Only the most indoctrinated of Democrats and the most stubbornly hopeful of progressives can really celebrate the passage of the current Health Care Reform bill through the House.* Rhetoric comparing it to the Social Security bill during the Depression is, shall we say, a bit overblown. The bill - which is already being touted as too liberal for the Senate - is far from the populist, socialist mess that you may have heard it described as (if only it were).
* Much like passing a kidney stone, I think. Or passing gas.
Over at Counterpunch, Rose Ann DeMoro provides the most lucid discussion of the pros and cons of the bill that I have seen. There are many improvements in this bill over what we have now, and it is undeniable that insurance companies would have prefered that things remain the same. That said, the single most frustrating aspect of this bill is that it mandates that Americans buy insurance without actually making it any cheaper. This is a death-wish for an already shaky economy (what will people buy when all of their money goes towards health care?) already ravaged by the exploitative business practices of corporations in almost every sector. More importantly, it is socialism of the worst kind: government mandate without government regulation of the industry in question. It is as if all public schools were abolished, replaced with private schools, and parents were forced to send their children anyway (and don't look now, but that's the darker side of the charter school movement*).
* Ok, ok, I'll do a post on this later.
What has puzzled me throughout this debate, however, is the quiet non-involvement of businesses in other industries. Sure, giant health care companies have a lot to gain by mandated insurance, but small businesses and struggling corporations in other sectors are often devastated by the health care plans they provide for their employees. Why, I have wondered, doesn't General Motors back Universal Health Care? Why doesn't Goldman Sachs, or AIG, or Coke, or Viacom? These companies all have to pay insurance benefits for their employees. Imagine if they could shift that cost to the government in a single payer system.
Only recently did it hit me. Mandated insurance. Every American must buy health insurance. Most companies are required to provide insurance already, but surely they wouldn't...
They would. The silence from other industries comes from a simple fact: mandated health insurance, plus the elimination of the requirement to provide employee health benefits. There are nuances of course, but in the battle between big corporate lawyer and "little guy" lawyer, who do you think will win?
Yes. It's that bad.