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Socialist candidate: ‘guarantee health care for all’
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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 73/No. 37      September 28, 2009


Click here for Militant Labor Forums

(lead article)
‘Health reform’ plan aimed against workers
Reuter/Mario Anzuoni
Working people in Inglewood, California, wait in long line August 14 for free medical attention provided by Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corp. Some health-care “reform” proposals being hashed out in Congress would require that people buy insurance or face fines.

Socialist candidate:
‘guarantee health
care for all’

NEW YORK—The Socialist Workers candidates are campaigning for “guaranteed lifetime medical care for everyone,” said Maura DeLuca, Socialist Workers Party candidate for New York City public advocate, at a campaign rally here September 11.

While both Democratic and Republican party politicians in Washington want to exclude undocumented workers from receiving any medical care at government expense, and some even want to prevent them from buying it, “we demand the best quality medical care for every single person in this country, U.S.- or foreign-born, with or without papers,” said DeLuca. “And we oppose any restrictions on how much care or what type of treatment you can have.”

President Barack Obama has made it clear he will not include government funding for any abortion services in his plan, DeLuca noted. “The Socialist Workers candidates say no to any restrictions on women’s right to abortion—no to requirements that women receive ‘counseling’ prior to an abortion, that they view pictures of the fetus, that they wait a day to have the procedure, or that they obtain parental approval if they are not adults,” she said.

The capitalist rulers are using the health-care debate to divide workers and break down class solidarity, she said. “They claim undocumented workers are getting health care at the expense of U.S.-born ‘taxpayers.’ They pit Medicaid patients against privately insured patients. Our campaign rejects this.

“We also reject the idea that those of us who don’t have insurance because we can’t afford it are ‘irresponsible.’ I am one of those workers, a garment worker who can’t pay the insurance premiums,” DeLuca said. “I am not ‘irresponsible.’ The capitalist rulers in their contempt for working people are now demanding that we all buy insurance, one more way we are being forced to pay for their social and economic crisis.”

The socialist candidate took up ex-Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s charge that Obama’s health-care plan envisions “death panels” that would deny the elderly or disabled care. “But there is nothing new in this,” said DeLuca. “The elderly, as soon as they can no longer be exploited by some employer for a profit, are useless to the capitalist system. They are already being denied care they need and will be denied more as the Democrats and Republicans cut billions out of Medicare, which Obama’s plan calls for.”

DeLuca said it is not true that the bills currently in Congress are a cover for socialism, as some conservatives claim. A socialist system, she said, would be one where workers and farmers held political power and used that power to meet the needs of the vast majority, not guarantee the profits of a tiny handful of wealthy families. “That can only come about under an entirely different social and economic system,” DeLuca stressed, “not one based on health care as a commodity, nor on collecting insurance premiums, but on guaranteeing health care.”

It’s not a question of coming up with a better “plan” for health care today, but of building a movement that can “carry out a revolution that throws the capitalists out of power,” said DeLuca. The Cuban Revolution sets a good example of what can be accomplished when the working class takes power, she said, pointing to the volunteer doctors the Cuban government sends around the world and the medical school it operates that welcomes working-class students who want to return to practice medicine in their home regions.

Joining DeLuca at the campaign rally were SWP mayoral candidate Dan Fein, who spoke about why the economic depression is not ending but just beginning, and Tom Baumann, SWP candidate for borough of Manhattan president, who spoke out against Washington’s wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, and its parallel wars on the rights and living standards of workers in the United States. Participants contributed more than $700 to the New York socialist campaign.

Measures target
abortion rights,

While Congressional Democrats and Republicans have not succeeded in reaching a compromise to ensure passage of a health-care “reform” bill, there is bipartisan agreement that any new law should undermine both immigrant rights and women’s right to choose abortion.

In his September 10 speech to the U.S. Congress, President Barack Obama said that “illegal” immigrants should be denied coverage and “no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.”

The twin attacks on undocumented workers and women’s rights will be included in the leading reform bill, drafted by Sen. Maxwell Baucus, the Democrat who heads the Senate Finance Committee. Five other members of the committee, including three Republicans, have been working with Baucus to come up with language both parties can accept.

Obama told Congress, “Under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance—just as most states require you to carry auto insurance.” Republican Sen. Charles Grassley has said he wants to reconsider this approach. The Baucus proposal would fine a family without coverage up to $3,800 a year.

The health-care system “is placing an unsustainable burden on taxpayers,” Obama said. His plan, he argued, would “slow the growth of health-care costs” and expand coverage for “Americans.”

If his plan is passed, he said, it would be against the law for insurance companies to deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Insurance companies would have to cover routine checkups and preventive care.

Under the guise of eliminating “waste and fraud,” and “unwarranted subsidies” to insurance companies, Obama wants to eliminate “Medicare Advantage,” which would cut as much as $177 billion. Enacted in 2003 it allows some 10.2 million senior citizens to use Medicare funds to buy private insurance plans. This would be an opening wedge for more attacks on Medicare and Medicaid.

The day after Obama’s speech to Congress, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that the president planned to take anti-immigrant measures that are even more restrictive than those demanded by some conservatives. Obama will oppose letting undocumented immigrants buy health insurance through government “purchasing exchanges” set up to lower insurance costs—even from private companies.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau there are more than 46 million people without health insurance in the United States. But Obama in his speech referred only to “more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage,” leaving out both undocumented immigrants and those who are permanent residents or have work permits.

In a recent editorial the New York Times, while backing exclusion of the undocumented from government subsidized benefits, opposed attempts to prevent them from purchasing insurance through the exchange.

But the Times did not base its position on concern for the health and well-being of undocumented workers. Instead it asked, “In the case of an epidemic, like swine flu, should illegal immigrants go untreated so they can infect legal residents and American citizens?”  
Ruling out abortion funding
On September 13 U.S. health secretary Kathleen Sebelius was interviewed by ABC news correspondent George Stephanopoulus. He asked if Obama “will go beyond what we have seen in the House and explicitly rule out any public funding for abortion?”

“That’s exactly what the president said and that’s what he intends that the bill he signs will do,” Sebelius replied.

Obama has also said that federal conscience laws will remain in place. These give doctors and other health care providers the “right” to refuse requests for medical treatment, such as prescribing contraception or performing abortions.

In spite of claims by rightist opponents of the bill that it would promote socialized medicine in the United States, Obama has made it clear that what he wants to do is reinforce the capitalist market in health care.

“I have no interest in putting insurance companies out of business,” he said in Congress.

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