On the Democratic side, healthcare has emerged as the latest background issue. The Clinton campaign sent out high-profile supporters like Chelsea Clinton to point out the policy distinction between the former Secretary of State and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. I do not live in America, I live in England, but even here it is obvious that the tone of the campaign for the Democratic nomination has changed significantly because the Clinton campaign’s tactics have gone decidedly negative.
Not only was the decision to bring up healthcare a mistake in my opinion, but the attack against Sanders from the Clinton campaign was just false. Chelsea Clinton is an intelligent women yet she was deliberately spreading misinformation, and Hillary Clinton has doubled down on this falsehood. Only one conclusion can be reached from her criticism of universal healthcare: Hillary Clinton is a liar.
I wasn’t planning on writing anything about the campaign this week but the new battleground over healthcare was enough to get me incredibly angry for so many reasons. I want to go through the criticism of Bernie Sanders’ policy methodically in order to call it out but I will also talk about the political calculations that show why Hillary Clinton is lucky that Bernie Sanders doesn’t do personal attacks.
Hillary Clinton went on Rachel Maddow’s show a few days ago and began to speak about why her proposal for healthcare reform was better than Sanders. Her argument is a genuinely nuanced position in which she argues that it doesn’t matter who is providing healthcare to people as long as everybody is covered by health insurance. Here’s why this is stupid. If everybody in the US has private health insurance the problem of having to paying for your own healthcare needs doesn’t go away.
Furthermore pharmaceutical companies can still charge extortionate prices for prescription drugs as the government doesn’t hold a monopoly on healthcare. For example, if a government-run healthcare system hold a monopoly or a large proportion of the market, the government can negotiate the price drugs, equipment etc. down due to the sizeable orders that would be placed. Universal healthcare is the only viable solution that covers everybody whilst also reducing the long-term costs of healthcare.
But why is Clinton making this corporatist argument? Simply, because she is a corporatist. She isn’t progressive, or a socialist, or even a liberal (because liberals in Europe and many other places support universal healthcare). According to figures reported by TIME magazine, last year Clinton took just under $1.2 million in speaking fees from companies in some way connected to the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. It wouldn’t be the most unreasonable statement to make that Clinton’s policy was favourable to companies that have historically given her huge sums of money.
Secondly, rather than focus on why Clinton’s position is inadequate, I would like to talk about a figure that has been brought up by a lot of detractors of the Sanders campaign. Clinton claimed that Sanders universal healthcare plan would cost $15 trillion and that the Vermont Senator hadn’t yet put out a way of paying for this huge government programme. At this point it should be pointed out that this $15 trillion number is deceptive as this figure from the Wall Street Journal is the total cost over ten years (AKA $1.5 trillion annually). Credit where credit is due, Sanders does need to provide information as to where this money would come from, but this would become much less important if a really important fact was being deliberately omitted by the Clinton campaign. Unfortunately for the former Secretary of State people can use logic and work out that such facts exists.
The United States spends around 17% of its GDP on healthcare, yet millions are uninsured and many healthcare outcomes are worse than other countries. To make a straight comparison with another industrialised country, France, which has universal healthcare, spends 11.5% of its GDP but has much more comprehensive cover. On the face of it these numbers aren’t too far apart but if the actual nominal figures are taken into account the following fact becomes clear.
If the US spent the same proportion of its GDP on healthcare as France through a government-run universal healthcare system, the US would save over $922 billion. However as well as this nominal figure, the location of the money is also important. Because this 11.5% would be spent by the government because of increased taxes, the $922 billion would be money saved by ordinary people as the expense of private insurance would no longer exist. As a result this huge sum of money would become new disposable income for ordinary people which would hugely benefit the economy; whether this money was spent on new consumer goods thus creating jobs or clearing off personal debts, the economy would be stimulated.
The final thing is what I alluded to earlier: Chelsea Clinton’s first comments on the campaign trail. Chelsea Clinton’s comments were designed to terrify potential caucus goers by saying that Senator Sanders wanted to make the US into an anarcho-capitalist dystopia in which American healthcare policy would strongly resemble survival of the fittest. Joking aside this is what the newest politically active Clinton said: “Senator Sanders wants to dismantle Obamacare, dismantle the CHIP programme, dismantle Medicare, and dismantle private insurance … I worry if we give Republicans Democratic permission to do that we’ll go back to an era- before we had the Affordable Care Act- that would strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance”.
Okay this is one of the most annoying criticisms of Sanders’ policy because it is so obviously disingenuous. Either Chelsea Clinton is totally unaware that universal healthcare provides healthcare universally, or she is deliberately lying in order to get her mother into the White House. I wonder which it could be? First of all, the long list of things that Sanders wants to “dismantle” reveals her agenda. The CHIP programme, Medicare, and Obamacare wouldn’t be dismantled, they would be made redundant. If all people in the US were guaranteed healthcare as a right, which is Sanders’ plan, why would the government have to spend money on providing elderly people with healthcare? The answer, obviously, is that they wouldn’t because a universal system covers everyone.
She is trying to target older voters and scare them into thinking that Sanders, who is 74, wants to get rid of health insurance for elderly people. Also she lumps in these three programmes with private insurance as if the preservation of all these things is equally desirable. Sanders wants to get rid of private insurance, but that’s because the government would provide people with healthcare. Why would a family spend $10,000 per year on health insurance from a private company when the government provides everyone with coverage?
Furthermore, if the government is paying for this out of general taxation, why would a family not use a service they are entitled to and have, in part, paid for? Chelsea Clinton’s comments are an example of bare-faced scaremongering that reveals that the entire Clinton family are up to their necks in donations from pharmaceutical companies and HMOs.
The final gem from this spewing line of bullshit is the final sentence: “we’ll go back to an era that would strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance”. Firstly, introducing universal healthcare wouldn’t leave millions of people without healthcare, as was her implication, because everyone would be automatically covered. Secondly, how would providing healthcare to all people be akin to the pre-Obamacare era of pre-existing conditions? And thirdly, Chelsea Clinton’s comments seem to imply that the Affordable Care Act was essentially perfect and only needed to be improved upon in order to get a desired healthcare system. This is untrue as building on the ACA, whatever that actually means, would keep private insurance companies and private pharmaceutical companies as an integral part of the US healthcare system.
As I have said I am from England which has universal healthcare, and is paid by both individuals and businesses alongside government investment. As a result of the National Health Service (NHS) healthcare is free of charge at the point of care, nobody goes bankrupt for getting sick, and I have no idea what a co-pay or a deductible is. To have universal healthcare is not only something that is popular in England, but even the Conservative Party pay lip service to the idea of its preservation. The NHS is so beloved by the general population that it is widely considered to be a national treasure and was actually a part of the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Don’t listen to the Clintons or the GOP; universal healthcare is not a burden on people’s income or liberty. Do we have to pay tax in order to get the service? Yes, but most people would agree that providing healthcare to all our fellow citizens is both a logical and a humane use of these tax revenues. Clinton continued to perpetuate this lie in the recent NBC/YouTube Democratic debate, which I believe is evidence of deliberately lying for political gain. I hope soon that under President Bernie Sanders the US also can realise what a brilliant idea universal healthcare is.