(9 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
This is a commentary about Scheer’s piece in today’s Alternet, amidst the ongoing talk about “health insurance reform.” Generally, this diary re-asks the question inspired by Scheer’s piece: what’s the deal with cost issues? Or, more specifically, we ought to be asking: why doesn’t the government just put this one on the credit card, like it does with banking and defense?
(Crossposted at Big Orange)
I would like to redirect eyes, briefly now, to Robert Scheer’s piece in today’s Alternet: “Big Whoop: 1 Republican Signs on to Watered-Down Health Reform, and the Media Gets in a Bipartisan Tizzy.” This piece comes amidst general concern about “watering down the public option,” concern one can also read in TomP’s diary of yesterday.
Scheer’s argument is briefly given in one of the paragraphs toward the top: this is all a big distraction. Health insurance reform is a farce. Scheer’s question about why now and not when we’re in a “growth economy” is more of his self-identification as a believer in capitalism — there’s really no assurance the “growth economy” will ever come back to the US in any significant way, what with three decades of declining growth. From the Monthly Review:
In an article on “The Centrality of Finance,” in the August 2007 issue of the Journal of World-System Research, MR and MR Press author William K. Tabb writes:
Real global growth averaged 4.9 percent a year during the Golden Age of national Keynesianism (1950-1973). It was 3.4 percent between 1974 and 1979; 3.3 percent in the 1980s; and only 2.3 percent in the 1990s, the decade with the slowest growth since World War II.
So yeah, there’s nothing to back up Scheer’s faith in some imagined future “when we have a growth economy.” But there’s some substance to Scheer’s piece anyway. Referring to the Baucus bill, Scheer argues:
The main thrust of the proposal is to forcibly submit even more customers to the tender mercies of the insurance industry while doing nothing significant to cut costs. Insurers will now pretend that the burdens on them are onerous and will demand concessions to make this an even bigger boondoggle for the medical profiteers than George W. Bush’s prescription drug coverage initiative.
OK, fair enough. The insurance companies are, then, planning a big and permanent subsidy for their industry, to cement their position over and above the rest of us mere unsubsidized peons. Federal Romneycare, if you will. Now, that’s not a distraction — that’s new mandates for many of us, plus a new set of overlords. Mandates, no public option, no real control on denials, dubious controls on insurer misbehavior, and so on. People can’t hear or read this stuff enough, IMHO. But then there’s this curious paragraph toward the end of Scheer’s argument:
There is an odd disconnect between the furious public debate over health care reform, with its emphasis on the cost of an increased government role, and the nonexistent discussion about the far more expensive and largely secretive government program to bail out Wall Street. Why the agitation over the government spending $83 billion a year on health care when at least 20 times that amount has been thrown at the creators of the ongoing financial crisis without any serious public accountability?
Now this is a question more people ought to be asking. Why can’t the government just cough up the credit card, pay for everything, and leave it at that? That’s certainly what it does with the defense budget.
At any rate, “health insurance reform” is likely to be something that only a government can afford, if it goes through. This was emphasized by the insurance companies’ carping at the Baucus bill, and their threat to raise rates. It’s not going to be “revenue-neutral,” not by a long shot.
So why doesn’t the Obama administration tell the insurers, “sure, we’ll cover your higher rates with higher subsidies”? What is all the to-do about costs? Obama likes paying off special interests — his right hand Timothy Geithner promised $12.8 trillion for the banks, so what’s a few billions here and there for insurers?
Is this a matter of budgetary priorities, on the order of “we can afford to throw a year’s GDP at the banks, but not a much smaller amount at the insurers, because we only can print so much money without risking dollar hegemony“?
Now, I’m not one of those who actually believes the gossip about the end of dollar hegemony. At the end of the day, a bunch of someones, rich, powerful someones, is going to be stuck with dollar-denominated assets. And so those assets are not going to die. So, yes, the government can afford this. They print the money. (Oh, sure, it’s “loans from the Fed,” and all that. That’s just a formality.)
Is it just that Obama is in with the bankers but not with the insurers? We know he’s in with the bankers. From SourceWatch, quoting the UK’s Financial Times:
“Obama received more donations from employees of investment banks and hedge funds than from any other sector, with Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase among his biggest sources of support.
Or is there something else at stake here?
At any rate, I’m waiting for the final judgment to be spread about the Washington Consensus that “health insurance reform,” meaning the continued subsidy of the industrialized world’s shoddiest and most expensive health care system, is “just too expensive.” John Geyman has said as much, and he’s one of the good guys.
Perhaps we ought to get Obama, who has become the subject of much contention as regards his stance on the public option, to clarify his position on the financing of “health insurance reform.”
Is Obama willing to endorse enough money-printing to cover the subsidies which will be necessary to get all of America to buy expensive health insurance when a hefty portion of America is unemployed or broke or both?
Or are we going to get an Obama endorsement of health-insurance reform “on the cheap,” forcing America to buy policies which don’t cover anything because they have to be cheap enough to be affordable to people who don’t have money to spend?
What’s the deal?