Friday, August 28, 2009

Why I Favor But Will Not Work for Government Health Reform

A respected colleague from the Women's Health Movement urges me to join in the battle for Obama's health reform. In one e-mail, she sent me and other pro-choice contacts a pro-choice joke that she did not feel free to send to the other contacts on her health reform e-mail list, who presumably are anti-choice. This is my response to her.

Dear Cathy:
You stated that you believe that the single-payer health care issue is the civil rights issue of our time. I would like to explain to you why I will not be putting my effort into this struggle, even though, of course, I would like to get rid of the insurance companies. Health care should never be commodified and sold for profit.
1. Single-Issuism: The demand for single payer health care has attracted the support of a broad spectrum of groups. That is the good part. Unfortunately, it seems that many people are so desperate for a coalition effort that they will betray their own interests, because they believe this to be a winning strategy. For example, some feminists downplay their demands for abortion rights so as not to offend those who oppose abortion. (I haven’t noticed anti-choice groups within our health reform coalition downplaying their bigotry, by the way.)
I believe it is a losing strategy to compromise your basic principles, especially when you consider that the majority of American people support health care reform already so it is unnecessary to compromise our principles to get support. (you notice that that widespread support hasn’t impressed President Obama. (Apparently, President Obama seems to think that going for the middle ground is a smart strategy even when the lines of the battle are drawn between big corporations against the will of the people. No matter how he has gutted his plan, members of Congress, who are dependent on contributions from the insurance companies, won’t support his weak-as-water proposal and, of course, he can’t get the American people excited about such a timid proposal either. Presently, even if we get a “public option”, that won’t stop health insurance companies from denying care on some pretext or another.
2. No demand for improved quality of health care: We in the women’s health movement know how downright dangerous a lot of health care is, especially for women, so how can I get excited about wanting more of it? For example, over a third of births in the United States are by cesarean section, and women with private insurance are even more likely to get dangerous intervention in their births.
Michael Moore’s “Sicko” didn’t even touch that taboo subject. What makes us think that doctors and hospitals will stop doling out drugs and doing unnecessary surgeries just because the taxpayers are footing the bill?
It’s true that many of the people without health insurance are poor and of color, so at first glance it seems “politically correct” to fight to get them insured some way or another. Rather, we need to be fighting for safe working conditions and fair wages, against locating toxic dumps in poor neighborhoods, decriminalizing drug use, for regulations to prohibit the over-processing of food and and the misleading of American consumers about the dangers of processed foods and for protection of independent farmers. The reason poor people and people of color have more health problems is their exposure to environmental hazards at work and in their communities, their lack of access to quality food, and stress.
3. No challenging of imperialism and capitalism. I’m not suggesting that we abandon our fight for good health care and to only fight to stop U.S. aggression and the takeover of American society by big corporations, but I think a successful fight for good health care needs to take careful aim at the real sources of the problem. For example, even though the money that our country has spent on the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan could easily pay for health care, and therefore some make the argument that we should spend our budget for single-payer insurance, not war, the real problem is that our whole oil-based way of life is destructive of the our health, our planet and wasteful of our resources, and that these wars have been waged to maintain that lifestyle. Here again, when we make the argument that “a country as rich as ours should be able to provide health care for its citizens”, we’re ignoring that the wealth of this country comes from the exploitation of other countries, and we’re also ignoring that most of the wealth of this country is centered in the top one percent. This argument actually reinforces the myth that American’s hard work alone has resulted in having great wealth.

“Well, we didn’t succeed, but at least we tried”, isn’t a good enough rationalization for expending our limited time and energy on a movement that, even if successful, would exclude abortion from coverage and wouldn’t address the fundamental problems.
In struggle, Carol

1 comment:

Penny said...

Thanks for writing what I have been feeling but have been unable to articulate on the issue of health care reform. I so miss our discussions on such topics, but today I was feeling angry after watching CNN for awhile. I thought to myself I wish I could talk to my feminist friends about this and I then remembered I could go to your blog. We have wanted health care reform for so long but what is going on now is still the same old shit mixing politics as usual with health care. The realization that even the politcians that " support reform" are getting millions of dollars from insurance and drug companies. That abortion is still treated as optional, not a right. I can barely stand it. I haven't had any desire to work on the issue either.I will work on health reform when we actually have real reform on the table.
I really enjoyed the post about using self help to deal with some of the changes that happen as we age and our busy lives. Your suggestions made perfect sense to me, I did not know this self help tip prior to your post.
I recently showed a friend how to do self help she had never seen her cervix and was so excited seeing her cervix for the 1st time.My friend is having some changes, perimenopause signs? and felt like she wanted to be able to look at her cervix and see any changes which may or may not be happening, she plans to look at her cervix everyday for a month or longer? She was so excited. It was so great to help her with this. It made me miss our self help groups. She already knew about self-help but did not know how to do it, of course was surprised at how simple it is.