Our nation is failing when it comes to health and health care, and the policies of the Obama administration will make the situation worse. We are headed towards greater privatization of health care which will mean greater profits for Wall Street while those who need medical treatment will struggle to afford it. And the social, economic and environmental factors that affect health such as housing, employment, education, the growing wealth divide and toxins in our air, land and water, are not being adequately addressed.
We have the resources to meet our nation’s health needs. We are spending more than twice what other industrialized nations spend per person on health care and they have better health outcomes than the U.S.. We have hospitals, health professional schools and excellent research facilities. We know what types of health systems create the best health outcomes and control costs. The fundamental reason that we are not solving the health care crisis is that the political system is owned and operated by the corporations that profit from the status quo.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was written by the lobbyists for health insurance, hospitals and pharmaceutical corporations. Through the ACA, hundreds of billions of public dollars will be given to private insurance corporations to subsidize the purchase of their products which are so skimpy, they will leave people unable to afford health care and at risk of personal bankruptcy if they have a serious accident or illness. There are no proven cost controls in the ACA. As health care costs rise, we will see more employers dump health benefits and more people purchasing low benefit health plans. We will still see tens of millions of people in the US with no health insurance at all, even when the ACA is fully implemented in 2019.
President Obama is on a course to cut our social insurances, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The Deficit Commission and Super Committee failed to make the cuts, so the President included cuts in the new budget proposal and is trying to convince the people that these cuts, which will increase poverty, suffering and death, are necessary. It appears that these three programs will be privatized by making Social Security so worthless that more people who are able will invest in private pension plans and by putting Medicare and Medicaid populations into the health insurance exchanges.
The U.S. has experimented with a market based health system for the past forty years. The evidence is clear that it only makes the rich richer and the population sicker. The most fundamental steps that we can take to place our country on a positive course is to ban private insurance and expand traditional Medicare to every person. We must remove profit as the bottom line of our healthcare system and replace it with the goal of better health for everyone.
This Earth Day, I am reminded that the greatest threats to our health are climate change and the toxins being poured into our environment by the oil and gas industry. We cannot protect ourselves from these threats through personal health habits. They require structural changes.
Those who are fighting for real environmental solutions face the same obstacles that all who push for social and economic justice face: a plutocratic political system. I encountered this up close as Congressional Fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program during the national health reform process.
Our struggles are connected. By joining in solidarity, we can work more effectively to change the balance of power in favor of the planet and all living things. The Democrats and Republicans represent Wall Street. It is time for a real alternative that represents what the majority of people support, real solutions to our crises.
The alternative is the Green Shadow Cabinet put together by Dr. Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala’s Green Party campaigns for President and Vice President. I will serve as Secretary of the Health Council. This council is bringing people together from across the nation who are doing excellent work on health systems, wellness, health disparities, women’s health, mental health and more. We believe that healthcare is a human right. We will provide information about solutions to the health crises that we face and respond to current events with honest answers.
Together, we can create social change. It begins with telling the truth and building an independent movement and a political structure to represent it. To learn more about the Green Shadow Cabinet, visit GreenShadowCabinet.us
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