By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
It was the winter of our discontent, 2009. A season of bank failures, massive layoffs and $5-a-gallon gasoline.
Finally, a fractured country could at least agree on one thing: This had to change.
So President Barack Obama set out to deactivate the next bomb awaiting the U.S. economy, the one ticking inside our bloated, beleaguered health system.
Since the 1990s, insurance premiums had averaged double-digit annual increases. America was spending over $7,500 per person per year — 50 percent more than Norway, the next-largest contender. Health spending alone was chewing up one-sixth of the U.S. economy, double that of competitors like Japan, and putting American employers at a severe disadvantage.
Worse, we were paying Maserati premiums for something that looked a lot like a used Kia. Though pols like Ohio Republican House Speaker John Boehner loved to bray that America had "the best health-care delivery system in the world," it wasn't remotely so. The World Health Organization ranked us an embarrassing 36th, behind such notables as Costa Rica, Colombia and Saudi Arabia. Other rankings routinely put the U.S. near the bottom of the industrialized world.
"We spend one and a half times more per person on health care than any other country, but we aren't any healthier for it," Obama told Congress in 2009. "This is one of the reasons that insurance premiums have gone up three times faster than wages."
Big Medicine had done its best to keep it that way. Since 1999, it had spent nearly $6 billion on lobbying — three times what the next-largest industry, insurance, had spent. An obedient Congress had allowed it to build a system in which millions couldn't afford coverage, huge swaths of the country were essentially served by monopolies, and prices continued to go up and up.
"In the decade up to 2009, 79 percent of all the growth in household income was absorbed by health care," says Dr. Brian Klepper, CEO of the National Business Coalition on Health. "Everything in Washington is rigged, but the thing most rigged is health care, because they have even more money than the banks. Both sides take money at a rapid clip from the industry in exchange for getting their own way. So everything is done in the special interest, and nothing is done in the common interest."
But that spring, with an enraged electorate and the economy in tatters, Obama was given a once-in-a-lifetime chance to break Big Med's stranglehold. He vowed to do it the old-fashioned way: by introducing competition, forcing Big Med to earn its keep.
Everyone would sit "around a big table," Obama had told a crowd in Virginia the year before. "We'll have doctors and nurses and hospital administrators, insurance companies, drug companies. They'll get a seat at the table. They just won't be able to buy every chair."
Five years later, it's hard to argue with Obamacare's success. Some seven million people have signed up for insurance. The sick can no longer be barred from coverage, nor can the chronically ill be kicked to the curb.
Yet Republicans still rail that Obamacare is some socialist perversion. Democrats, meanwhile, often treat the plan as an illegitimate child they'd rather not acknowledge.
What both sides neglect to mention is their complicity in sabotaging the bill, selling out an unprecedented opportunity to the very guys who created the time bomb in the first place.
There was an obvious cure
The president's ultimate goal was coverage for the country's 48 million uninsured. In places like Europe and Canada, the government pays basic health-care costs for all citizens. This type of insurance is often called "single-payer," because one payer, the government, covers basic medical care.
Anyone wondering how it might function need look no further than Medicare, which runs all senior health care in this country. It's arguably the most popular government program in America, and one of the more cost-effective.
Start with the cost of administration. Medicare's ranges between 2 and 5 percent of its budget. For private insurance, the average is 12 percent. The Government Accountability Office once estimated that this simple savings alone would be "more than enough to offset the expense of universal coverage."
Moreover, a single provider would have the size to negotiate better prices from providers and pharmaceutical companies. According to a New England Journal of Medicine study, this would save another $400 billion — and provide a boon for American business, reducing labor costs by 10 to 12 percent.
A CBS poll found that 59 percent of the public favored a government health plan. Unfortunately, the body politic is more impressed with power than with the will of the people. One of the biggest players in Congress — the insurance industry — wasn't about to get squeezed out of its lucrative role as middle man.
