Middle Class Healthcare Reform? Bend Over…

By Donna Smith

It’s coming. You and me and every middle class, working person in this nation is about to start handing over more and more of their hard earned cash to the private insurance industry, courtesy of our own elected members of Congress and our very popular President. Fire up those Treasury Department presses. We’re going to be printing and providing money for insurance companies like no bail-out we’ve seen yet this economic crisis cycle.

The healthcare legislation under design and so far under wraps for the American people is slowly being leaked via carefully staged forum and meetings and a few well-timed hearings and grand press announcements. Much of the work is still going on behind closed doors in private meetings attended by those who are deemed appropriate participants and industry friends.

Remember how open these proceedings were to be following all the Clinton plan debacles of the early 90s? Well, today’s stagings are far more sophisticated and planned out. So learning did occur by the industry giants and their political friends over these last 17 years, I will give them that.

And what do we know so far about what middle class Americans can expect from the legislation being privately crafted?

First, no matter what percentage of your take home pay it takes, you will be legally required to buy private health insurance. Second, if all you can afford is a policy that leaves you financially exposed to bankruptcy and foreclosure, then you will still be legally required to purchase that private insurance product. Third, should you fail to buy a policy, you will pay a fine.

Like it so far? Feeling free and protected? Like the choices so far? It gets better.

The private, for-profit insurance industry has made concessions we are asked to celebrate. First, they’ll issue every one of us a policy provided every one of us is legally forced to buy coverage. Second, they stop discriminating against women because they have uteruses and child-bearing capacity, provided we all have to buy their product. And third, and this was a real coup according to our leaders, the insurance companies, medical equipment folks and providers will slow the rate of increase in charging for their products to charge just a bit less in terms of percentages of overall costs than they had planned to do and as is predicted. Laughable concessions sold as real compromise.

It’s as if we’ve been beaten a few times every month by an abuser whose violence and anger is increasing over time, and we know by calculating the trend that we’ll be beaten daily within a very short time. Up steps the abuser to say, “Wait. I will still have to beat you more than I do now, but I think I can hold it to 25 times a month instead of every day.” That’s the sort of promises we’re supposed to see as victories with the healthcare industry involvement in crafting the legislation that will determine our families’ financial well-being and matters of life and death.

Let me spell this out for families like mine. You’ve been getting overcharged for underinsurance for many years and you’ve seen the costs out of your own pocket rise to the point where it is truly driving whether or not you even try to seek care when ill. You’ve seen premiums rise and coverage shrink in employer based coverage, and 14,000 of you a day are losing those employer based benefits in this stinking economy.

And most importantly to me and millions of other middle class folks, when you do get sick and need care, you are forced to see only those doctors and providers your insurance company says you can and those providers can only give you the insurance company says they can give you. That’s the way our insurance companies want it now and forevermore, and that’s what they are going to get.

Feeling free? Your choices broadening? Your costs lowering?

Wait. There’s more. In order to make sure every single American buys the private products from insurance companies and knowing some families won’t make enough to afford what is offered, we’ll all chip in and pay our taxes to subsidize those who cannot afford to buy the pricey plans. So, when each of us calculates our own monthly costs for healthcare, we’ll need to factor in not only our own health insurance premium, our co-pays and deductibles, our medications and other out-of-pocket costs, but also the percentage of our payroll taxes dedicated to pay for the subsidies for low-income folks, the agencies to collect the fines paid by health-insurance-mandate-evaders, and the agency envisioned to be our clearing house for selling us the private product we’re all forced to buy. If our real costs are added up, there will be a substantial increase for most middle class families.

These folks are really hoping you will not do the math. They think middle class folks are too dumb to figure it out.

Let me repeat. This Congress and this President are about to give us healthcare reform that will make the middle class burden for payment higher and will even more deeply restrict personal choices in medical care. And they are about to do it all with great fanfare claiming just the opposite.

No doubt many of you have feared really looking at a single payer approach as something scary and restrictive of your personal freedoms. I can promise you that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, your freedom to choose would be greatly enhanced under a publicly funded, privately delivered national program. Greatly enhanced freedom. Lowered costs as we each pay the percentage we can afford from our income. Greatly enhanced choice of providers – no more being told who is in-network or out. No more risk of financial ruin if medical care is not approved by a profit-driven entity. And no more being told a service we already received isn’t covered after all – the great bait and switch the health insurance industry is allowed to do all the time, leaving so many people with bills they never even knew they were accepting responsibility to pay.

I like being free to choose. And if this healthcare reform plan restricts my freedom, takes my hard-earned money and makes my life more difficult, I won’t have any problem at all assigning blame to the folks who forced it on me.

Look, what’s the old saying about excrement rolling downhill? This president is very popular. He won’t get blamed when middle class folks figure out the ruse. And the Senate is pretty safe, as they get to sit for six years before answering to the people – and they get oodles of cash from the industry to make sure they are comfy, cozy. It’s the U.S. House of Representatives – the people’s house, they say – that will take the hit when the moms and dads of this nation figure it out that they didn’t get healthcare reform at all. The middle class will get a huge burden to bail-out the health insurance and healthcare industry under the plan moving so carefully but swiftly through the process.

The kicker? When it’s finally unveiled in all its bi-partisan glory, it’ll be sold as a human rights victory. And on that day, 60 more American families will bury a loved one denied care. And on the day after that, 60 more will die. And the day after that, they’ll be a big damn party paid for by you and by me for all of those who helped craft the monstrosity. And the insurance industry CEO salaries will be enhanced by your money paid to them. Bail-out bonanza for Karen Ignagni and America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry very fond of its government entitlements.

