Tag Archives: Health Care

Health Reform Band-aids Will Never Cure Racist Capitalism

The bosses control the media and the “debate” that workers are exposed to on a given topic. In health care, the media outlets have chosen their sides: either favoring “nationalized” health care or supporting private insurance companies. CHALLENGE (9/2) exposed these plans as a move toward fascist control through “nationalization” and business-as-usual exploitation by the insurance and drug companies.

Both options are deadly for workers. PLP offers a third option: fight the racist practices of the for-profit capitalist health system now, while building a movement that will deliver free and accessible health care for all workers — denied by the bosses — once the working class unites to destroy capitalism and create a communist society.

The media and Obama show their hypocrisy, pretending to favor better health for everyone, while continuing the bloodshed in Iraq and expanding the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, killing and maiming more U.S. GI’s and Afghan and Pakistani workers. At Fort Campbell, Kentucky eleven soldiers have committed suicide already this year, prompting the brass to shut down the base for three days in May so every soldier could receive “suicide prevention counseling.”

More than 20% of the soldiers who make it back to the U.S. suffer from some form of psychological damage (Washington Post, 5/24). This attack on workers’ health will only increase as the wars intensify and additional casualties enter a Veterans Affairs medical system already overburdened with too many lives ruined by the capitalists’ drive for oil profits.

The bosses’ media is also silent about another aspect of this “debate”: access to health care is such a critical issue because capitalism creates horrific levels of disease and disability for workers worldwide. Due to pollution, the lack of clean water, global warming and racist unemployment, workers are unnecessarily dying by the millions. Actually the best way to improve our health is to destroy the system that creates these healthcare nightmares in the first place.

Malnutrition directly kills six million children per year and makes millions more susceptible to respiratory infection, malaria and other life-threatening diseases. A 1996 World Health Organization study reported that unsanitary conditions created due to the lack of clean water account for more than five million deaths per year, while three BILLION more suffer from diarrhea and intestinal diseases. These deaths, mainly black, Latino and Asian workers, are murders! For the sake of profit, bosses starve us, pollute our waters and poison our skies.

The massive unemployment resulting from the financial crisis will generate its own epidemic of bad health for workers. Overall, 6.7 million jobs have disappeared in the U.S since December 2007, although that number could easily be doubled considering the millions uncounted by government figures. According to the International Labor Organization, 51 million jobs could disappear worldwide this year alone.

A Congressional study in 1971 reported that for every 1.4% rise in unemployment, 30,590 workers died in the next five years from strokes, heart disease, kidney and liver ailments and suicide. (In January, 2009, the British medical journal Lancet, published a study showing that as many as one million working-age men died in capitalist Russia between 1989 and 2002 due to the implosion of the old communist movement and capitalist privatization throughout the economy. (Unemployment increased 56% over that period.) The stress of job loss significantly increases the incidence of diseases like high blood pressure and heart disease (NY Times, 5/9), along with depression and anxiety.

Access to health care is clearly an important issue for the world’s workers, but even with “national health” systems, the ruling class will never give us the health care we need. “National health” is synonymous with “government health” and the politicians’ constant kow-towing to healthcare industry bosses shows that the government is not a neutral mediator in the battle between workers and bosses. Capitalist governments are always subservient to their capitalist masters, a lesson workers shouldn’t forget when hearing about ‘town-hall meetings.” These meetings are orchestrated spectacles designed to build a movement that rails against “socialized” medicine in attempts to win workers to fascism. (Its standard-bearer is Sean Hannity, whose recent show entitled “Universal Nightmares” promoted the terror of universal health care.)

However, capitalist government health care is not the answer workers need. In Britain, the National Health Service denied the use of a drug to treat breast cancer because it was “too expensive.” Cancer researchers there also recently reported that as many as 15,000 people past 75 have died prematurely due to slow diagnosis and treatment.

Racist disparities in health care are also just as prevalent in countries with national health care as they are in the U.S. Throughout the European Union (where national health care is common) access to doctors is severely limited for undocumented immigrants. In 2007, Medicins du Monde (Doctors of the World) reported that so-called “universal coverage” denied treatment by a health care professional to 10% of undocumented immigrants. In general, immigrants don’t receive proper health care because of a “lack of knowledge about where to go for treatment, treatment cost, administrative problems, fear of being reported to the authorities and of discrimination, and linguistic and cultural barriers.” (European survey on undocumented migrants’ access to health care, MdM 2007).

No matter what the bosses or their politician-puppets say, and no matter what the proposed healthcare system, they will never voluntarily free workers from the system that creates poor health in the first place, a system that only needs us to be healthy enough to produce profit and to fight their imperialist wars. And they will never free us from a system where millions die needlessly because their deaths are deemed “too expensive” to prevent. Liberation is up to workers, armed with communist consciousness and led by the only party that fights to destroy the real disease: capitalism. Joining PLP and building this movement is the best way to ensure that workers get the health care
we deserve.

