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Truthdiggers of the Week: Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese

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Posted on Nov 3, 2013
Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers

By Alexander Reed Kelly

(Page 2)

What are the alleged deceptions in the law? Contrary to the promises made in its advertisements, many people are discovering now, as the law goes into full effect, that they are being kicked off their existing plans and forced to buy comparable or lesser ones at higher premiums. Coverage is decreased in many cases as the program “significantly lowers what is considered to be adequate insurance coverage through its system of tiers.” In some cases, people are “likely to choose the least-expensive plans without fully understanding that a serious accident or illness could bankrupt them even though they have insurance.” The guarantee that insurance companies cannot turn away those with “pre-existing” illnesses may be undermined through such tactics as excluding hospitals where people with serious health problems go, providing poor service so customers are encouraged to change insurers, and manipulating prices at will. The much-vaunted assurance that youths will be covered on their parents’ plans until they are 26 is valid only if the parents can afford the increased premiums that come with covering additional members. Finally, the insurance companies succeeded at eliminating a cap on out-of-pocket spending, which means prices for the plans—which many uninsured Americans are required to buy—are officially free of regulation.

What emerges from this dim litany of contingencies is the sense that nothing that was pledged to an exhausted, ailing and impoverished public is certain to be delivered. Perhaps the greatest evidence that Obamacare will not be what the public thought it would is the projection by the Congressional Budget Office that due to changes made this spring to the criteria governing exemptions, 31 million people are estimated to remain uninsured by 2023. The law was advertised as “universal, affordable and guaranteed,” but a mess of loopholes and exceptions, achieved via the unnecessary complicatedness almost everywhere in its 10,535 pages, written in at whatever time its authors deemed convenient, reveals it as anything but.

Zeese and Flowers describe Obamacare as possibly “the biggest insurance scam in history” and a “con” enabled by the credulity of millions of desperate, ignorant or well-intentioned people. Their critique, which includes a must-read description of the process used to sell the law that follows steps laid down by a historical con man and regards the briefly floated public option as a deliberate bait-and-switch, leads me to suspect they are right. We don’t know exactly how Obamacare will proceed, but Zeese and Flowers have shown us some of the major flaws in its design, and the conclusion is inescapable. Its status as a continuation of the overwhelmingly successful neoliberal effort to pick the public’s pockets seems beyond question. And it’s not just an abstract service that is turned into a profit center for corporations; it’s our well-being and illness that are commodified, and those of our children, grandparents, neighbors and friends. For the benefit of a few already bloated corporations, the future health and goodness that could have become the American people’s through better means were cut down.

The president’s supporters may attempt to counter claims of outrage at broken promises by saying that during his campaign Obama never promised anything like single-payer, universal health care or a public option. In a strictly technical sense this is true. But rhetorical sleight-of-hand, some of them may be decent enough to admit, is fundamental to the art of politics. A seasoned politician can exploit hopeful individuals’ inborn desire to trust by speaking in a manner that convinces them and others present that the politician is on their side, even if the politician never said so, and even if his audience’s hopes diverge or stand opposed. Is there any doubt that for the sake of himself, Obama did this to millions of anguished people who thought Hope and Change meant a break from the profit-driven politics of the previous 30 years? This is a man who, in a campaign ad attacking the leader of the drug industry’s biggest lobby for rigging pharmaceutical prices, told supporters he wanted to end “game playing in Washington,” and who upon election met with that leader in secret and bargained away the very protections his ad claimed he wanted to protect. Among a dwindling portion of the left, which continues to view electoral politics as a practical means to change, Obama remains a master of shoving perception around, or at least of convincing his marks to complain little or not at all as they endure his betrayals.

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The health care industry’s wishes are now the law of the land. Thanks in part to the work of Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, our Truthdiggers of the Week, we have a humane means of measuring its grim success.


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