Costs will be successfully shifted even more heavily onto the backs of America’s middle class workers. I mean, middle class chumps. And then, my fellow worker-bees, it will be mid-term election time again.

Donna Smith is a community organizer for the California Nurses Association and National Co-Chair for the Progressive Democrats of America Healthcare Not Warfare campaign.


  1. Vashti Winterburg on May 20, 2009 at 1:18 am

    Donna – Thanks as always. I really think that giving the American public a warmed over Massachusetts plan will turn out to be one of the greatest political blunders ever for the Democrats. You’d think that despite all the money the insurance industry and Big Pharma has given them that they’d have more sense. (I think it was Jesse Unruh who said something to the effect,’If you can’t smoke their cigars, drink their whiskey and screw their women at night and vote against them in the morning, what good are you?’) I think one of the saddest things is that with H.R.676 besides covering everyone and saving money that we could save Medicare and Medicaid and have change left over for Social Security and the national debt. We’ve got the numbers, we just have to keep up the fight
    I do recommend reading what the semanticist Frank Luntz recommended to the Republicans, including that they should, ‘throw the insurance companies under the bus because the American public hates them.’ Also that the scariest work out there is “deny”.
    Keep the faith, Donna. Vashti Winterburg, Kansas Health Care for All, Lawrence, Kansas

  2. Margaret on May 20, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Dear Donna,

    I’ve been telling everyone for awhile now that the health insurers would be CRAZY to want to stay in the the system with the baby boomers moving into their 50’s and I knew they had no intention of leaving this field of gold so I figured that the smartest thing they could do was to be the middleman in any program our so-called government would cobble together and that is EXACTLY what Obama and the rest are doing! The health industry now has more money and influence than the “industrial military complex” has and look how our government has subsidized that industry, the health care gurus are just playing by the handbook as crafted by the the military/industrial industry.

    Obama just wants to be able to say he has solved the problem of the uninsured. If that was his real goal he should have called it tweaking the health care system and not REFORM. True reform is not possible until the drug industry is regulated and the insurance companies are out of the loop.

    We have to keep up the fight!

    I look foward to hearing you speak in Middletown CT.

    Margaret Heckler
    Stratford, CT

  3. Linda Mae on May 23, 2009 at 6:23 am

    Massachusetts is reeling from the costs of their health care program. They cannot afford to pay for it. Medicare is also almost broke. There is no way it can be sustained without either more taxes being paid or fewer services being given. It is just common sense. Some one has to pay.
    Donna is an organizer – Progressive Democrats of America – which means she is a Socialist who believes in redistribution of the wealth. It also means that she is one who advocates Saul Alinsky and George Soros. Soros advocates legalizing drugs, suicide and euthanasia , and destruction of the Constitution of the United States. He brags that he has spent millions to discredit George Bush because he was too proud to be an American. He also believes in regime change – like he did in Eastern Europe. He also funds hundreds of groups – like ACORN – who run to protest at the drop of a hat. He advocates creation of need by having “ordinary” citizens demonstrate so those in power can point to them and justify their actions. I find it amazing that the list of Congressmen has been taken off the link to the American Socialist Party. I noticed that Rosa DiLauro was a member. I question how she pledge to support and defend the Constitution while the same time being a member of a group which has the goal of destroying the Constitution. She is joined by Pelosi (is this why the 2 of them went to Rome with John Larson – plus spouses – on our taxpayers dime?) Add Frank, Waters and Waxman and you can see the problem. And Sadowsky who has promised to destroy the insurance industry. Which – I believe – poured money into Obama’s campaign.

    Saints preserve us from a single payer system which will be an inept and corrupt as Medicare. Let’s make it easier to those who have no insurance to get the services they need – not want – but need. I pay loads of money for insurance each year – $7,000 – out of pocket. I still can’t get what I want – but what I need. Insurance is a responsibility – for the individual. Keep the government out of my life.
    I wonder if Margaret pays for her own insurance. Is she willing to go on the Canadian system? My friends from Canada say we are just crazy to follow in their footsteps. I did read the hundreds of pages in the Canadian Report and it is not good.

    There are so many mistruths in this situation. That Medicare is wonderful is the first.

  4. Eliza Jane Dodd on May 23, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    My idea stolen by the VETERANS >>>>No just kidding …sorta ….this was my Idea 3 or so years ago for Universal Health Care …I said WHY DONT WE HAVE A LOTTO FOR IT ????And everyone laughed …now I hope they all EAT CROW ….OK Kate read this > Star Telegram Ft Worth Texas ( HOUSE APPROVES SCRATHCH OFF-GAME TO BENEFIT VETERANS )
    Under LOTTERY on the Front Page May 16th 2009 article by; Dave Montgomery Star Telegram Ft.Worth news-paper …Please everyone read this article ?? I think having a Lottery for Universal Health Care is a WINNER !

  5. Pattie on August 6, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    Bullshit you have no clue what you are talking about! SE Wisconsin has the highest health care cost in the country and many of us are losing the ability to afford to pay our coverage. What is up with the costs to us?

    How about an insurance company NOW that tells you a treatment or test is experimental and they deny it? So who is between you and your doctor in this case? The insurance industry and all they care about is making the shareholders happen on Wall street.

    Go to Bill Moyer’s journal website and see the report from a former CEO of one of the insurance company Wendell Potter http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/07312009/profile.html. Also watch the clip about the uninsured coming to Virgina to be treated at a mash unit created by doctors to treat the uninsured. Its called remote area medical http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/07312009/profile4.html. We look like a third world country for God sake!

    Reform is needed and needed sooner than later! Don’t let the lobbyists fill your head with garbage after all the members of Congress and the Senate don’t have to worry ever about losing their health care but votes yes! So some will do anything to derail this since they are guaranteed lifetime premo health care!