CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Every modern democracy except America provides universal medical care to all citizens as a human right. Government-run national systems in those countries free businesses from the severe burden of insuring employees. It's disgraceful that the United States, the world's richest nation, can't do what other democracies do.
"As a nation, we spend about twice as much per person as other high-income countries, and yet we have 50 million people uninsured and have worse health outcomes," says Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. "This is not a result of Medicare or the nearly half of health-care spending that is funded by government, but rather the private insurance companies that dominate the system, as well as pharmaceutical companies."
For-profit U.S. insurers waste billions as they try to dump medical bills onto other insurers or taxpayers. Big Pharma rakes in billions through insanely high prescription prices. No other advanced democracy tolerates this abuse. Drugs cost far less in Canada -- and the government-run payment plan excludes commercial insurers.
Ever since Theodore Roosevelt and Harry Truman, progressive U.S. leaders have tried to bring universal coverage to America. Medicare, Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, public employee health systems, etc., were strides in that direction. But big-money health corporations and Republicans oppose every advance.
In 2010, President Obama and Democrats in Congress made another breakthrough by passing the Affordable Care Act. It extends coverage to about 30 million "working poor" people and curbs various insurer rip-offs.
But conservatives are challenging the law in the U.S. Supreme Court, where they hope GOP-appointed justices will kill the reform. If they succeed, it will be a setback for human rights in America.
For decades, we have contended that America needs a complete, national, universal, "single-payer" health insurance plan covering everyone, without interference by for-profit insurers or giant pharmaceutical corporations. Weisbrot says this could have been achieved by "a simple expansion of Medicare to cover the non-elderly population."
If the Supreme Court kills the Affordable Care Act, we hope this year's election will give Democrats enough congressional seats to return to the health crusade and give America a universal system like other democracies'.