Opponents of Medicare for All like to scare people by warning about a “government takeover” of health care. Let’s get serious: American health care was taken over long ago by insurance companies and other commercial interests. We need to take health care back from them.
What does that mean exactly? Start with the fact that the health care “industry,” and it is an industry, has so much money at stake that it can afford to drown our legislators in money. The top Republican and the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate committee that deals with health care took in well over half a million dollars each in contributions from the pharmaceutical and health products industries between 2011 and 2016. The Center for Responsive Politics says that in 2016 alone the drug industry’s 1,300 lobbyists spent $244 million influencing federal legislators. The health insurance industry managed to spend only $145 million that year through its 850 lobbyists.
When these lobbyists bend the ears of legislators, what are they after, what is the primary message they convey? It isn’t about providing health care to everybody who needs it. It isn’t about making sure that people whose lives depend on a drug can afford to buy that drug. It isn’t even about how much health care costs the country, and what that means for the overall economy. It’s about protecting the business interests — the profits — of the commercial entities that have health care in a chokehold: the middlemen (insurers, pharmacy benefit managers, etc.), the manufacturers (of drugs, machines, implants, etc.) and the corporations and investment companies that own more and more medical practices and hospitals. Their concern is the health of their firms, not the health of the people. continue reading