President Donald Trump is hell bent on dismantling the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). He is lying when he promises to replace Obamacare with something better and cheaper. In reality, all that he and the Republicans are offering is “Don’t Get Sick.” He is wrongly accusing the Democrats of pushing “socialist health care.” Socialist health care assigns you to doctors and hospitals paid by your government. Universal health care insurance is not “socialism,” but “democracy.”
It is a system in which all people are universally covered by a government-managed single-payer health insurance. People still enjoy the freedom to choose their own doctors, hospitals and pharmacies. The government regulates and bargains with private pharmaceutical companies for prescription drugs. Canadians are paying just a fraction of their American counterpart’s drug costs.
I lived under the Canadian universal health insurance system for five years and had nothing to complain about in the quality or availability of Canadian health care services. I did not have to worry about losing my health care insurance even if I were to change jobs or start my own fledgling business. Now, fortunately, I am over the magic age of 65 covered under the America’s “universal” Medicare System. Before I reached Medicare age, I often had to argue with the bureaucrat-accountant in my employer-based private health insurance to cover some minor surgical procedures recommended by my primary care physician.
Currently, I am annoyed by the cost of exorbitantly expensive dental care and prescription drugs that are not covered by Medicare. About 180 million Americans are said to be covered by employer-based private health insurance. During the July 31 Democratic presidential candidates debate, both the moderators and some candidates uncritically praised United Auto Workers’ health care insurance benefits. They failed to point out, however, the fatal flaws of employer-based private health care insurance.
When UAW members are laid off by their employers, they lose their hard-won medical insurance benefits. In 2008, General Motors and Chrysler went bankrupt partly because of the cost of providing health insurance for their employees and retirees. They had to be rescued by President Barack Obama at public expense. Despite Michigan State’s plea for job-creating investments, Toyota chose to locate its auto engine plant in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, just across from Detroit, because the Canadian government’s universal health insurance keeps Toyota employees healthy and Toyota’s production costs competitive.
President Trump and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are enabling private insurance company lobbyists to perpetuate the myth that unfettered market competition of profit-seeking private insurance companies will solve American health care insecurity. Free market competitive efficiency cannot be attained unless both suppliers and consumers possess near-perfect knowledge of the prices, costs, quality and benefits of the products and services involved. Like education, national defense and climate protection, health care does not fit the free market model.
America’s per capita health care spending exceeds $8,500 annually. This is about three times as much as Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan and other democracies. That’s 37th in the world, the worst of the OECD industrial nations. About 30 million working poor Americans have no health insurance. They are overwhelming the emergency rooms of public hospitals.
Unfortunately, America is still afflicted with virulent racism. President Trump and his Republican followers are resorting to racism in their anti-immigrant, anti-universal health care insurance campaigns. Under these circumstances, Democrats had better concentrate on including a public option in Obamacare. This would truly be revolution enough.
Yoshi Tsurumi of Rock Creek Lane is professor emeritus of International Business, Baruch College, CUNY.