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No Reform Can Fix Capitalist Healthcare

U.S. bosses and their politician-servants are arguing over how best to dole out health care to the working class. One side of this battle, mainly Republicans and the so-called “Blue Dog” Democrats, wants to protect the profits of the insurance and pharmaceutical companies at all costs. The other side, mainly liberal Democrats, sees the current health-care situation as a threat to U.S. bosses’ ability to maintain their position against imperialist rivals. As far as the working class is concerned, the likenesses between these sides are more important than their differences.

Neither faction has offered the real solution for all workers: Free and readily accessible health care, as was the situation after the revolutions in the Soviet Union and China. Clinics were widespread and masses of health-care workers were sent into rural areas to serve peasants and farmers.

PLP believes this history shows that workers in power can provide a healthy environment, just as we’ve learned from what happened when these revolutions were reversed and capitalism restored. In the former Soviet republics, workers’ life expectancy, which dramatically increased in the 30 years after the revolution, has decreased since the late 1960s. In China, schistosomiasis, a disease caused by a parasitic worm that ravaged rural areas, was widely controlled due to planned social action initiated after the revolution; it has reemerged.

The results of socialism were a return to capitalism and renewed attacks on the health of the working class. This is why PLP advocates fighting directly for communism and for a society where all aspects of workers’ health will be primary.

Improving workers’ health is not on the top of the agenda for the ruling class, but the faction that now controls the White House and Congress is focused on maintaining U.S. dominance in the world and therefore has two main goals for health-care reform: 1) force the U.S. working class to accept across-the-board low-quality health care as a fact of life; and 2) discipline the sections of the ruling class which are only interested in short-term profits and threaten to undermine the U.S.’s ability to oppose its rivals. Both of these goals represent a move towards greater fascist control.

Here are the bosses’ plans and a communist analysis:

*Require everyone to have health insurance or else pay a penalty.

This requirement is a direct attack on workers who, because of falling wages, find it more and more difficult to divvy up what they have between food, rent/mortgages, heat, clothing, etc. This racist attack will especially affect black and Latin workers who generally suffer from lower wages and higher rates of unemployment.

* Require small businesses to provide insurance that meets “minimum standards.”

These “minimum standards” will attempt to ensure a working class that is only healthy enough to exploit for profit and fight in their oil wars. This means that health care will be rationed and health care for workers who are not “productive” (in the capitalist sense, meaning they don’t produce profits), namely the elderly and seriously ill, will be limited.

* Expand Medicaid to cover the uninsured who can’t afford to buy their own health insurance.

Medicaid fails to provide decent health care now and would have to be expanded just to adequately cover those who already use its services. The financial crisis has swelled the number of unemployed (and thus added to the nearly 50 million uninsured), with black and Latin workers disproportionately affected, meaning more and more workers will come to rely on Medicaid. Their ability to force us to accept these racist conditions is a measure of their ability to prepare us for future attacks

* Tighter regulation of health insurance companies.

This attempt to increase regulation reflects the split in the ruling class discussed above and indicates that Obama & Co. are attempting to discipline those capitalists who care only about their short-term profit-making. It remains to be seen whether health-insurance bosses will submit to this disciplining, but the working class has no stake in the outcome of this battle, because no matter which group of capitalists are running the show, our health will always take a back seat to profits. Of course it’s gratifying to see CEOs get “punished” in public, but it will not mean that Obama and the Democrats actually care about our health.

* Taxing generous insurance plans.

As a legacy of the militant union reforms of the 1930s and ‘40s, there is a section of the working class which has decent health care insurance, primarily industrial and government workers. Not content with helping to wipe out many of these benefits that went along with unionized auto industry jobs, Obama has called for a tax on the remaining decent health care plans.

This plan to tax those few workers who have somehow managed to retain decent health benefits reveals the essence of the entire reform effort: The heavy taxes on the premium plans will drive them out of existence (for workers) and help to create a single, low-quality level of health care for the working class, one that allows for greater government control and discipline, e.g., fascism.

Getting behind either of the factions is a mistake for the working class. Neither side has our interests at heart, a fact clearly indicated when we consider that there has been no mention of a particular super-exploited section of the working class that has a key role to play in this debate: healthcare workers. Mainly women and often immigrants, these workers suffer racist double-exploitation. Their working conditions are awful, especially for home-health providers (who get paid very low wages and have to buy their own gas to get to their patients) and nursing-home attendants (low wages, long hours, too many patients). Improving the health of the working class should begin with improving the health of those who take care of the rest of us.

