Health Care: A Right not a Privilege

Drawing on a community service mentality, President Obama failed to grasp the profit-maximizing plans of the health care industry. He assumed that the industry would really jump at the chance of serving millions of new customers.

In contrast, like sharks, when Congress was considering the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health care lobbyists swarmed the Capital – eight for each member of Congress. Their goal was to insure maximum profits with only industry priorities. In step with their benefactors, Republicans and the conservative media odiously dissed any health care reform, even without knowing any details about ACA, spitting out the word “Obamacare” like venom.

The health care industry impatiently tolerated the advent of “Obamacare” and as time passed, implemented their profit-maximizing plans, knowing they could blame “Obamacare” for steeply rising premiums and drug prices. In addition, likes rats abandoning a service ship, they could find better pickings on corporate yachts.

Just as the undue influence of the NRA continues to outrage Americans witnessing mass murders on a regular basis, watching the NRA’s GOP puppets continually voting down restrictions on deadly guns, we are also watching outrageous price increases on vital drugs to fight the most deadly diseases, prices that put thousands in jeopardy.

There is Mylan’s EpiPen price hike of over 400%, impeding access to life-saving treatment for emergency allergic reactions, many times for children. There is an apparently misanthropic, Martin Shkreli, hedge fund manager and drug company CEO who raised the cost of a life-saving pill from $13.50 to $750. All this unmitigated greed is made possible by politicians being bought and paid for by Pharma interests.

But many signs still show us that the health care companies are the kings. Their armies of lobbyists, their campaign contributions can buy a zombie allegiance played out every day by mostly Republican representatives in all realms of government.

Despite Obamacare’s eventual success in insuring millions, an avalanche of false claims and imaginary plagues are still verbally cast.  Oaths of conflagration are pulled out of the air with utterances by GOP mouthpieces. Like mindless schoolyard banter, “Obamacare” is still cast off as a “job-killer,” or carelessly discharged as “a bad law,” or castigated as “fostering big government.”  The universal GOP solution is “repeal and replace” with no definitive alternative.

After all, the Republican propaganda beast has only slightly curbed its dishonest utterances. The truth — until we free the health care system from the for-profit beast — is things will only get worse. Any 2016 comparison of our system with other advanced countries will indicate this truth, for we pay more than twice as much per capita than the average western country.

Meanwhile, while Americans pay outrageous prices, Pharma, like unruly hooligans, continues to turn the screws to show us who is in charge of our medical lives. After a reasonable time of implementing “Obamacare,” the time is ripe to make us pay more. Pharma is leading the charge there because they can. They’ve been consistently authorized to charge what the traffic will bear. The last clear signal of Congress’s authorization was the Republican Congress in 2003 through the Medicare prescription drug bill, giving cart blanche to drug companies by forbidding the government and providers to negotiate reasonable prices for drugs and making it illegal to buy drugs from other countries.

The Republican-passed Medicare Act of 2003 made Medicare or Medicaid quite profitable for health insurance companies so that they seek business here while trying to reject less profitable business under the Affordable Care Act, written by Democrats to assure some protections for the insured rather than insurers. We are seeing companies like United Health Care trying to shed the coverage of Obamacare patients.

Most commercial policies that insurance companies now manage are Administrative Service Contracts (ASCs) which aren’t even actual insurance, this while Non ASC contracts (Obamacare, for example) are shrinking.  For ASCs, employers hire health insurance companies to manage medical expenses for their employees. The insurer gives employees access to networks of doctors and hospitals, processing claims, issuing denials and negotiating medical bills.

Employers pay the bills. As a result, with a nod to health care chieftains, hospital markups are insanely high. Insurers then marginally mark down the inflated prices owed by the employer and employees, if any co-pays. There is no incentive for insurers to keep prices down because employers pay the bill, but in turn there is great incentive for employers to negotiate higher co-pays for employees, as well as higher premiums under work contracts.

Seeing co-pays continually rise and witnessing the irrational costs of medical treatments, it is becoming increasingly evident to consumers that they are the ones paying for an overpriced system as their share of the costs precipitously rise. What is perhaps not as evident to employees is the reduced pay they receive due to the burdens of overpriced health care services.

That health care is a right rather than a privilege is debunked by conservative ideology, with the self-reliance screed promoted by conservatives. For generations, our capitalist system has joined in the negative chorus by demonizing socialism, a system favoring the many rather than the few.

Americans do not question the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, rights protected by public services: for example, the military, police departments and fire protection. These services do not have sticker prices and are not profit-driven, though some who lobby for privatization would argue for it. In fact, privatized forces in Iraq proved detrimental to the life and limbs of regular soldiers, not to speak of civilians in Iraq.

The right to life, liberty, and happiness is routinely taken away by bankruptcies caused by medical expenses. In addition, lives are lost or made worse with insurer or political rationing – even the exclusion of health care. In many cases these expenses are decided by for-profit health care providers.

Life-and-death decisions should not be a matter of profit but a matter of rights, or a matter of the common good.

James Hoover is a recently retired systems engineer. He has advanced degrees in Economics and English. Prior to his aerospace career, he taught high school, and he has also taught college courses. He recently published a science fiction novel called Extraordinary Visitors and writes political columns on several websites. Read other articles by James.