December 3, 2009
Statement to the media against proposed federal healthcare legislation
by Sukey Wolf for Sisters Organize for Survival (SOS), a campaign of Seattle Radical Women to save the Washington state Basic Health Plan
As Congress debates healthcare reform, many in the U.S. are questioning whether the change they hoped for has turned into a measure that will actually make things worse. Sisters Organize for Survival concludes that the skeptics are right. The plans Congress is writing entrench unlimited profits for the private insurance industry, the cause of our healthcare crisis. Working people will still be forced to pay outrageous costs and get precious little. The few positive provisions, including prohibiting insurance companies from denying benefits to those with pre-existing health conditions, are tied to racist, sexist and anti-senior baggage that reduces or withholds benefits.
This legislation is not the cure we desperately need. It should be rejected in favor of universal not-for-profit healthcare. Real reform must include full mental and physical care, including dental benefits, provided without discrimination based on income, age, gender, race or national origin.
The so-called "public option"will be available to so few people that it will not introduce the promised price-lowering competition into the market. Instead, the Senate and House bills would force most people to buy insurance or pay a fine, handing insurance companies 40 million new customers subsidized by tax dollars, but whose policies will only provide minimal coverage.
Bills discriminate against immigrants, women and elders
Both the House and Senate bills prohibit federal funding for undocumented workers. The Senate bill even excludes them from participating in the insurance exchanges that will be set up, even if they can afford to pay the full cost. On top of this, both plans bar immigrants with papers access to Medicaid coverage or insurance subsidies for five years. This flagrant bias based on national origin is not only bad for individual and public health, it violates the U.S. Constitution!
Both bills leave the Hyde Amendment, which restricts federal funding for abortion, intact. Democrats could have seized this healthcare reform opportunity to restore needed funding for abortion services. Instead, the House bill further restricts a woman's access to safe and legal abortion: plans that cover abortion would be excluded from insurance exchanges, even for women who receive no federal subsidies.
The proposed bills discriminate against seniors because, even though insurance companies will be barred from denying policies to those with pre-existing conditions, they can charge up to double the normal rates based on health status and age! In addition, the House plans to partly finance its bill with $500 billion in cuts to Medicare.
Congress doesn't touch corporate profit–gouging
Neither bill challenges the underlying problem of healthcare in this country — the soaring profits of insurance, pharmaceutical, and medical supply companies, hospitals and nursing homes. The average profits of healthcare companies nearly tripled in the last decade. How could we expect anything besides more of the same, when there are six health industry lobbyists for every member of Congress, and millions of dollars going into campaign war chests!
Workers and the poor will be forced to pay
Without curbing profits of healthcare companies and taxing the rich and large corporations, workers and the poor will bear the brunt of the costs. While the House bill proposes a 5.4% surtax on the rich for a portion of its funding (a welcome provision), it will make up the difference with the huge cuts to Medicare.
The Senate bill would impose a 40% tax on so-called "Cadillac health plans"– employer paid healthcare often negotiated by unionized workers who made wage concessions to obtain them.
Instead of slashing programs such as Medicare, taxing employer-provided benefits and punishing those who can't afford insurance, Congress could reduce costs dramatically by nationalizing healthcare completely or by introducing a single-payer, "Medicare for all" In addition to taxing rich people and corporations, if tax dollars budgeted for war were spent instead on human services, there would be no need to curtail healthcare for women, immigrants, elders and the poor.
Federal plan won't solve the state crisis – save Washington Basic Health!
National healthcare reform isn't scheduled to be fully implemented until 2013, and there are currently nearly 900,000 uninsured in Washington state. It is a bitter irony that in the face of these facts, the state legislature is contemplating further cuts, or even eliminating Basic Health, the insurance plan for low-income people. Rate increases that go into effect on January 1 are expected to force 40,000 recipients off the program. Currently, Basic Health has about 78,000 people on the waiting list, as many as are enrolled in the program! In a time of layoffs and double-digit unemployment, Basic Health should be expanded, not curtailed.
Healthcare is a human right
Sisters Organize for Survival, a campaign of Seattle Radical Women, calls on Governor Gregoire and the legislature to stop balancing the budget on the backs of poor and working people. They have already drastically cut social services as a result of the recession. State officials must make companies like Boeing and Microsoft, which have profited mightily from tax breaks and favorable regulations, pay their fair share for a change.
Thursday, December 10 is International Human Rights Day. SOS is organizing a call-in campaign to Governor Gregoire to save Basic Health. The public is invited to call on their own or phone bank at Freeway Hall, 5018 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle, anytime from 10am to 7pm.
For more information, contact Seattle Radical Women at 206-722-6057 or email, RWSeattle@mindspring.com. Or visit www.radicalwomen.org to sign the Basic Health petition.
Sukey Wolf is a socialist feminist writer and therapist. She has a Master's degree in clinical psychology and is the author of "Soapbox: Care for the mentally ill sinks back 100 years," Freedom Socialist, Vol. 29, No. 4, August-September 2008.