Independent Media Institute
This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
Activists in more than 50 cities across the United States marched and rallied on July 24 to demand a Medicare for All or single-payer health care system. With Congress and the White House more focused on passing an infrastructure bill, conducting an investigation into the January 6 Capitol riot, and reforming our immigration system, the issue of health care has once more been relegated to the back burner. There is nary a peep from most lawmakers on the fact that, even as the pandemic rages on, nearly 30 million Americans remain uninsured (as per the latest available data), and millions more are underinsured.
The only assurance is that private insurance company profits remain healthy. Earlier this summer, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched a campaign to encourage Americans to sign up for private insurance through HealthCare.gov (perhaps a more appropriate address for the website would be HealthInsurance.gov). The Biden administration celebrated the fact that 2 million more Americans were able to purchase low-cost or no-cost private health insurance plans or sign up under expanded Medicaid programs. The insurance industry front group Partnership for America’s Health Care Future echoed that number as an achievement to celebrate. But neither made mention of the tens of millions who remain uninsured and underinsured. There is even less acknowledgment of the fact that tax dollars are subsidizing corporate profits for what is often mediocre health care coverage.
This is not surprising given that the federal government treats the health care needs of ordinary Americans as an optional luxury item that can be supplied by the market. For example, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) refers to those needing health care (i.e., all human beings) as “consumers” whom the government agency advises ought to “maximize the savings on their Marketplace coverage” when shopping for ACA plans. In a press release lauding the American Rescue Plan, CMS uses the word “consumers” nearly a dozen times. Rethinking health care as an essential need like education or emergency services will require a major cultural shift among public servants.