Why Can’t a Better Health Care Plan Be the Next Stimulus?

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Why Can’t a Better Health Care Plan Be the Next Stimulus?

We bailed out the banks to the tune of 2 trillion dollars in the past year, put through an enormous stimulus bill, bailed out the European banks, put through yet another war supplemental, and never asked how we were going to pay for it. We just wrote a bunch of big checks.

But now that it has come to taking care of the health of Americans, well, we have to tighten the old belt and it's suddenly "pay-as-you-go."

Everyone is obsessed about "how we're going to pay for this" when discussing health care. And as long as we're prisoners of a CBO score (is it $1 trillion? $1.4 trillion?) we're going to wind up passing a bill that does not cover average Americans in the way they need to be covered so that as a country we can step forward into a new business era of international economic interdependence. Other industrialized nations cover health care. We're saddling business with that cost, and a huge chunk of what we are planning to spend will go to bail out insurance companies.

Meanwhile, just as Krugman and others predicted, White House aides are saying we need another stimulus plan. Joe Biden and Steny Hoyer have sent up trial balloons.

Middle class Americans pay huge premiums every month for junk insurance. Four hundred, six hundred, a thousand dollars a month easily. Even if they have employer-based insurance, huge deductibles mean that every trip to the doctor is costly. If those costs get cut, a huge financial burden is lifted off average Americans. They are no longer prisoners of a job, or a state, just to keep an insurance policy they can't leave without risking their economic security or their health.

But more importantly, a huge burden of anxiety is lifted from Americans in a time of economic insecurity. If a plan is passed that only affects the poor, it's going to anger the middle class when they are the ones that get shafted once again. It's only going to increase anger and frustration that there is nobody at the helm who cares about them, and confirm their fears that government exists to benefit Wellpoint at their expense.

I was up on the Hill yesterday, and discovered that Congress never had ordinary people come and testify about their insurance company horror stories, because nobody wanted to piss the insurance companies off. It was incomprehensible and outrageous.

Compared to the huge sums we've shelled out without batting an eyelash over the past year, why are we going to have a shitty, compromised plan just so Blanche Lincoln and Olympia Snowe can achieve their objectives of protecting insurance company profits, when for $30 billion more a year we could actually do it right? Why is that suddenly such a big price tag?

In short, if we need more economic stimulus, why aren't we talking about health care as economic stimulus?

Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher is the founder of firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on The Daily Beat, Common Dreams, AlterNet, The Nation and The American Prospect.

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