Insurers, rightfully, see single-payer as a threat to their very existence. With a single-payer system, most health insurers would vanish overnight, so the industry set out to ensure that such a program never saw the light of day.
"Of course they don't want it," wrote Robert Reich, a former secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, in a 2009 opinion piece. "A public option would squeeze their profits and force them to undertake major reforms. That's the whole point."
The silly notion that external forces sunk ObamaCare is as ridiculous as Hillary Clinton's "vast right-wing conspiracy".
ObamaScare, as it's known in many parts of the country, has been self-defeating because of internal gross incompetence, inexperience, lack of respect for tax payers and their money, and policies made up out of whole cloth.
A majority of Americans hate it, it is trying to force a Socialistic system on what is already the best medical care on the planet, so much wrongdoing as been covered-up by the White House and Sibelius completely mishandled gluing together something she couldn't even begin to manage.
ObamaScare is the fault of nobody else other than Obama and Democrats. They voted en mass to pass ObamaScare without reading the bill. And NOW they are surprised??????
Nobody said Dems were perfect, don't be so sensitive, all i said is Republicans don't care about people they only care about themselves and the current healthcare debate is proof, Rick Perry didn't expand medicaid on the feds dime and PEOPLE WILL DIE, fact. So one would conclude that if I have the capability to do something that saves lives and i don't well than one would think you don't care.You don't have a coherent answer to that , just name calling and changing the subject.
Just wait until the other 70% of ObamaCare kicks in that you didn't get to read about. Wait until your employer drops your health insurance over the next few years. The "Liar N Chief" is doing his best to delay all the mandates and hidden regulations passed into law by his congressional drones before the next election. There are now more people without health insurance and jobs than when George Bush Jr. left office. Just about time Obama leaves office the U.S. economy will collapse like a Chinese lawn chair. Stagflation, increasing unemployment and Jimmy Carter deja vue all over again. The Democrats will wear the Medal of Shame around their necks for the next century. But it really won't matter. The U.S. will have transformed into the progressive libs dream of a Euro-socialist Nanny State.
Gosh, not only does this Dallas Observer's cover story have nothing to do with Dallas whatsoever, but also the author is some AM talk radio guy from out-of-state - a Libertarian Republican who spends all his time complaining about how much he hates Obama.
PlanoDave political affiliation THESE DAYS has alot to do with healthcare, one side DID something to try and fix our lousy and expensive healthcare system the other side would have done NOTHING to try and fix it and for the past 3 years they have tried to STOP it. That side runs Texas where our idiot Gov. did NOT expand coverage through Medicaid therefore people will DIE,.DIE, DIE.
And i thought bstewart1987 said the dumbest thing of the day but YOU my friend take the cake when you said "How about a person who is healthy and takes care of themselves" WOW you must be superman NEVER to get sick
Ha Ha Suckers - Big Med was in on the deal from the start The Dem's sold you out, just like the Repub's would
Just as well, after reading over half of the "ACA" it was revealed that the entire program is nothing but a 'big giveaway to big Pharma and Insurance companies"---which is why the Republicans have opposed it from the beginning; THEY did not have the chance to "give so much" to the Oligarchy.
Republicans do not care about people. They only care about themselves and as long as they can get discounted insurance everyone else can piss off and die.
@yankee011 Republicans don't care about people is about the most ridiculous thing you libtards ever say, and you say it often. Nothing in your idiotic spewage is factual, period.
@bvckvs Please define "Libertarian Republican" versus "Tea Party Republican"
If you keep repeating "Dems are perfect' long enough you'll have blown enough hot air to have actually caused the climate to change, change, change. A person of your exquisite sensibilities should be the next Ruler of the World. No doubt you have prepared accordingly. Thank you for attempting to educate us at the expense of your sanity!
@yankee011 It doesn't matter how well one takes care of oneself. There's the Second Law of Thermodynamics: Things break, and we all grow older.
