Obama’s core promise in pushing for his Stamp Act, AKA the health racket bailout, was his constant mantra, “if you like the coverage you have, you’ll get to keep it.” This was intended to neutralize the majority who have employer-based coverage. Most of them don’t really “like” it, but they consider it adequate and feel more fear over change than hope that a good policy will bring something better. Obama was pushing what they rightly considered a dubious health bill, but he assured them that at worst they’d be able to keep what they have now. They were right to fear.
Obama’s promise has already been unmasked as a Big Lie. Already the rackets and employers are moving on parallel tracks toward the bill’s real intended goal of driving people out of employer-based insurance and into the far more expensive, far less protected individual “market”, where we’ll face the rackets alone to buy our mandated individual Stamps. The goal here is to help employers get out of any responsibility for providing health insurance even as the government still refuses to exercise its own responsibility* to do so. The real goal is to revoke organized health care itself for a large portion of the population.
[*Basic, decent health care is a necessary element of a civilized society. If all the people don't have access to it within the capacity the society allows, and for such a rich country as America that capacity is vast, then how can people be said to have civilization at all? And what would be the purpose of anything one wanted to call "society" if it couldn't meet this basic, modest standard? (We know what's the alternative - "civilization" as simply the front for a way of organizing resource extraction and labor indenture for the benefit of a handful of gangsters. That's the essence of neoliberalism. That's, for example, Obama's ideology. This Stamp Act is an example of Obama's neoliberal corporatist ideology in action.)
But health care, like any other basic civilizational requirement, cannot be delivered on a profit basis. The very concept contradicts itself. A "market" by definition has to be voluntary. But we need health care. Nature is the indelible coercive party to the transaction here. So on its face there can never be a legitimate market for health insurance. Since nature coerces us into the transaction, by definition a legitimate government has the duty of managing this transaction for the maximum benefit of the people. For government to instead inject "profit" into the mix is to abrogate its civilizational role and instead side with nature against the people. This can only be the criminal construct of a rogue government. By setting up this illegitimate health insurance market in the first place, and now further entrenching it with this bill, government has placed itself in the state of nature.
The people are always sovereign. This sovereignty can never be alienated, but it can be temporarily left stranded in an interregnum between when government abdicates and goes rogue and when the people choose to pick up and redeem this vacated sovereignty. We're in such an interregnum now. The health "insurance" system in general, and the health racket bailout in particular, are stark examples of that.]
What does today’s politics call it when the elites seek to further cut their own costs and rob the people by further cutting the amount of the people’s wealth which is spent on the people’s well-being? They call it “austerity”. (The Orwellian quotation marks signify how true austerity would mean we purge ourselves of the parasites who afflict us; that we austeritize them. But when the parasites themselves invoke the term to describe their own robbery, to represent the victims as the subjects who make a necessary sacrifice rather than the objects of crime as they really are, the term is just another example of depravity. BTW, the meme of debtor-bashing in the Foreclosuregate Land Scandal should be put in that perspective as well.)
This was evident from the start in the way Obama and his hacks chose to focus on cost-cutting as such, “bending the cost curve”. The proper focus is never cost cutting in itself, but rendering health care (or anything else) more affordable for Americans. Where it’s clear that most of the costs and inefficiencies of a system are the result of bloated parasites, the only proper start toward affordability is to purge the parasites. Completely purge their rent extractions. Only after that, once the parasite costs have all been expunged, would it ever be appropriate to look into cutting costs as such, if the system were still too expensive. But we’re obviously a long way from there. So long as the health insurance rackets exist at all, we’re a long way from there.
So when Obama announced at the outset, even during the campaign, “I recognize the health insurance industry as a legitimate stakeholder, and we have to focus on cost-cutting in general”, the game should have been up right there. He was announcing that he had zero intention of making health care more efficient, less costly, more affordable. He was announcing that he wanted only to make it less costly and more profitable for the parasites.
It soon became clear that he also wanted to solve the problem of employer costs, again not by austeritizing the insurance rackets, but by shifting the costs from the employers to the people. Let’s look at some math.
In recent years employer health insurance costs have been rising an average of 9% a year. Their industry groups think the racket bailout bill will add 2-3% a year to this. They claim that of this pre-existing 9% trend the employer generally absorbs 6% and passes on 3% to the employee. But as the Depression has been setting in they’ve passed more and more of the whole cost to the employee. They say this is because of their own economic hardship, which I don’t doubt is partially true. (But we can be sure it’s also because of the employee’s increasingly weak position. The game plan for forty years has been to weaken job security in order to squeeze more blood out of the turnip, and that’s not changing today.)
So employer-based insurance was already becoming more costly for the worker even before the bill. The employer was passing on more and more of the cost, while policies increasingly contain higher deductibles, higher co-pays, fewer covered services. Now the bill promises to make things even more costly. Since the bill imposes all manner of coverage requirements but imposes few nominal cost controls, insurers will evade the requirements simply by jacking up rates and further imposing deductibles and the other costs. (Nor are there any credible enforcement measures in the bill for the few controls it does purport to impose.)
