The Cruel Economics of Health Care in America

by SETH SANDRONSKY

The cost of U.S. health care has climbed 43 percent over the past nine years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This price increase is close to double the over-all inflation rate of 26 percent in the same nine years.

We are looking at an inflationary trend that negatively affects the living standards of the nation’s working people. And the lower U.S. workers’ hourly wages, the more negative the impact, as they are less likely to have employer-provided health care to begin with.

Increasingly, state politics reflects the ill effects of the U.S. health system on the working populace. Recent health-care legislation in Massachusetts is an example.

On the other side of the country, California state Senator Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) crafted Senate Bill 840 to provide all Californians with high-quality, comprehensive health care. Currently, six million people in the state have no health-care coverage.

Against this backdrop, those with health care coverage in California and nationwide are paying more for doctor visits and medicine. Meanwhile, health-insurance premiums are rising.

SB 840 passed both houses of the state Legislature on its way to the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. As expected, he vetoed the legislation.

"SB 840 relies on the failed old paradigm of using one source–this time the government–to solve the complex problem of providing medical care for our people," said the Republican governor in a press statement.

Presumably, the government can only make bad matters worse for health-care consumers. Accordingly, the complexity of health-care delivery is best left to market forces.

SB 840 would have established the state government as the single payer of health insurance premiums. Private insurers would have been eliminated.

The day of the Schwarzenegger veto thousands of public-sector workers in Sacramento County went on strike in the biggest such labor action in decades. The main reason they walked out of work was to protest county management’s push to shift more health-care costs on them.

The county workers’ fear of health-care inflation was well-founded. That these striking workers eventually went back to work and traded wage increases to bear more of the cost for health care is in no way the end of this local story with national relevancy.

The commonality of U.S. workers coping with the crisis of the health-care market is growing. Whether in or out of labor unions, a mass of wage-earners across the nation can not help but see more clearly with each passing day their actual place in the health-care system that corporate America (for-profit hospitals and health maintenance organizations, and drug companies) owns and controls.

A U.S. health-care system that is broken as far as hourly workers are concerned functions perversely well for a relatively few companies who profit from this set-up. Such understanding occurs in small steps among the working majority who will in the end have to mobilize on the basis of their class positions to win universal health care from ruling circles of economic and political power.

The upper class forces trying to prevent that outcome are weak in number and strong in resources. In 2006, this situation harkens back to past times in U.S. history that have spawned a working-class politics to better people’s living standards.

SETH SANDRONSKY is a member of Sacramento Area Peace Action and a co-editor of Because People Matter, Sacramento’s progressive paper. He can be reached at: ssandron@hotmail.com.


 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz
July 27, 2015
Susan Babbitt
Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance
Howard Lisnoff
Bernie Sanders: Savior or Seducer of the Anti-War Left?
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma’s Profiteers: You Want Us to Pay What for These Meds?
John Halle
On Berniebots and Hillary Hacks, Dean Screams, Swiftboating and Smears
Stephen Lendman
Cleveland Police Attack Black Activists
Joshua Sperber
What is a President? The CEO of Capitalism
Patrick Cockburn
Only Iraq’s Clerics Can Defeat ISIS
Ralph Nader
Sending a ‘Citizens Summons’ to Members of Congress
Clancy Sigal
Scratch That Itch: Hillary and The Donald
Colin Todhunter
Working Class War Fodder
Gareth Porter
Obama’s Version of Iran Nuke Deal: a Second False Narrative
Zoe Konstantopoulou
The Politics of Coercion in Greece
Vacy Vlanza
Without BDS, Palestine is Alone
Laura Finley
Adjunct Professors and Worker’s Rights
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode Three, Where We Thrill Everyone by Playing Like “Utter Bloody Garbage”
Weekend Edition
July 24-26, 2015
Mike Whitney
Picked Out a Coffin Yet? Take Ibuprofen and Die
Henry Giroux
America’s New Brutalism: the Death of Sandra Bland
Rob Urie
Capitalism, Engineered Dependencies and the Eurozone
Michael Lanigan
Lynn’s Story: an Irish Woman in Search of an Abortion
Paul Street
Deleting Crimes at the New York Times: Airbrushing History at the Paper of Record
ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH
Making Sense of the Iran Nuclear Deal: Geopolitical Implications
Andrew Levine
After the Iran Deal: Israel is Down But Far From Out
Uri Avnery
Sheldon’s Stooges: Netanyahu and the King of Vegas
David Swanson
George Clooney Paid by War Profiteers
ANDRE VLTCHEK
They Say Paraguay is in Africa: Mosaic of Horror
Horace G. Campbell
Obama in Kenya: Will He Cater to the Barons or the People?
Michael Welton
Surviving Together: Canadian Public Tradition Under Threat
Rev. William Alberts
American Imperialism’s Military Chaplains
Yorgos Mitralias
Black Days: August 4th,1914 Germany and July 13th, 2015 Greece