@Sotiredofitall The two party system is a necessary evil. Without it, we become ruled by a single legal party of lawyers which is the case today. But the true advancement over the U.S. Constitution wasn't the two party system - it was brought over from the Old World after all - but, the true advancement was the American Movement process which was an awakening later on in such people as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Samuel Clemens, and during more modern times, Uncle Emanuel Watkins.
Today, we are fast reverting back to the days of tyranny when a few would manufacture consent from the people. Noam Chomsky: "It was normal, even out in the open in the Royal family and its surrounding aristocracy for the leisure class to benefit greatly off of the easily fooled by manufacturing consent from them.
In other words, there existed no such endeavor as organized crime apart from government before these modern times of our Founding Fathers. In the Old World during the time of tyranny and the ruling monarchies, the government and organized crime were one in the same. I'm talking "The Noble Savage" days before the time of John Locke and Jean Rousseau. A lot of heavy, mysterious, and cruel Machiavellian stuff happened and was accepted as necessary. The king had to do these cruel things in the best interest for himself, for his family, for both the aristocracy and military nobility that he established around himself for his protection, and for the simple and worthless masses of commoners under his rule (The nameless and faceless multitude).
This is an edit of the prior post I made which I accidently posted before any revision.
@Sotiredofitall Liar, liar, pants on fire. That means a Puritan parent of old should be willing to help his or her child until they lie to them for a third time, then they should be shunned to suffer the consequences of their actions. The kind of lying that president Obama does has more to do with the manufacturing of consent from the people. He is being allowed to do this because the Republican party is no longer viable today as a lot of their members have abandoned them for the new Tea Party. As is always the case, Republican feel that their long "rich" history as a party supersedes even the best interest of the United States. As has happened a few times before in our nation's history, the two party system today has dissolved into a lone institution of lying lawyers. While Obama is aware that his actions have no political consequences, as he knows he won't be prosecuted for treason as the two party system is now defunct and the Republican party is dead, his lying has managed to lose the trust of his customers.
Oddly, this only goes to prove that liars who lie aren't virtuous.
@husbandofmoonlight The idea of insurance was created in the Old World and is accepted in the New World today as a necessary evil. The idea of insurance has a long tradition in the Old World as do the political ideas of the two-party political system and that of a private centralized banking system run by a powerful elite in society. Indeed, if the royal queen Elizabeth herself were to go off to get drunk and then ram her Rolls Royce into the back of a school bus killing every child aboard, she would surely be held blameless for the offense. After all, as the song goes, every child victimized would be ultimately saved through her. But, according to the new natural law declared by our Founders over here in the New World, the opposite is true. As they declared, all men were born equally endowed with the same exact business agenda for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
God save the people.
@husbandofmoonlight See if you can find the original bill, rather than the one with the big pharma and insurance subsidies that both GOP and Dem reps added to it each one one-upping the other.
I wonder if moonlight has a better idea of what happened or if she/he holds posseses the same flawed logic and lack of reason that you do.
@husbandofmoonlight If that is true (Republicans opposed the "big giveaway to big Pharma and Insurance companies") why didn't they propose and support the "public option," which most Americans wanted and which would decidedly NOT be a big giveaway to those entities?
That's the sort of illiterate, learn-nothing, knee-jerk belief that keeps us all under the thumb of BOTH parties, who differ little. You did not read the article, or you would have learned about the role of Dem Sen. Max Baucus, who let his hired-gun staffer write a critical bill. Dem Sen. Ben Nelson sabotaged the co-op plan. Dem Sens Menendez, Carper, and Baucus sided with the Repubs.
Finally, the worst one of them all is proof that he and his kind can fool your kind forever: Billy Tauzin started as a Dem, switched to Repub when it paid off, then took the really big payday by going to work for the same pharm industry he had been supporting all along.
Moron, you're the kind who misspells bathroom graffiti.
