I’ve guess I’ve finally come back to my senses.
After years of being cynical about our political system’s capability of doing anything but accumulating debt, I somehow thought Obama could make a difference. I thought, among other things, that meaningful healthcare reform was finally on its way.
But the system itself is more powerful than Obama … far more powerful.
I didn’t think it was possible that Congress could create a healthcare reform bill that I would oppose. I figured that any change would be a step in the right direction.
But then the White House caved in to Big Pharma on issues like Medicare price negotiations and Canadian drug reimportation. Big Pharma was basically assured that it could continue to charge monopoly prices for brand-name drugs without restraint.
That completely knocks out the promise of controlling skyrocketing prescription drug costs — which should have been a key pillar of healthcare reform.
Obama did this, clearly, as a political calculation. He did not think he could get a bill passed if he had both Big Pharma and Big Insurance against him. So he picked his poison — and Big Pharma agreed to support reform.
As a result, “healthcare reform” has become “health insurance reform.” The health insurance industry, like Big Pharma, is not a sterling example of the free market economy at work. That’s why you don’t see real price competition, and why health insurance companies focus instead on increasing their margins by not paying off claims. It’s also why a public option is necessary for there to be any chance of real insurance reform.
I don’t think Obama’s going to get the public option, either.
I think we’re going to get a bill passed that encourages/forces Americans to sign up for private insurance, and that continues to subsidize drug company profits. It will end up enriching both Big Pharma and Big Insurance. And it will cost us billions or trillions of dollars that we don’t have and must borrow from China.
Borrow and spend. That’s been the core “problem-solving” approach of both Democrats and Republicans over the past 30 years (with the exception of Bill Clinton, the only president to have balanced the budget during this period.) In fact, Obama’s “problem-solving” approach on healthcare is eerily similar to George Bush’s approach on Medicare Part D.
As former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich explains:
The White House confirmed it has promised Big Pharma that any healthcare legislation will bar the government from using its huge purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices. That’s basically the same deal George W. Bush struck in getting the Medicare drug benefit, and it’s proven a bonanza for the drug industry. A continuation will be an even larger bonanza, given all the Boomers who will be enrolling in Medicare over the next decade. And it will be a gold mine if the deal extends to Medicaid, which will be expanded under most versions of the healthcare bills now emerging from Congress, and to any public option that might be included. (We don’t know how far the deal extends beyond Medicare because its details haven’t been made public.)
Let me remind you: Any bonanza for the drug industry means higher health-care costs for the rest of us, which is one reason why critics of the emerging healthcare plans, including the Congressional Budget Office, are so worried about their failure to adequately stem future healthcare costs. To be sure, as part of its deal with the White House, Big Pharma apparently has promised to cut future drug costs by $80 billion. But neither the industry nor the White House nor any congressional committee has announced exactly where the $80 billion in savings will show up nor how this portion of the deal will be enforced. In any event, you can bet that the bonanza Big Pharma will reap far exceeds $80 billion. Otherwise, why would it have agreed?
Isn’t it odd, in a day when the political parties are supposedly so different, and people are shouting about non-existent “death panels” at town hall meetings, that the underlying reality is that the political parties are actually so similar? That the Democrats’ “solution” for healthcare may simply be an expanded version of the Republicans’ “solution” for seniors who can’t afford their prescription drugs — Medicare Part D?
Democrats and Republicans enjoy the perks of power. But they ultimately don’t run Washington. They both must answer to the same “paymasters,” as consumer advocate Ralph Nader calls them. Corporate interests.
Show me a grassroots movement that takes on corporate power, and I’ll show you a third political party. You won’t find it within the current two-party system. When we next “water the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants,” as Jefferson put it, those tyrants will be giant multinational corporations, not their trembling lackeys who hold political office.119