We Americans are about to get the best health care money can buy — that is, if you are a lobbyist working to undermine universal health insurance. The rest of us will mostly get more of the same.
Remember not too long ago when the heath care reform debate was between those who supported a single-payer system (extending Medicare to all citizens) versus a public option (letting people opt in our out of federally funded health insurance)? Now the U.S. House and Senate are splitting hairs about details such as subsidies for private health insurers to defray costs for lower income families and small businesses and which employees to count for penalties for lack of employer coverage. This despite overwhelming evidence that most Americans want universal coverage that is not “owned” by the private for-profit health insurance industry.
At every turn in the health care debate in 2009 special interests used over half a billion dollars in campaign contributions and lobbying to block any meaningful proposal for reform. The health insurance industry spent $166.4 million successfully opposing a single-payer system. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $144.5 million successfully blocking a mandate for all employers to provide health insurance and a proposal to end the tax break for business health expenses. When Democrats proposed expanding Medicare to citizens between 55 and 65, a group representing doctors and hospitals spent $200 million targeting specific senators and blocked it. Trial lawyers spent $64 million successfully blocking limits on medical malpractice lawsuits.