Monopolizing the Health Care Agenda

May 21, 2009

Barack Obama is making health care reform a centerpiece of his 2009 legislative agenda. While refusing from the start to allow all options for health care reform to be on the agenda for discussion, he has also repeatedly stated his intent to compromise on each and every point of his proposal.

Firstly, Obama's so-called "reform" is oriented, from beginning to end, towards protecting the interests of big business. For example: 1) Rather than eliminating the parasitic insurance industry, Obama proposes mandating that every American buy private health insurance. 2) By requiring employers to pay only "a meaningful share" of health insurance premiums, Obama's plan will help many big monopolies cut workers' health benefits by shifting a greater percentage of premiums onto the shoulders of the workers. 3) By encouraging the growth of the large managed care firms, Obama's plan will further accelerate the monopolization of "for-profit" hospital and health care networks which will mean a reduction in quality of care for most workers, who will continue to be treated on an assembly line basis.

Yet the process of compromise, which Barack Obama is so eager to carry out, will only further pick apart and do away with any sympathetic features of Obama's proposal. For example, insurance lobbyists, while applauding Obama's reliance on private insurance, are working hard to guarantee that no caps are placed on premiums.

Obama's repeated emphasis on his willingness to compromise is because of his commitment to the current political set-up in which the drafting of the law of the land proceeds as a process of wheeling and dealing in Congressional committees and closed door meetings. Through this process, various sectors of the economic elite try to compromise over their competing interests. The extent of Political Action Committee (PAC) contributions to Congressmen reveal just how health care legislation is being bought and sold. During the 2008 elections HMO and pharmaceutical PACs alone contributed over $20 million to the campaign war chests of various Congressmen and Senators (opensecrets.org). The biggest recipients of these donations are precisely the committee chairmen and other influential members of Congress who are involved in writing up health care legislation and working with Obama to arrive at "compromises."

Of course, in all this the voice and needs of the people are completely excluded. The people demand that Health Care is a Right, that good health and access to comprehensive medical care must be guaranteed free of charge to every member of society. But in order to make our voice heard, in order to implement our will we must break the monopoly which the big business interests and their bought-and-paid-for representatives in Congress are exercising over the health care agenda. In order to break that monopoly we can begin by creating a storm of discussion amongst the people about the problem and solutions to the present health care crisis.