Employers are encouraged to pass on or evade these costs. The administration’s been promsicuously handing out coverage and cost waivers. Employers are also increasingly resorting to previously exotic things like high-deductibility plans. The insurance rackets are pushing new plans with lower premiums but which severely restrict doctor choice (now how does “keep what you have” sound?). Meanwhile the bill actually imposes a penalty on employers who continue to provide good coverage. Few things more clearly demonstrate Obama’s anti-worker malevolence than his demonization of duly negotiated worker compensation in the form of decent health insurance coverage as “Cadillac plans” which need to be subject to an excise tax. Here again, all too many among the non-rich let themselves be swindled into fighting among themselves. But Obama’s rhetoric and actions make it clear that he regards ALL decent employer-based coverage as an affront to his pro-racket imperative. That’s why every aspect of this bill is meant to gut all employer-based coverage. “Keep what you have”? No, Obama and the Stamp rackets want to take what you have, every cent of it.
Meanwhile, in another piece of misdirection, the NYT has been leading the charge in representing costs on the provider side as the real problem. It seems that the problem is we peasants just demand too much health care. The NYT wants to pretend that most of the costs are because we’re all demanding Botox injections. So once again it’s the same old answer – we fat, spoiled indulgers must submit to austerity, we have to forego all these elective boutique medical services. That will “bend the cost curve”. The insurance rackets aren’t the problem at all.
Of course the truth is the exact opposite. We the people need and demand basic, decent health care. We need checkups and medicine and necessary care for ourselves and our children when we’re sick or injured. That’s all we demand of our society, and that’s what we demand. But I’m sure that in the eyes of the editors of the NYT, just as much as in Obama’s eyes, medicine for a sick child, if it’s not a rich man’s child, is just as frivolous and elective as a Botox injection. Indeed more frivolous and elective, since the wingnut who wants that injection is probably rich. To anyone in the system, any luxury the rich want, no matter how extreme, absurd, and obscene, is by definition a necessity, while anything the non-rich need, no matter how critical, is by definition an absurd luxury. That’s why all social wealth, 100% of which is produced by the working people, has to be stolen by the rich parasite elites – to achieve the proper balance of necessary and luxury spending according to them. That is, to turn truth, morality, and justice completely upside-down.
That’s the essence of neoliberal ideology and practice, and of the “austerity” regime. This health racket bailout is a classical example of it.
So the goal is to render employer-based insurance more costly and less adequate. In other words, they want to force you to stop purchasing employer-based insurance. That’s in order to absolve the employer of possibly having to pay any part of your Stamp cost at all. (Needless to say, none of what the employer saves here will be passed on to the worker in the form of higher wages. That employer-based insurance substitutes for higher wages was briefly true during WWII when it was a way to get around wage freezes. Since then it’s never been anything but a typical trickle-down lie.) The goal is to force us all into the individual “insurance markets”, where the hack CBO itself admits costs will keep going up.
So employers get to cut costs, government gets to shift its own costs onto the non-rich individual, and the rackets get to continue to increase their rent extractions. The individual worker will have to pay for it all by being mandated to buy an individual Stamp. This “insurance policy” will be ever more expensive and worthless, since it will be too expensive to actually use it given the rates we already paid and the deductibles and other extra costs piled onto it. No enforcement will restrain any of this, even the few parts the bill supposedly restricts.
This is a particularly vicious manifestation of “austerity”. Let’s sum up:
1. This government will still refuse its responsibility and instead prop up an artificial parasite racket.
2. The rackets will continue to maximize rent extractions. The bill will help them do this.
3. It’ll let employers off the hook for having any responsibilities toward the health of their employees. Indeed it penalizes those who might want to do the right thing by their workers. That’s a smoking gun. The plan is to destroy employer-provided “insurance” without substituting a government-based provision. The end goal here as everywhere is to force the atomized individual to stand naked, alone, and unarmed before the massive thug power of the corporation.
4. In that way Obamacare cuts costs for everyone within the system and enables greater top-down looting, but doesn’t cut costs in general. Instead it puts them all on the people. The same people it’s simultaneously subjecting to plunder.
There’s the template as always, the template to which Obama always adheres, the neoliberal “austerity” template. “Cut costs” doesn’t mean truly cutting costs. It just means shifting all costs of maintaining the parasite corporations and rich onto the non-rich individual. A true public-interest advocate would demand that we cut costs for the people by purging all rents.
Here’s the formula for true austerity:
*Total austerity for the big banks, for the big corporations, for the rich. Total demolition of all corporate welfare and welfare for the rich. Total purge of all parasites.
*Not one cent more from the people.
So applying that to paying for health care:
*Total austerity for the health insurance and drug rackets.
Only then would we see what kind of cost-cutting might be worthwhile on the provider side.
One formula for the age: It’s austerity vs. “austerity”. As this vicious bill exemplifies, it’s a struggle to the death.