The Democrats just invited another vampire in.
The "task force" created by presumptive nominee Joe Biden and his good friend Bernie Sanders in order to coat the party's corporate agenda with that all-important "unity gloss" has just released its aspirational agenda to much media fanfare.
"It's the clearest sign yet that the moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic Party are trying to unite far more than they did in 2016," gushed the New York Times article lauding the "six takeaways" that prove beyond any doubt that progressives are the big winners of some very tasty crumbs and should be properly bedazzled by comity in high places.
This narrative is being spun despite the fact that Medicare For All has officially been declared D.O.A. right in the middle of the pandemic. Even if the Democrats achieve another super-majority in 2021, the best of all possible worlds will stop at a public option, lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 60, and maybe throwing in some dental and hearing aid coverage for the lucky winners.
The Task Force's answer to the abjectly failed United States policy of tying people's health insurance to their employment is to raise US health care costs to astronomical new levels by subsidizing the private insurance policies of the tens of millions of workers thrown out of their jobs by Covid-19. The insurance companies, which have already posted record profits this year because people are too afraid of catching the virus to seek medical care, and because hospitals have cancelled elective surgeries and other costly procedures, stand to become even richer during a Biden administration.
Now, about the Dems inviting the vampire in. Covered by the usual dark cloak of subterfuge, the blood-sucking anti-Single Payer insurance lobby managed to get its own seat at the Task Force's health policy table - which, just like a spider, is comprised of eight members.
The invitee was one Chris Jennings, a fellow of the corporate think tank ominously known as the Bipartisan Policy Center. BPP's current head honcho and co-founder is notorious insurance industry lobbyist Tom Daschle. Jennings, a veteran of the both the Clinton and Obama administrations, also runs his own boutique consulting firm which advises for-profit health care systems and their various "stakeholders."
If the Dems have anything to say about it, these ravenous profiteers will never actually see the sharp end of the stake themselves.
Jennings' website brags that "he has consistently worked to develop administrative, legislative, and private sector policies/interventions to ensure better stewardship of and a greater return on investment on the nation’s nearly $3 trillion investment in health care."
It's therefore perfectly natural that the health care section of the Biden-Sanders Task Force would precede its prescriptions with showering praise on the Affordable Care Act. If it were not for Trump and those nasty old Republicans, we would be even closer to the ultimate goal of affordable, for-profit health care for everybody!
"Democrats will always fight to save Americans’ lives by making it easier and more affordable to go to the doctor, get prescription medicines, and access preventive testing and treatments. Our policy agenda is designed to produce real results for the American people—not hollow platitudes," the eight members in thrall to the Bipartisan Policy Lobby assure us in platitudes that are not hollow at all, but filled to the absolute brim with wads and gobs of the usual neoliberal stuffing.
How do you substitute "access" for guaranteed care that is free at the point of entry? Let us count the ways. The apparent task of the Task Force is to use the word Access over and over again in hopes of numbing us to the word's nothingness as effectively as the Trump administration is openly striving to numb us to the daily nightmare of millions of people succumbing to Covid-19.
For people who risk losing their insurance coverage if they lose their jobs in this pandemic, Democrats believe the federal government should pick up 100 percent of the tab for COBRA insurance, which keeps people on their employer-sponsored plans. For those who are still unemployed or do not have access to employer-sponsored health care when their COBRA eligibility period expires and are eligible for premium-free coverage, we will take action to automatically roll them over to other coverage options, so they do not experience any gap in health care. We will also re-open the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, even outside of the normal open enrollment season, and expand subsidies to make it easier for people to buy coverage.Even in the midst of a pandemic, we must never lose our status as consumers of health care product. Even on our death-beds and even to our dying breaths, we must never forget the neoliberal mantra of "but how am I going to pay for that?"
Democrats will also make available on the marketplace a platinum-level, federally administered health insurance option with low fees and no deductibles, so that everyone will have access to this high-quality, low-cost plan. Low-income Americans will be automatically enrolled in this federally-administered option at zero cost to them. We will keep these emergency measures in place until the pandemic ends and unemployment falls significantly. And should the United States find itself in another pandemic or severe economic downturn in the future, these protections will again be made automatically available, so Americans are never again left to fend for themselves in times of crisis.So even if you manage to recover from Covid-19 but later come down with cancer or another life-endangering disease, you will immediately revert back to desperate "but how am I going to pay for that!" mode. Platinum is expensive and insurance executives and private equity moguls have to profit so as to afford their yachts and jets.
As if to bipartisanly prove that Republicans have no corner on the prevarication market, the Democratic Task Masters of the Universe proffer this nonsense:
Democrats believe we need to protect, strengthen, and build upon our bedrock health care programs, including the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Affairs system. Private insurers need real competition to ensure they have incentive to provide affordable, quality coverage to every American.Notwithstanding that the public option, rather than advocacy for Single Payer, is negotiating from a starting point of weakness, such a plan would in no way give private insurers the incentive to do right by Americans. Just the opposite, in fact : a public option would absolve private insurers from paying for coverage for the sickest among us. This might reduce premiums for a time, but it would do nothing to drive down costs. The public option would be just one more subsidy for Aetna, Blue Cross and United Health, given that the bulk of their paying customers would now be in the healthy, low-risk pool.
To be fair, there are indeed faint echoes of Bernie Sanders's voice here and there within the Task Force report. An example that might have come straight out of his campaign stump speech:
Too many Americans struggle to afford the prescription drugs they need to get or stay healthy. No American should find themselves foregoing or rationing medications because they can’t afford to pay—especially when taxpayers’ money underwrites the research and development of many prescription drugs in the first place. Democrats will take aggressive action to ensure that Americans do not pay more for prescription drugs than people in other advanced economies. We will empower Medicare to at last be able to negotiate prescription drug prices for all public and private purchasers—for families and businesses, as well as older Americans—no matter where they get their coverage. We will also ensure and enforce that the price of brand-name and outlier generic drugs cannot rise faster than the inflation rate. We will cap out-of-pocket drug costs for seniors, and ensure that effective treatments for chronic health conditions are available at little or no cost.But again, the emphasis is on purchasing power, not on the right to receive health care. We'll still pay through the nose, but the rate at which we pay through the nose will be slowed down a tad under Democrats. Freedom's just another word for capitalism having nothing left to lose, what with a whole dying world to keep on exploiting.
It's a good thing that copyright laws do not apply to book titles. Mary Trump's ballyhooed "Too Much Is Never Enough" takedown of her Uncle Donald is already the veritable motto of bloodsucking capitalism itself.
Trump is just the symptom. Cutting him out in November might ease the pain for a minute, but the cure for what ails us will never come from a neoliberal restoration of corporate Democrats.
Bernie Sanders claiming that Joe Biden "wants to be the most progressive president ince FDR" is like the Nobel Committee giving Droner-in-Chief Barack Obama its Peace Prize. It's not only purely aspirational, it's downright delusional.