Our National Health Care Plan

W.J. Astore

Fifteen years ago, I saw a bumper sticker on a colleague’s car:

Our National Health Care Plan — Don’t Get Sick.

That’s about as succinct an expression of U.S. health care as you can make. We have no national health care plan. Your only hope is not to get sick, or, if you do get a serious (read: expensive) illness, to die quickly before you and yours are bankrupted.

I often joke that health care is really wealth care in America, and an anecdote shared by a friend this morning confirmed it. He recently had a bad case of the flu, but he confirmed it wasn’t Covid-19 through home test kits. Since he travels to Germany, he bought several home test kits there that were on sale for the equivalent of roughly one dollar. Compare that to Covid home test kits at CVS here in America (assuming you can find one), which retail for $30.00. As my friend noted, “Your profit-driven health care industry at work!”

Profiting from sickness is truly an “exceptional” feature of American capitalism. Isn’t it wonderful that you have the “freedom” to purchase private, for-profit, health insurance that costs you hundreds of dollars a month, with deductibles of $5000 or $10,000 or higher, with co-pays and various other costs and restrictions? Truly, freedom isn’t free!

A reminder: Joe Biden ran against Medicare for all and said he’d veto it if it ever reached his desk, which it obviously won’t. But he did promise a public (government-provided) option for health care, a promise he has failed to keep, just as Barack Obama failed to keep his promise for a public option in 2008-09. And the Democrats wonder why so many people either don’t vote or vote for an even more pro-business party.

The latest betrayal is the Democratic Party’s capitulation to Big Pharma. Instead of allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for all prescription drugs, the Democrats have decided to allow negotiation for only 10 drugs, the new prices of which won’t become effective until 2025. One of these drugs is insulin. So if your insulin costs too much and you need to ration it, thereby imperiling your health, never fear: maybe in four years it’ll be affordable again. Or maybe not.

And if you’re sick and you need an expensive drug that’s not one of the magical ten, well, too bad for you. Maybe you shouldn’t have gotten sick. Or maybe you should have gotten a job with better health care benefits. It’s most certainly your fault, not the government’s and certainly not that of the profit-driven health care industry.

Clint Eastwood, in “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” said that “Dying ain’t much of a living.” That may have been true about bounty hunting, but it turns out that many indeed are making a living, indeed a killing, off of health care in America. Hooray capitalism!