderly Americans uninsured, 'universal healthcare' is a top promise of all the serious Democratic presidential hopefuls.
Dani Indovino, Socialist Alternative, USA
While calling for a universal healthcare system, the leading Democratic candidates are however actually advocating no more than a reorganisation of the current privatised system. Barack Obama's widely-discussed scheme, for example, calls for the currently uninsured to buy into a federally-offered private plan akin to what members of Congress already get.
This programme, while often low-cost to the poorest families, would discourage employer-based healthcare, only mandating they pay marginally higher taxes if they don't insure their employees. The Clinton plan is quite similar.
Obama also focuses on cutting current healthcare costs in hope that the savings will lower costs for working people. However, his fix of computerising medical records and streamlining claims procedures will mainly increase the profits of insurance companies. With no control on their profit margins, it is unlikely that health insurance costs would decrease at all.
The plans heralded by Democratic hopefuls will not take away the authority of insurance companies to decide what healthcare you receive. Many insured people are unable to get the procedures they need because of cost-cutting restrictions put on coverage by the insurance companies.
Before the release of Sicko, Michael Moore said of the Democrats: "They don't seem to want to grapple with the real issue. It's very sad. Even the well-intentioned people like John Edwards - his plan seems to be to take our tax dollars and put them into the pockets of the private insurance industry." (Sicko production notes).
Finally, there is no guarantee that Democrats can deliver even these paltry plans. History shows that campaign promises are nothing more than words. Bill and Hillary Clinton rode to office in 1992 on the promise of a new healthcare plan and, despite a Democratic-controlled Congress between 1992 and 1994, failed to deliver. The Democratic White House and Congress caved in to the crushing pressure of insurance companies.
For every member of Congress, there are four lobbyists from the healthcare industry in Washington DC. The leading politicians from both parties are effectively indentured to the industry through campaign contributions.
In this context, no policy that challenges the profits of the insurance companies or the HMOs is likely to be proposed by any serious contender in the Democratic primaries. Working people will need to look to our own strength and independent political mobilisations to win the kind of free national healthcare system we need.
End the rule of profit... we need a socialist economy!
THE BASIC goal of the capitalist owners of health insurance companies is no different from the goals of General Motors, Nike, or Texaco. Their aim is not to provide medical care, cars, shoes, or gas stations. Instead, to survive under capitalism, corporations must completely fixate on their profit margin at the expense of workers, consumers, and the environment.
If it makes sense to take the profit motive out of the healthcare industry and put it under public, democratic ownership and control, then why not the big oil and car companies who are blocking the transition to a renewable energy economy and fully developed mass transit systems?
Why not take big agribusiness into public democratic control to ensure safe food, sustainable farming methods, and an end to the malnutrition and hunger which affects one in four US children?
Is there any major company where workers could not elect management teams and cooperatively decide production priorities, investment, and wage scales? Socialists argue that we should take the top 500 US corporations and put them under democratic workers' control and management.
Public ownership of the 'commanding heights' of the US economy would allow, for the first time, real democratic control over the direction of our society. Instead of the profit-driven anarchy of the market, democratic economic planning and resource distribution would allow us to end class divisions, poverty, homelessness, unemployment, and much more.
The US is the richest nation in history. There is plenty of wealth to solve our pressing social problems. But until working people own and democratically control the goods and services we produce, the capitalist elite will continue to direct society toward their narrow interests.
Let's fight for a free, quality national health service, linking that campaign to the wider struggle for genuine democratic socialism.
In The Socialist 19 July 2007:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
War and terrorism
Socialist Party news and analysis
Postal workers' strike
Council cuts threaten schools
Socialist Party youth and students
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party events