The obscenity that is the US health care “system” on full display

The obscenity that is the United States health care “system” was on full display on Saturday. The White House showcased the gold-plated health care available to President Donald Trump, whose Solicitor General will argue to the Supreme Court next month that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) should be struck down. Trump is taking advantage of the best health care in the world free of charge while his administration is seeking to deprive 20 million Americans of their basic health care insurance coverage.

There could not be a more stunning indictment of the health care inequities in this country than the juxtaposition of the cutting-edge health care being provided to Trump with his efforts to dismantle “Obamacare” in the middle of a pandemic. The best care in the world is available to the wealthy and powerful in the United States, but the wealthy and powerful want to deny basic, affordable health to many members of the working class. It is an abomimation.

White House physician Dr. Sean Conley led a parade of 10 other physicians out of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to hold a brief press conference on the condition of President Donald Trump, who was admitted on Friday after coming down with COVID-19 earlier in the week. In addition to the doctors at Walter Reed, Trump also was attended to by a team of doctors from Johns Hopkins Hospital, one of the finest hospitals in the world.

Trump has been treated aggressively with an experimental monoclonal antibody made by Regeneron, the antiviral drug Remdesivir, and the steroid dexamethasone. A CNN medical consultant noted that he may be the first COVID-19 patient in the world treated with both the Regeneron antibody and Remdesivir.

An argument can be made that the president of the United States should receive the best possible medical care, regardless of expense to the taxpayer. There is no argument to be made, however, that this country should not give working class people access to adequate medical care at a cost that they can afford.

Former president Jimmy Carter remarked this week that working class individuals are worse off financially than they were in 1980. That is a verifiable fact, and it is not an accident. It is by design, which seems to come as a shock to many people.

A recent book by Kurt Anderson, “Evil Geniuses,” describes how, for the past four decades, an informal coalition of big business executives, the super-rich, and right-wing zealots undermined the rules and norms that produced middle class prosperity and sharply tilted the economic playing field in favor of the upper class. Read the book if you need your eyes opened as to why the rich have gotten richer and everyone else has gotten poorer.

Wage stagnation for middle class Americans, and the growing and unsustainable disparity in wealth between the haves and the have-nots, are not flukes. They are consequences of deliberate policies. The disparity in access to affordable health care is just one more example of the widening gulf between the haves and have-nots in American society. The elimination of the ACA is another step in the right direction for America’s oligarchs but the wrong direction for America.

The divisions in America are real, and deep. Racial prejudice gets a lot of attention, as it should, but economic class prejudices and divisions get far less attention than they should, based on the increasingly destructive role that they play in society.

Trump exploits racial prejudice and the disaffection of the white working class for political advantage, but he could not care less about the working class, white or Black. To the extent that he is capable of loyalty, he is loyal only to other members of the upper economic class who may be of personal benefit to him.

The “excellent” health care plan that he keeps promising to reveal to replace the ACA will never materialize if he wins a second term. His wealthy friends do not believe that a new health plan is necessary; the private health insurance industry is doing fine, thank you, making lots of money for top executives and stockholders. The pharmaceutical industry is thriving, so what’s the problem?

There will come a day when the social fabric that holds this country together will tear completely and throw this country into civil unrest the likes of which it has never seen if economic inequities are not addressed. Depriving 20 million people at the lower end of the economic spectrum access to health care will make that day of reckoning come a lot sooner.

Does the prediction of a true breakdown in the social order because of systemic economic disparities sound a bit too melodramatic to you? If so, wake up before it is too late.

Retired lawyer, former prosecutor, former social worker, Army vet — former lots of things. Commentary published in Washington Post, Baltimore Sun and elsewhere.

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