Opinion » The Rant

Trumpscare

The battle over health care has left lots of wounded behind.

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Now that the farce called Trumpcare has imploded into finger pointing and recriminations, you can bet the insurance companies, aided by the GOP congress, will do everything in their power to assure the final destruction of Obamacare. Since the health-care industry is in turmoil, may I ask a basic question? What in God's name is the insurance business doing in the heart of health care in the first place? Why should anyone profit from the misery of others?

I roughly understand the basics of life insurance. People come together as a group and pay continual premiums into a general account. Miss a payment, and they keep your money. Just ask me. Everybody's premiums are invested, making the insurance companies grandly prosperous, so they can afford to pay death benefits to the beneficiaries of the dearly departed who had the courtesy to die within the allotted time frame. In other words, you're making a bet on when you'll buy the farm. The insurers even have mortality tables that provide odds on your death, sort of like a human expiration date. Should you win your bet, your family gets paid, only you're dead. If you live past the 20 or 30 years usually proscribed in an insurance contract, you lose and get squat. And they keep your money — all of it.

The whole thing is purposely vague so that you need to hire an agent, or one will surely find you. The same principles apply to other insurance instruments, like car, home, travel, or personal accident. The difference is that not everyone will be involved in a car wreck, or have their travelers' checks stolen, or their house burn down, but sooner or later, everybody is going to get sick. 

The purpose of Obamacare was to spread the risks of health-care costs among a large group of people in order to pay the extortion rates of the medical and pharmaceutical industries. For instance, a bottle of Excedrin at Walgreen's costs six dollars, but in the hospital, it's six bucks a tablet. It's all a scam assembled by the institutions that stand to reap the profits from the treatment of the sick and elderly. That's why Obama asked for the mandate, so that younger people who tend to be healthier join the pool of the insured. Just as everyone is required to buy auto insurance, even if you never use it, everyone's purchase of health insurance would pay the costs of colossal, backbreaking hospital bills and prescription medications.

The plan faltered because young people weren't interested in another monthly note, and the bill had Barack Obama's name on it. Still, 20 million people were able to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act, even if many didn't know it was Obamacare by another name. The mistake was allowing the insurance companies to remain in place to continue fleecing the populace, but that would require a public option, and you know how those free marketeers love their capitalism. It's well known that the United States is the only country in the civilized world that doesn't offer health care to its citizens as a right and not a privilege. A study by the Commonwealth Fund of the health-care systems in 11 developed countries found America dead last, despite our health care being the world's most expensive.

By contrast, just across the river from Detroit is the nation of Canada — less than half a mile away, but light years away in the care of its citizens. Health care in Canada works like Medicare for everyone, advocated by Bernie Sanders during his presidential campaign. All medical expenses are free except dental and prescription drugs. The government keeps drugs cheap by negotiating with the pharmaceutical companies on a federal level. Bringing that model to this country would bring peace of mind to patients, free doctors from endless paperwork, and since the profit motive would be removed, there would be no need for fraud or superfluous hospital tests to run up Medicare bills that benefit someone's bottom line. Of course, that would require that hospitals be funded by the public as part of the national budget. Now that the Jolly Orange Giant has turned his back on the health-care issue, he has focused his gaze on tax cuts for the wealthy. So there will be no universal health care during Trump's tenure — however long that may be.

The reactionary Republicans voted to repeal Obamacare more than 60 times. They had seven years to come up with a replacement, and they couldn't do it. Speaker Paul Ryan's hastily constructed American Health Care Act couldn't pass muster with the GOP Freedom Caucus, the group formerly known as the Tea Party. Although health-insurance lobbyists helped shape the bill that slashed funding for Medicaid so the poor would suffer first, it still wasn't cruel enough for the hard-right zealots. Last-minute revisions intended to throw raw meat to the jackals included turning the funding of Medicare over to the states, giving "health-care tax credits" to the elderly, the immediate repeal of Obama's taxes on the rich, and the instituting of a test for all "able-bodied adults" to pass a work requirement before being enrolled in Medicaid.

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Herr Trump blamed the Democrats for not voting to destroy President Obama's signature achievement. Trumpcare went up in flames because of the activism of millions of people who opposed it and transformed town hall meetings into episodes of The Oprah Winfrey Show. As it turns out, the public seems to like their Obamacare, which was formulated by the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s and enacted into law by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. The Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land and a bruising defeat for the "Art of the Spiel." Donald Trump rose to prominence by appearing in a reality TV show called The Apprentice. He should return to a career in reality television, only this time, Trump could be the host of The Biggest Loser. Randy Haspel writes the "Recycled Hippies" blog, where a version of this column first appeared.

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