By Arthur H. Gunther III
Where is U.S. health care headed now that the Supreme Court has ruled valid most of President Obama’s legislation? Will we see real reform, or will the special interests -- insurance companies, providers, Medicare and Medicaid mills -- influence the law to take profit over service? Will the promise of a healthier nation -- medically, mentally, economically and socially -- come to pass? The high court ruled 5-4, but the jury is still out on the future of health care.
Republicans will try, through repeal, to make moot the SCOTUS decision affirming President Obama’s insistence that nearly all Americans obtain health insurance or pay a penalty. Yet even if that should somehow happen, you can bet the same special interests are already crafting ways to manipulate the process to their advantage.
Forgive the cynicism, but if this endless debate about insuring Americans were really about keeping and making people healthier, there would have been no need to take expensive lawering to the courts or to posture so long in Democratic, Republican, Conservative and Tea Party wings.
From day one, soon after Obama took office, and even before that considering the outrageous rise in health care costs and premiums and the systematic reduction, even termination, of health insurance by big business, the decision could have been made under one premise.
Premise: (1) proper care, fully available to all regardless of pre-existing condition, as securely guaranteed as are the freedoms of speech and religion; (2) costs regulated by government so as to derail the profit/greed factor; (3) with provision 2 in effect, private companies, not the government, would be best at providing insurance in a country where government growth and decision-making are of great concern.
Under this premise, our nation, conceived and bathed in the rights of humankind, would declare health care as a given right, as vital to the national defense as is a prepared military. Surely anyone of any political persuasion could agree to this.
But what did America get in the debate? An Obama plan and a Republican plan, both lobbied by insurance companies, physicians, Medicare and Medicaid providers, all of who have livelihoods and investors waiting on the federal and state dime.
While the SCOTUS decision allows “Obamacare” to proceed, hopefully staving off soaring medical costs that threaten to make us insolvent and impotent as a world power, the players on the U.S. medical scene will not easily acquiesce if profit is threatened, if prestige is lost, if bailiwick is confined. All these interests have some legitimate concerns -- for example, malpractice insurance costs -- but ever since premiums began to rise exponentially in the 1980s, the focus has moved from the patient and gone to the wallet.
President Obama says the decision “was a victory for people all over this country whose lives are more secure because of this law.” But I wonder if the “people” will indeed be served as the plan plays out, or will other interests win in a country that seems to have forgotten its citizens.
There is opportunity to secure health care for all, to promote preventive care, to increase the nation’s well-being and productivity, even creativity, through affordable health care, but as we have seen following the banking fiasco, the spoils do not go to the people, only to the greedy.