i was much less surprised than most people, it seems, when the Supreme Court, in one of its notorious 5-4 decisions, upheld the so-called “national health care plan” that has become known, among both its revilers and defenders, as “Obomacare.” My lack of surprise came from two considerations: what this law mandates, and where it originated. What is surprising to me is the seemingly complete lack of public awareness of the broader context of this struggle. But hey, this blog is called “Deep Green Perspective,” not “Shallow Green Snap Judgement,” so if you’ve been following me for a while, it’s because you expect the long view. Here goes.
Obamacare was upheld by the widely unexpected swing vote of Chief Justice John Roberts. It makes perfect sense to me that Roberts would vote to uphold this godsend for the private insurance industry. The Bush-Cheney stacked Supreme Court has never turned down an expansion of corporate power, has it? So, in a sense, this decision was an extension of “Citizens’ United.” Not only do “corporate citizens” have the “right” to spend freely in order to influence elections and legislation, those of us who are mere flesh-and-blood citizens must give them our money so they have plenty of funds to expand their prerogatives.
But the really bizarre part of all this political drama is that everybody seems to have forgotten where the basis of “Obamacare” originated. Republicans denounce it as “socialism,” Republican governors vow to do what they can to block its implementation in their states–which they can do, since part of the Supremes’ decision struck down the part of the law that mandated expansion of Medicare, and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney vows to repeal the law if he is elected. On the other side, Democrats cheer the Supremes’ decision, viewing it as a somewhat unexpected “liberal” victory.
All this sturm-und-drang conveniently ignores, or forgets, the actual origins of Obama’s health plan. May I remind you that Obama got the basics of it from the plan Mitt Romney passed when he was governor of Massachusetts? It should be called “Romboma Care”–credit where credit is due! And may I remind you that Romney received the plan from the Angel Moroni–oo;s, no, that’s the Joseph Smith story–but, by the way, what does it mean that the Founding Angel of the Mormon faith has a name so dangerously close to a derogatory term for a person with a dull intellect? But I digress….The plan Romney passed in Massachusetts originated with the deeply reactionary Heritage Foundation, spiritual home of Newt Gingrich, founded by Joe Coors, Paul Weyrich, and Richard Mellon Scaife. The Heritage Foundation, whose patron saint is Margaret Freaking Thatcher. Moloch!
And so, all America’s Democrat Party “liberals” are celebrating a Democrat President’s implementation of a reactionary, corporatist “health care plan,” as if it were a great victory. And somewhere, Spiro Agnew, who is reputed to have predicted, “This country is going to swing so far to the right that you won’t believe it,” somewhere Spiro Agnew smiled.
But wait–there’s more!
The good news/bad news about Rombomacare is that it has been in effect in Massachusetts for six years now, and, while it still has its defenders, its defects have been glaring. The Green Party’s Presidential candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, has been a practicing physician in Massachusetts, and here‘s what she has to say about it:
Forty percent of the people who need health coverage find that it’s still too expensive for them. And a quarter of the people who seek payments get denied by their private insurers. It has failed to control costs, and as a result they are raising co-pays and attacking public employee health plans. It’s a fiscal and administrative nightmare which has gutted public services in Massachusetts. Schemes developed by health industry lobbyists to enrich themselves will never take care of our real needs.”
And Dr. Stein’s not just playing politics. Here’s a corroborating view from Physicians for a National Health Program:
It does not guarantee universal coverage.
It leaves the insured vulnerable to financial ruin if they get sick.
It leaves the insured vulnerable to losing their coverage.
The mandate is failing….A remarkable 62,000 people were exempted from the mandate in 2007 because they couldn’t afford insurance, despite the state’s effort to ensure affordable plans.
The plan has decimated the state’s safety net. The dollars that formerly purchased care directly for those needing free care are now being funneled through the private insurance industry with its high overhead and administrative costs.
The plan is unsustainable…..(It) does nothing to control skyrocketing health care costs. In fact, the Connector adds an additional 4.5% administrative cost to each policy it brokers.
And we’re only talking about Massachusetts here. Rombamacare attempts to fix some of the worst flaws of the Romney plan, making it more difficult for insurance companies to cancel existing policies, but it does nothing to address the underlying problem, which is the for-profit, wildly inflated price structure that is at the heart of the American illness care system.
One example: the average annual cost of health insurance for a family of four has gone from $6400 in 2000 to $15,000 in 2011. Has your income gone up 150% in the last decade? Nope, didn’t think so. But your doctor’s income, your hospital’s income, and the income of the pharmaceutical company you may depend on–their incomes are all up. And, because Rombomacare has been designed in collusion with all these players, it will do little or nothing to contain costs, thus fulfilling Republican fears that the plan’s ultimate fiscal impact has been severely soft-pedalled. They’re wrong about so many things, but they’re right about that.
But their response, to throw the poor to the wolves, is the wrong response. While it’s true that we are entering a rough transition into a very different world from the one we grew up in, “every man for himself and devil take hindmost” is not an acceptable solution to our health care mess, or any of the other difficult situations facing us. The sane, compassionate answer starts with “we’re all in this together,” and builds from personal responsibility, to neighborhood interaction, into city, county, and statewide movements that will ultimately move the country, the continent, and the world.
Personal responsibility involves taking charge of ourselves, investigating our habit patterns, both physical and emotional, and doing all we can to live individually healthier lives, through improved diet, more exercise, stress management and reduction, and improving our social and technical skills, learning to do for ourselves and help others. In the course of reorienting our own lives, or certainly at the point of interacting with our friends and neighbors, we may find that there are social and legal barriers to overcome. Some may be local, such as zoning regulations that restrict our ability to raise food or run a small business from our homes. Some may be statewide, such as Tennessee’s bizarre laws that classify compost as “rotting garbage” and call for it to be treated like toxic waste. (And yes, I know, there’s a lot more craziness than that written into Tennessee’s legal structure!)
And then there are national issues, like the influence that companies like Monsanto have on our national agricultural policy, causing our government to spend billions on really bad ideas that destroy soil and genetic diversity. Beyond that, there is the government’s irrational orientation towards maintaining the American empire, which is draining the country to preserve the chimera of US world domination. We, each of us, need to do all we can on all these fronts. It’s not enough merely to tend our gardens, nor is it wise to neglect our gardens in order to take on the military-industrial complex. “Complex,” indeed, in so many senses of the word–Freudian, medical, and technical, to name a few, and the only way out of that complexity is to simplify, simplify, simplify. The koan, as the Zen Buddhists say, is that simplification can appear very complex. The answer is to take it one step at a time. Ready, set, step…..