When we are told of the deaths of workers from disease we often hear “Our mother died of tuberculosis,” or “My sister died from AIDS,” or “My son died from cholera.” These things, the tuberculosis or cholera bacteria or HIV, are only the specific reason for an individual’s demise. The essential point is that capitalism creates the conditions in which these particular pathogens actually kill people.  Clean water and adequate sewage treatment, which is the biggest healthcare improvement that’s available, is denied to hundreds of millions of workers in poorer countries (and millions in imperialism’s heartland).

Whatever it is that makes us sick, from treatable infections to imperialist war, from racist police brutality to stress from having to work two jobs (or from being unemployed), it is capitalism that is the real disease. Fortunately there is a cure: communist revolution and a workers’ society.

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Obama Healthcare Plan Hazardous to Your Health

Barack Obama is calling for affordable healthcare for all. While appearing progressive, a closer look reveals that his plan is barely a bandaid. Obama is not calling for universal healthcare. Even if he were, universal healthcare never means equal healthcare under capitalism. The following just touches the surface of his “reform.”

In 2007, PBS compared U.S. healthcare statistics to Japan, the UK, Germany and Switzerland.(1) The U.S. spends more on healthcare (15.8% of its Gross Domestic Product) than any of the above. But the increased costs don’t produce better care. The report shows that, in comparison, people here have a shorter life expectancy and higher infant mortality rate. The extra costs go into the profit coffers of insurance and drug companies. The other countries boast a “socialized medicine,” “national health insurance” or “social insurance” model. In these countries, everyone has healthcare (although it’s not free for everyone). However, as of 2006, 47 million people in the U.S. had no health coverage.(2)

The U.S. actually ranks 41st in life-expectancy statistics compared to other countries. Mainstream media often cites obesity and racial disparities as the main cause.(3) But without a class analysis, this seems to blame the problem on individuals, for being fat or black, instead of the system.

WILL OBAMA FIX THIS PROBLEM?

Myth #1: Under Obama’s plan everyone will receive free healthcare.

Reality: Those who don’t qualify for Medicaid or State Children Health Insurance Plan (an income of $20,614 for a family of four in 2006), will be expected to buy into the new plan, or purchase private healthcare coverage, with an income-related federal subsidy, if their employer does not offer health insurance.(4) This implies universal access to a health plan, but not government-mandated universal coverage (compared to other countries).

Myth #2: Catastrophic illness medical bills will be covered.

Reality: Catastrophic illnesses are those that incur major expenses such as lengthy hospital stays and financial losses, including loss of work. Heart attacks and cancer are examples of catastrophic illness. A high percentage of U.S. workers, 40% for example in California, hold jobs that do not offer sick days, and therefore lose a day’s pay for each day they’re out sick. Obama’s plan would reimburse employer health plans for a portion of the catastrophic costs they incur above a threshold.(5) The only people able to go to top hospitals for cancer or surgery would be those who could afford it, the way it is now.

Myth #3: Obama’s plan will cover long-term care for the elderly.

Reality: People over 80 are the fastest growing segment of the population. Most need some kind of assistant care. Currently, in a nursing home, Medicare pays only for short-term rehabilitation immediately following a hospitalization. After that, people must pay out of their pockets until all their money is gone and they’re eligible for Medicaid. Obama says he’ll “work to” improve the choices, the quality of care and to reform the financing of long-term care. Beyond that, nothing more specific.
Myth #4: The Obama campaign says he would finance his health plan costs by allowing expiration of tax cuts adopted in 2001 and 2003 for families making over $250,000. (New England Journal of Medicine, (8/21/2008)

Reality: In its projections, the Congressional Budget Office has already assumed this extra money coming from the ending of the tax cuts.

Myth #5: Taken from his website: “Obama will tackle the root causes of health disparities by addressing differences in access to health coverage.”(6)

Reality: This is impossible for Obama, or anyone else, to fix under capitalism. In its drive for profit, capitalism creates poverty and racism, which causes these disparities in healthcare. “Blacks with diabetes or vascular disease are nearly five times more likely than whites to have a leg amputated” and “women in Mississippi are far less likely to have mammograms than those in Maine.”(7)
Worldwide, a woman in Sweden or Japan will typically live past 80 years, while the average woman in Swaziland does not live to see her 30th birthday. Without noting that disparities in U.S. healthcare (and healthcare worldwide) stem from poverty and racism — inherent under capitalism — these problems won’t disappear.

While many workers believe Obama’s healthcare reform is in their interest, the truth is Obama only represents the interests of the capitalist class. But Obama and McCain and the bosses they serve face a major contradiction: On the one hand, they need more physically-fit soldiers to fight in their endless wars against their imperialist rivals, but on the other hand they need to cut the costs of all social services including healthcare, to pay for that very military and for their current fiscal meltdown. No doubt they will try to solve this contradiction on the backs of the working class.

1. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/sickaroundtheworld/countries/)
2. (http://public.cq.com/docs/cqt/news110-000002575515.html)
3. (http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/08/13/life.expectancy.ap/index.html)
4. (http://www.barackobama.com/issues/healthcare/).
5. ibid.
6. ibid
7.http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/05/health/research/05disparities.html

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Obama Checks Out While Chicago Workers Die


CHICAGO, IL February 8 — “My patients are dying! My patients are dying because of your racist cutbacks,” declared a Latino health care worker who treats TB patients. “You’re a murderer and I charge you with genocide!” was her “greeting” to fascist Dr. Robert Simon, interim health chief of the Cook County Bureau of Health Services (CCBHS). She stormed out as he, a guest of SEIU Local 20, began to speak at their Town Hall meeting.

Simon said, “I’m not a politician,” but another worker shouted from the floor, “You’re a racist murderer.” Simon, who once said, “To me, society wastes enormous energy, money and resources on [the homeless],” announced that the County health system was “on the verge of collapse if any further cuts are made.” He was supporting SEIU’s push for a tax increase.

The commissioners who approved over $100 million in racist cutbacks during last year’s budget crisis sat on SEIU’s stage then and now. With Simon wielding the knife, they closed half of the 26 neighborhood clinics and laid off 1,000 doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers.

Meanwhile, as Barack Obama tours the country with hypocritical calls for “change” and “healthcare for all,” he has done nothing against the racist cutbacks that are killing patients and closing public hospitals in his own neighborhood.

More cuts are threatened for March 1. County Finance chief John Daley said he was proposing 13% cuts ($108 million), closing Provident and Oak Forest hospitals, all remaining clinics and a center that treats one-third of the area’s HIV patients. Only Stroger Hospital and the Cermak clinic that treats County Jail inmates will remain.

A young worker yelled, “Are you saying we have to raise taxes on the poorest people, our patients, in order to give them health care?” “That’s right,” Daley replied.

Over 1.2 million people are uninsured in Cook County. Our patients are 85% black and Latino. No one knows how many patients have died, but last year’s cuts cost almost 2,000 jobs. Stroger patients aren’t getting discharge medications and the pharmacy is down to one shift.

Less than 100 people attended the meeting, with only a few from Stroger, even though it’s nearby. Most workers couldn’t come because cutbacks have generated outrageous workloads. Many who could weren’t interested because they have no respect for the union leadership and the local politicians it serves.

PLP members at Stroger organized some workers to confront the racist budget-cutters face-to-face. The bosses and union leaders got a small taste of the workers’ and patients’ hatred for them. Most important, we and our co-workers distributed hundreds of leaflets at work, showing how racist terror and cutbacks are financing the two-BILLION-dollar-a-week war in Iraq.

While we can’t stop the current slaughter in Iraq or Chicago with reforms, by fighting back we can expand the base for CHALLENGE, strengthen our ties to workers and patients and build a fighting PLP that will eventually lead the working class from fascist terror and war to communist revolution.

Charity Hospital in New Orleans and King Hospital in Los Angeles are CLOSED! Grady Hospital in Atlanta is in critical condition. The CCBHS is already more than half closed, and Bush’s Medicare and Medicaid cuts will mean another $60 million cut on July 1! We’re in a fight for our lives. Build PLP and a mass May Day!

RACIST BUDGET CUTS MURDER BLACK AND LATIN WOMEN

Because of budget cuts and staff reductions, almost 1,000 women with abnormal Pap smears, unusual bleeding, pelvic masses and other symptoms are waiting months to see gynecologists in the Cook County health system. The longer they’re forced to wait, the greater the risk of severe pain, cancers and life-threatening emergencies. A May 2007 report from the Chicago Foundation for Women reports more than 450,000 women in this area are uninsured, and many depend on county hospitals and clinics. The vast majority are black and Latino.

A young West Side black woman had a Pap smear performed at a clinic last April; learned in June it was positive, suggesting possible cervical cancer; and has been unable to get an appointment at Stroger Hospital for follow-up tests and evaluation. Another patient had a positive Pap smear in September and just got word she could see a Stroger gynecologist in April.

Last year, half of the community and urgent-care clinics were closed, leading to even longer waits, patients being harassed by bill-collection agencies and rumored threats of immigration raids. As a result, there were 100,000 fewer patient visits last year than in 2006, when there were 101 doctors, nurses and physician’s assistants providing basic medical services at the clinics. Today there are only 44 medical providers working longer hours, to serve hundreds of thousands of patients.

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