Stage magicians call this the “switch”: you show something and then quickly switch something else in its place. They do it all the time…very often with cards and balls and coins. It’s based on the principle that our brain picks up what we last saw or think we saw.
The Democratic Party is the Party of the switch and its 2020 platform (the one Joe Biden ran on) says this about health-care:
“Democrats will keep up the fight until all Americans can access secure, affordable, high-quality health insurance — because as Democrats, we fundamentally believe health care is a right for all, not a privilege for the few.”
The statement brilliantly does two switches. We’re used to politicians switching topics and “secure, affordable, high-quality health insurance” is a doozy. We’re talking about “care”; that’s the issue. But this statement talks about insurance which automatically confirms that you need paid insurance to get health-care — see?
Politicians do subtle crap like that all the time. But this statement is particularly egregious because it makes a double-switch. After talking about the need for insurance, as if it were a biological necessity, it then talks about health-care as a right.
Like many people I work with, I believe health care is a right. I also believe that you don’t need insurance to protect a right and should never have to pay for it. In fact, the very definition of a right is that it’s available to everyone at absolutely no cost — because payment automatically means some people have it and others don’t.
I have opined, on this site and in other places, about what I think is the “commodification” of human existence in late capitalist society. As the crusty old system hurtles towards its death by self-destruction wreacking massive social destruction, it tries to turn everything into a product to be sold: air, water, communications (particularly Internet access) and, in this case, life itself. This is as expected and, in capitalism’s bizarre logic, understandable. Everything, eventually, is for sale.
What makes this debate over health-care so important is that this is the central commodification of our time: our survival is now for sale. This isn’t about care or health or medicine (although all three are involved). This is about your expectations. Society is a construct of expectations and you derive an idea about your life-span from our society; it’s not the same in all contemporary societies and it’s changed decade to decade in ours. The point is it’s not written in stone or law but you know what a natural life-span is and you feel you have the right to one if that is at all possible.
So there you go. Medical care and preventive treatment makes the natural life-span more possible. Dying prematurely means just that: dying before you are supposed to. Terminal illness isn’t inevitable and your death should never be like a spin of a roulette wheel. You should never have to worry or feel insecure about your life. In a sane, just society, we should all live longer and be confident that our death doesn’t represent a threat to our families’ sustainability. Life should never be a gamble and death shouldn’t be a wipe-out.
Seen in objective terms, your death is the result of society’s impact on you. The body doesn’t have a clock or a shelf-life. In general, you die sooner when the conditions of your life have ravaged you more and when you don’t have the resource to fix the damage or, through access to knowledge and good life, avoid it. Yeah yeah…we’re all going to die but how soon we die and what we think about that is a reflection of the sustainability and justice of our society.
So…is it a right or not? If it’s a right, eliminate all health care insurance now.
Of course, they don’t want to do that and that’s why it’s written that way in the sentence. The healthcare insurance industry is a branch of the finance industry and the finance industry is the one capitalism has to protect at all costs. Our country’s capitalists are useless; they produce nothing of value and make their money reselling our existence to us. But that’s the center of capitalism in this country and so, if it’s not protected, the system will disappear.
As important as this issue is, it’s even more urgent because the health-care portion of the President’s “Build Back Better” plan involves helping people pay insurance, recruiting more people into insurance plans and “lowering drug prices” (whatever that means). In short, it deepens the first clause in the Party’s platform plank and kind of ignores the second.
Not enough attention has been paid to this “switch” and I think we should be screaming about it. We should strive for a health care system that has nothing to do with payments and recognizes the right of people to health. We should do that because health-care really is a right, because it’s a reflection of our society’s limitations and potential and because it’s a transitional demand that makes a lot of sense right now but can only really be realized in a completely different society.
That’s what we’re looking for. Right?