“Let them eat cake,” the notoriously callous words ascribed to Marie Antoinette, were probably said a century earlier by Marie-Thérèse, the wife of Louis XIV. But whoever said them, the statement conveyed the mindset of an aristocracy oblivious to the realities confronting the poor — and is still with us to this day.
“Congressmen, what shall we do about the 30 million Americans lacking health insurance?”
“Why, that is simple. Force them to buy it. Fine them heavily if they don’t!”
“What if they don’t have the money?”
“Then take it from those who do!”
The health reform bills now coming through Congress are not focused on how to make health care cheaper, more effective, or how to eliminate waste and fraud as originally envisioned. The public option has been dropped from the Senate bill and radically watered down in the House bill. Rather than focusing on making health care affordable, the bills focus on how to force people either to buy health insurance if they don’t have it, or to pay more for it if they do. If you don’t have insurance and don’t purchase it, you will be subject to a hefty fine. And if you do purchase it, premiums, co-pays, co-insurance payments and deductibles are liable to keep health care cripplingly expensive. Most of the people who don’t have health care can’t afford to pay the deductibles, so they will never use the plans they are forced to buy or be fined.
To subsidize those who can’t pay, the Senate bill would make families earning two to four times the poverty level who don’t have employer-sponsored insurance surrender 8% to 12% of their income to insurance payments, or pay a fine. In another effort to make the insurance payments “affordable,” the Senate bill calls for the lowest cost plan to cover only sixty percent of health care costs.
“In other words,” writes Dr. Andrew Coates, “a guarantee of insurance industry dominance and the continued privatization of health care in every arena.”