Last year, Donald Trump said something stupid.
OK, nothing astonishing about that — just another day (or hour) in DonaldWorld. But this stupid thing he said did astonish an entire nation, specifically Britain. Apparently, Trump had seen a televised report by his most trusted foreign policy adviser — Fox News — showing people over there protesting about their government-supported National Health Service. See, tweeted our presidential son of privilege, even the Brits are fed up with the idea of health care for all, rejecting a socialized system that, according to Trump, "is going broke and not working."
But — oops — the protestors were actually demonstrating in favor of their health service, demanding that the Tory government put "more staff, more beds, more funds" into the public program. Contrary to Trump's ignorance and class bias against social programs, the British people love their tax-paid health care system, specifically because it does work. Everyone there is covered, getting quality care regardless of income levels. And they don't have to fear that they'll be denied service or bankrupted by a rip-off medical system run by and for private insurance giants, hospital monopolies, Big Pharma and other profiteers.
To see clear evidence of a system that's really "going broke and not working," the president could look at the 44 million Americans (including 4 million children) who have no health coverage, plus millions of others who're being gouged by ruthless drugmakers, denied treatment by insurance bureaucrats, and drowned in debt by surprise medical bills.
The problem with America's health care system is — hello! — the system! During the past 30-40 years, its structure has been wholly corporatized, perverting health care from a human right to just another commodity for sale. If it's care you want from a system, a corporation is the worst way to go, for the corporate mandate is not to maximize the health of the many, but to maximize profits for its few investor elites.
For $3.5 trillion a year, shouldn't we Americans get a world-class health care system? Yet, while we spend the most on health care of any advanced nation in the world (more than $10,000 a year per person), we get the worst results.
No surprise then that a majority of Americans want a major overhaul of our corporate system. Indeed, the boldest proposal for structural change — the "Medicare for All" idea put forth by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal — is now backed by 82% of Democrats, 66% of independents, and (get this) 52% of Republicans! So... why isn't Congress responding to this overwhelming public demand for universal coverage?
Of course, corporate lobbyists and corrupting campaign cash are one reason. But also, our lawmakers do not personally feel the financial pain and emotional distress inflicted by a system built on private greed. Instead, the health needs of our governing elites are being generously provided by a double layer of the socialized care that they are refusing to provide for everyone else.
First, they and their loved ones get taxpayer-subsidized insurance coverage, with you and me paying about 72% of the price of their health plans. But —- shhh! — through a secretive office in the U.S. Capitol building, members of Congress also have privileged access to a full-blown system of — shhh! — health care socialism!
Called the Office of the Attending Physician, it provides a complete range of free medical services for lawmakers. No appointment needed, and no waiting. They just walk in and doctors, nurses, technicians, pharmacists, and other professionals tend to them right away. No bill is presented and no need to fill out an insurance form. They get what a former OAP staffer described as "The best health care on the planet." Thus, members feel no urgency to reform the system, since it's working beautifully — for them.
So, to get good care for all of us, the first step might have to be taking away the pampered care that lawmakers have quietly given to themselves.
Populist author, public speaker and radio commentator Jim Hightower writes "The Hightower Lowdown," a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America's ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at HightowerLowdown.org.
Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore