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Compulsory Private Health Insurance: Just Another Bailout of the Financial Sector?
Debt of Debt
December 24, 2009
[efoods]Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, is quoted as warning two centuries ago:
“Unless we put medical freedom into the Constitution, the time will come when medicine will organize into an underground dictatorship. . . . The Constitution of this republic should make special privilege for medical freedom as well as religious freedom.”
That time seems to have come, but the dictatorship we are facing is not the sort that Dr. Rush was apparently envisioning. It is not a dictatorship by medical doctors, who are as distressed by the proposed legislation as the squeezed middle class is. (For a withering analysis by an outraged M.D. of the nearly 2000 – page House bill, see here.) The new dictatorship is not by doctors but by Wall Street — the FIRE (finance, insurance, and real estate) sector that now claims 40% of corporate profits.
Economist L. Randall Wray observes that ever since Congress threw out the Glass-Steagall Act separating commercial banking from investment banking, insurance and Wall Street finance have been “two peas in a pod.” He writes:
“[T] here is a huge untapped market of some 50 million people who are not paying insurance premiums—and the number grows every year because employers drop coverage and people can’t afford premiums. Solution? Health insurance ‘reform’ that requires everyone to turn over their pay to Wall Street. . . . This is just another bailout of the financial system, because the tens of trillions of dollars already committed are not nearly enough.”
The health reform bills now coming through Congress are not focused on how to make health care cheaper or more effective, how to eliminate waste and fraud, or how to cut out expensive middlemen. As originally envisioned, the public option would have pursued those goals. But the public option has been dropped from the Senate bill and radically watered down in the House bill.
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