@yankee011 Go home Yankee, we don't want or need your Lying Liberal ass here.
@yankee011 The worst spiritual offense isn't to kill or maim a child, but to simply stumble them up. As the children of God, the busy people aren't here to think of such complex matters like equality, responsibility, and the legal endeavor of government, but to work at becoming more happy exponentially both for the sake of themselves and collectively for society. Just because my disadvantaged position allows you to fool me doesn't justify your offense. So, the true two-party system is one that is made up of those who benefit by fooling the easily fooled and those who genuinely care (love) to help in lifting them up from their disadvantaged state.
@yankee011 Is it my problem they a person may smoke 20 cigs a day and chose their life path to not include healthcare?
@ewshep @yankee011 If you deny healthcare to people which the Republican party here in Texas has causing people to die , one with half a brain would only conclude the you don't care. Your retort consists of nothing showing how republicans care about people its only outrage and insults which tells one all they need to know about you. YOU GOT NOTHING!
@mrbusyb Blah Blah Blah Seems a lot of overwrought faux intellectual rhetoric to just say we now live in an oligarchy
@blase1 @husbandofmoonlight because the GOP (and several Dems) lobbied to have that verbiage added to the bill.
Gotta earn those PAC contributions and luxury trips! No fears, maybe moonlight has a working brain cell.
Yeah, because calling somebody a Lying Liberal is so much easier than actually thinking. You're as bad as he is.
If you're a Dallas County taxpayer, the answer is yes. Your property taxes support the treatment of the uninsured, and the hospitals have always passed some of these costs on to insurers, who in turn, pass it along to their ratepayers in the form of premiums. So, yes, you do pay when insurance isn't mandated for everyone.
@Sotiredofitall @mrbusyb That is probably because I have more of a sound education in philosophy. Our Founding Fathers didn't establish our new nation on political science as the cognitive sciences were still in their infancy during their time (Just consider how Immanual Kant as the recognized father of epistemology was a peer of our Founders having lived during their time and, after having his heart swept away by reading the essays of Rousseau, became an instrumental part of the French Revolution?). And political science is a cognitive science after all. For example, having a lot of depth in the philosophy of science, I know that a natural right originally wasn't a legal civil one, but it reduced down on the physical level (as there existed no such endeavor during Locke's time as the cognitive sciences). During the time of John Locke, a scientist was still known as a "natural philosopher" and had to be a member of the "clergy." Even Charles Darwin had to be a member of the clergy in order to work as a natural philosopher in the field of biology.
You utilize terms of political science that are used commonly in the Old World. Yet, our Founders didn't establish our new nation on the traditions of Old World legal precedence, but they utilized the scientific method of natural law. Instead of them grabbing the biggest, strongest and smartest guy to crown and then telling the king of England to come and get him, our Founders, as members of the people, divorced the people out from under a tyrant by establishing a new natural law and then, after fighting and winning a war, were justified in remarrying us to a "more perfect (ever perfecting) union.
@ewshep @blase1 @husbandofmoonlight Not lying. Just trying to lead husbandofmoonlight to that conclusion without beating it over the head. It IS what most Americans wanted. Every poll taken during the health care debate showed that. And because of insurance company and big pharma lobbyists with their hands in the pockets of both Republicans and Democrats, the will of the people was not done.
@wcvemail Well, I don't live on the internet like you do, and I recognize that to spew a couple of paragraphs to a lying liberal shill is no more effective than just calling it out for what it is. But you do what works for you since you obviously have the time to waste, given that you don't do anything productive to earn your government handout. You judge people you know absolutely nothing about. Screw you too, know-it-all.
@yankee011 Who chooses not to have healthcare?
How about a person who is healthy and takes care of themselves?
Thank you for self-identifying as a Progressive, though. Because, clearly, if somebody thinks differently than you, they must be wrong...
WTF does political affiliation have to do with healthcare need?