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Single Payer West Virginia Tommy Douglas and Healthcare, the Movie

Grand Theft Health Insurance

by RUSSELL MOKHIBER

Here I sit, in West Virginia, staring down at January 1, 2014.

That’s when my health insurance policy expires and I have a decision to make — renew or not renew?

Right now, I’m paying about $7,000 a year in premiums for a monster deductible and yearly out of pocket of about $15,000 for myself and my family.

My health insurance company informed me yesterday that my premium will doubled to $14,000 on January 1.

I’ve been trying to get onto the Obamacare web site now for ten days to search for an alternative.  No luck. I made it through four pages yesterday — then got a message saying I’d have to wait because there was too much traffic. When I clicked the continue button, it wiped out the information I had typed into the first three pages.

But even if I do get onto the exchanges, it’s probably not going to matter.

read in a newspaper that Highmark is the only health insurance company on the exchange in West Virginia. Yesterday, I called Highmark and spent an hour on the phone with a nice young man — but the results were not good. The skimpiest plan is going to cost me more than I’m paying now for a higher deductible and out of pocket result.

Thank you Obamacare.

My insurance agent told me yesterday I had only one alternative — wait for six years until Medicare kicks in and keep fighting for single payer.

Obviously, the Democrats and anyone who defends them are not going to be of any help in the next round. They are irrevocably tied to President Obama and Obamacare and even those Democrats nominally in favor of single payer refuse to criticize it for the industry written law that it is.

I agree with Dr. Quentin Young of Physicians for a National Health Program when he says that Obamacare should have been defeated because it enshrines and solidifies corporate domination of the health care system.

But what to do next? Well, first thing is to watch a movie called Healthcare — The Movie. It’s a short documentary — 62 minutes — but packs a big punch. The movie was produced by a husband wife team — the wife Canadian — Laurie Simons — and the husband American — Terry Sterrenberg.

The movie toggles back and forth between the USA and Canada — with Americans struggling with bankruptcy, death from lack of health insurance and the dark cloud of health insurance armageddon menacing their lives from cradle to an often early grave.

The Canadians, by contrast, are living in a relative health care nirvana, thanks in large part to Tommy Douglas, a boxer and Premier of Saskatchewan who stood up to the red baiting being dished out at the time by the Canadian medical establishment. Douglas emerged victorious and his efforts resulted in the creation of Canada’s single payer Medicare for all. The movie is narrated by actor Kiefer Sutherland — Tommy Douglas’ grandson.

The film features great historic clips — including a remarkable scene where a CBC television show host asks the question — who is the greatest Canadian? And then, in reality show format, puts it up to a vote.

“After six weeks, ten finalists, and more than a million votes,” the CBC host says, “it ended tonight with one name . And I have the envelope here. The greatest Canadian as decided by you is — Tommy Douglas.”

Imagine that — the country says that Tommy Douglas, the father of single payer in Canada, is greater than its greatest hockey player — Wayne Gretzky.

Tommy Douglas’ courageous act — standing up for the people of Canada against the vicious attacks of the powers that be — has resulted in a system that delivers health care for all Canadians — no complex bills, no deductibles, no deaths from lack of health insurance, no medical bankruptcies — all funded by a progressive tax system.

The movie profiles Canadians with serious medical illness — who come out financially unscathed — no bills, no bankruptcy, no health related financial worries.

And then compares those Canadians to the suffering human beings south of the border.

The movie does a good job of making us Americans feel like crap compared to our cousins up north.

Check out this sequence, for example:

How many people in the United States die each year because they have no health insurance?

45,000

How many people in Canada die each year because they have no health insurance?

Zero.

How many people go bankrupt each year in the United States because of medical expenses?

922,819

How many people go bankrupt each year in Canada because of medical expenses?

Zero.

How many Americans do not have health insurance?

50 million.

How many Canadians do not have health insurance?

Zero.

How many Americans go without medical care because of costs?

115 million.

How many Canadians go without medical care because of costs?

Zero.

One of the stars of this film is a young American from Portland, Oregon named Lindsay Caron.

“I was a free-lance artist for a long time,” Caron says.  “I gave that up to go sit in an office and file papers so that I could have health care.  And it amazed me that other people in other countries never had to think about that. I kept hearing that Canada’s system was broken, and that Canadians were flocking over the border to get US care.  And so I wanted to go to Canada with a camera and ask a couple hundred people. I bought a ticket up to Vancouver, Canada. I rented camera equipment. And I took my bicycle. I thought maybe I would stay  in Vancouver for a couple of days and cycle on back to Portland. I ended staying there the whole week.  I got up in the morning, set up a camera on the street and just start asking people questions.”

Caron finds out what polls in Canada consistently confirm — that the vast majority of Canadians would never in a thousand years give up their Medicare coverage for the nightmare south of the border.

It all came about because Tommy Douglas had the guts to stand up to the political and medical establishment and do what is right for the Canadian people.

Canada did it.

There is no reason we can’t do it.

It’s simply a matter of reordering our priorities.

Let’s put aside, for a moment, our millions of copies of Grand Theft Auto 5 and start playing a new game — Grand Theft — Health Insurance.

The goal of the game is to become a boxer, like Tommy Douglas — and fight back against the insurance industry and its Frankenstein monster — Obamacare.

Repeal Obamacare.

Replace it with single payer.

Russell Mokhiber edits Single Payer Action.