Dr. Margaret Flowers is a congressional fellow with Physicians for a National Health Program and a pediatrician based in Baltimore.
As an advocate for universal healthcare and economic justice she attended a health care investors conference and confronted speakers from organisations such as JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.
"Two million people can't get cancer treatment. They have to choose between cancer treatment and sending their children to college"
"The Wall Street Comes to Washington Healthcare Conference underscored why people across the United States are occupying their cities to protest Wall Street greed.
The meeting was sponsored by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation which has spent decades trying to undermine our social insurances: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Panelists included representatives from JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.
According to Paul Ginsburg, current President of the deceivingly-named Center for Studying Health System Change, who moderated the panel, the purpose of the conference was to discuss market development and Wall Street health policy, to look at trends for an equity analysis of publicly traded health companies.
The panel started with a discussion of why people are currently using less health services. They blamed employers for clamping down on employee costs. They said this ‘trend’ may reflect the ‘new normal’ of people choosing the care that they think is the most important. There was no mention that people are self-rationing, delaying or avoiding necessary care, due to the high cost.
Then they addressed the large increase in health insurance premiums, stating that the Kaiser Family Foundation study which revealed a 9% increase in premiums was false. They stated their goal of having more people with private insurance and more people using health services. Of course, this is not because they want to make sure that people who need care can get it. For Wall Street, health corporations are businesses and they are out to maximize profit, usually by collecting premiums and then denying payment for care.
When the discussion turned to how far they could push their profit gimmicks before the public started to shame them, I stood up and walked to the microphone. I told the Wall Street bankers that they had no place in health care, that because of them people are dying of preventable causes or going bankrupt or homeless trying to pay for needed care. They are criminals masquerading as health policy experts.
For too long investors have put profit ahead of human needs. This is particularly clear in health care where more than 100,000 Americans die each year from preventable causes. The United States spends more per person than any other country, but gets very poor results. Countries that spend less provide health care to all and have better health outcomes. Countries that have universal health systems do not have people losing their homes because of health crisis while in the U.S. two-thirds of foreclosures are due to a health care crisis.
Marriott security officers took me out of the hotel and I sat in front of the entrance where I was joined by 2 more protesters, including Adara who shared the story of her father’s suicide which happened because of a health problem and the inability to afford care. Dozens of October2011.org people were outside the hotel protesting. They were chanting “Wall Street Greed Kills Those in Need,” “No More Wall Street Health Care” and “We Are the 99%.”
The protest lasted for several hours blocking the entrance to Marriott. Police did not make arrests. In fact, DC police have agreed to a 4 year wage freeze in order to maintain health benefits. That’s why we are the 99% and we are standing together to make the country and the world a better place for all of us.
The October2011.org continues to occupy Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC seeking to shift power to the people and end corporate rule.
The United States differs from other nations in allowing investor-owned corporations to profit at the expense of human suffering and lives. After decades of experience with this unique privatized model of financing health care, the results are clear and startling.
The United States has the highest per capita health care costs, the highest prices for medical goods and services (and lower overall usage rates) and no control over health care spending. Despite attempts to patch the current health care situation, the number of uninsured and those with skimpy health insurance that leaves them unable to afford health care or at risk of medical bankruptcy continues to grow. Suffering and preventable deaths are higher in the U.S. than in other industrialized nations.
In addition, there have been no significant gains in important measures of health such as life expectancy and infant and maternal mortality rates. Our health disparities continue to grow, especially for those who have chronic conditions. And our health care workforce continues to be inadequate as health professionals quickly burn out from trying to practice in our complex and irrational health care environment.
It is time to recognize the failure of the market model of paying for health care and embrace comprehensive and effective health reform. The model for our ‘uniquely American’ solution lies in traditional Medicare, a single payer health system for those who are 65 years of age and over. Since its inception 45 years ago, Medicare has lifted seniors out of poverty and improved their health status.
Physicians for a National Health Program advocates for an improved Medicare for all health system, one that builds on the strengths of Medicare such as its universality, administrative efficiency and the patient’s freedom to choose a health provider, and also corrects the weaknesses of Medicare such as the lack of comprehensive benefits, out of pocket costs and low reimbursement rates.
Health care spending in the United States is the highest in the world and in some cases is two times higher than spending in other industrialized nations, which achieve nearly universal coverage with better health outcomes than the U.S. Our soaring health care costs outpace our growth in GDP, inflation and wages. By any measure it is an unsustainable situation.
Private health insurers are financial institutions designed to create profit by obstructing, denying and restricting access to health care. They add no value to our health and in fact their business practices have polluted health care financing causing all insurances to adopt their practices in order to ‘compete’. They have also fragmented the health care market and thus the ability to negotiate for fair prices for goods and services leading to the highest prices for pharmaceuticals and procedures.