The Task-Force Recommendation on Heatlh Care: my thoughts
Adding one more voice to the Democrats' "best we can do" discourse on health care is the "Biden-Bernie Task Force," which came out with its recommendations Wednesday. As Natalie Shure of In These Times pointed out, what's missing from the health care portion of these recommendations is Medicare for All. This is a reading of Shure's piece in In These Times, with opinions which are solely my own.
We are told of the "improvement" that will occur, as a sort of "but" attached to Shure's thesis, which suggests that overall something was actually gained in the task force. Here it is:
If the healthcare platform as presented were to be fully implemented under a future President Biden, it would amount to a significant improvement on the status quo—albeit with persistent gaps that can’t be resolved without abolishing private health insurance as it’s currently constituted.
The recommendations front-load a temporary phase of coronavirus-related emergency measures, many of which have emerged as consensus demands from Democrats—including free coronavirus testing irrespective of immigration status, federally-bankrolled expansion of contract tracing, and a period of 100% premium subsidies for those eligible for COBRA coverage throughout the duration of the pandemic. The document also calls for a special enrollment period for ACA marketplaces, which will include a stopgap low-fee platinum option for people who run out of, or don’t qualify for, several months of full COBRA subsidies.
There's also a public option:
The task force also advances a blueprint for a public option, which includes critical details that gesture toward left-wing activist pressure, as well as ambiguities that could bolster the sort of profit-seeking gamesmanship that renders the current system so dysfunctional.
Sorry, but we've been down this road before. The problem is not that the proposals or the blueprint are "not enough," contrary to what Shure says, but rather that corporate profit-seeking, from the insurance companies, Big Pharma, and the hospitals, will prevent any of it from happening insofar as any of it interferes with their profit-seeking. In 2008 Barack Obama promised us a public option and no mandate penalty, only to deliver us a bill written by a WellPoint executive with a mandate penalty and no public option. It is fair to assume, then, that under Joe Biden (as under Barack Obama), none of the task-force "promises" will be kept. What will be important, in the jockeying for power and privilege that will accompany any shaping of a bill to modify the ACA in a Biden administration, will be the insurers' insistence that their profits come before any delivery of health care occurs. Health care before profits, you see, denies them a raison d'etre -- they are gatekeepers, and no gate leaves them powerless.
This means that Biden will be preserving the institution of medical bankruptcy as well as the continued insistence of most providers that those who cannot pay will be left to die.
Here's Natalie Shure's conclusion:
Ultimately, however beefy a public option turns out to be, there are things it can never do. By offering one more insurance product to a list of several others—even if it’s the best of the bunch—the public option does little to alleviate the misery of navigating the administrative quagmire endemic to our healthcare system. It still leaves gaps for patients to fall into, and forces them to beg claims assessors for coverage by phone. And it still casts us as healthcare consumers, shopping for the best-valued access to a foundational human need that shouldn’t be commodified to begin with.
Yes, this is fine, and well-meaning. But the reality of it isn't even that good. The commodification of health care means that the actual delivery of said health care can't just be made available to everyone, but only to those who can afford to pay. If, under a for-profit system, health care were to be made available to everyone, then everyone would choose the affordable option, which wouldn't cover the "expenses" of a system based on profit (which are in fact potentially infinite, since part of the "expenses" is corporate profit). This shortfall will be especially obvious in a world of Depression-level unemployment.
We can claim to improve the ACA all we want through nice proposals, but profit-seeking is going to destroy them all. And profit-seeking is explicitly displayed on Joe Biden's banner.
Hope to see you all at today's protests.