The class issues in the US health care debate

Published on WSWS, by Kate Randall and Barry Grey, July 22, 2009.

The Obama administration’s push for health care “reform” has exposed the class realities that dominate American politics and the social interests which Obama defends …

… One should consider the meaning of “needless.” How is this to be determined in advance? The only way to determine with certainty whether a procedure or test is “needed” is if, having been denied a more expensive method of treatment, the patient fails to recover or dies!

The editorial continues, reinforcing the same point: “Medicare should also be allowed to use the results of comparative effectiveness research to set reimbursement policies favoring the best treatments.” 

This is nothing other than a demand that Medicare be restructured to become a cut-rate system for providing substandard care to the working class and the poor. In a fundamental sense, this represents the unwinding of Medicare as a system of universal health care for the elderly. When the program was launched in 1965, it was based on the social principle that all elderly people were entitled to the same level of medical care, regardless of their income or socioeconomic status. It is this principle that is under attack by the Times and the Obama administration.

In its place, Medicare is to become a class-based system of reduced care to workers and poor people, while the wealthy will have access to the best treatment.

The Times goes on to make clear its support for proposals to tax employee health benefits, saying, “A tax on employer-provided benefits would probably also encourage workers to choose lower-cost policies, and use health care more sparingly.”

That is, health care is to be rationed to the “rabble” of society, so that the corporations can increase their profits by reducing their health care outlays, while the wealthy continue to enjoy the benefits of a tax system skewed in their interests.

The Times expresses the outlook of contemporary American liberalism and the social layers upon which it is based, i.e., sections of the financial elite and the most privileged layers of the middle class. It articulates the contempt for the working class that the liberal establishment, which supports the Democratic Party and the Obama administration, shares with its Republican counterpart. (full text).

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