Obama's Health Care Bill: Human Rights for Some

26 Mar 2010

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On Tuesday, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Medicine Act into law, heralding America's first national health insurance scheme. While lauded as a watershed development, the bill lacks a public option, which progressives deem its greatest failure. 

To call this a victory for healthcare as a human right is a mistake says media critic and journalist, Norman Solomon. "This is as much a victory for corporate America and for exploitation as it is anything else."

In addition, Physicians for a National Health Programme (PNHP), a nonprofit organization of 17,000 physicians and health professionals published a study of the health bill. According them, 23 million people will remain uninsured nine years out.

Dr Margaret Flowers of PNHP says that this legislation will not significantly increase the number of people that have health care coverage. It will still result in bankruptcies due to medical debt and foreclosures on homes. It is not addressing the problems of America, she says. "They are trying to regulate the insurance industry, but that's been tried over and over and (the industry is) too powerful."

Flowers also contends that the bill will do more harm than good. Most of the provisions of the legislation will only get underway in 2014. The bill forces people to buy insurance while there is no guarantee that it is going to be affordable. People are still going to face financial barriers, she says.

Solomon argues that it's a negative to have a huge amount of money from the US treasury going into a for-profit system without giving people the option to use their own money or government money for a not-for-profit option when a human right is at stake, which health care is.

Many of the 32 million people, who are scheduled to be covered under the new bill, will receive coverage by being added as "low income people" to the Medicaid rolls.

But the availability of healthcare providers who will take people covered by Medicaid is an open question.

If it's a human right contends Solomon, then is the law not saying that some human rights are more human rights than others? Some people have a full human right, some have a partial human right, some people have a full-blown quality healthcare as a human right and some are down in the basement of human rights that's called "Medicaid."

Progressive Democrats, who originally insisted on a single payer public option health insurance bill, eventually capitulated and supported the much-watered down version of the legislation. However, they are now re-engaging the discussion about a more robust public option.

Solomon argues that such efforts are misguided and beyond credulity because the American Congress will not pass a public option when the president has refused to fight for it in the past.

You can find this page online at http://sacsis.org.za/site/article/219.19.

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