Beyond the dismantling of Obamacare lies a golden opportunity for insurers, Wall Street
As election season begins in earnest (if the words “election” and “earnest” can ever exist in the same sentence), we’re also seeing Social Security and Medicare privatization debates heat up across the country.
Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are all affected by pharmaceutical prices. Drug companies operate in the private sector, and we have seen how difficult it is to bring any regulation to bear on them – especially on pricing. Were any of these huge public entities to cross over into private hands, we could experience the nearly unfathomable – worsening of our healthcare system and even higher prices on prescription drugs.
U.S. Representative Richard “Rick” Nolan (D-MN) hosted town hall meetings in Bovey, Chisholm, and Cloquet, Minnesota in January to address these same issues with his constituents. In an op-ed piece in the International Falls Journal, he wrote that the response was clear: The people want no part of privatization of these public entities.
Rep. Nolan also objects to the term “entitlements” when referring to Medicare and Social Security. He makes a good point. These programs are paid for by workers, through paycheck deductions, from the very first day on the job. So, they are “entitlements” only in the sense that, when a person goes to the bank, they are entitled to withdraw money from their account.
Some studies have shown that Medicare premiums would rise up 50 percent with privatization. That doesn’t take into account the domino effect on prescription drug prices. And we know that when Wall Street gets its hands in the till all bets are off!
Just look at Wall Street’s effect on pharmaceutical corporations, many of which are managed no differently than hedge funds. Indeed, the notorious Martin Shkreli, former CEO of two pharma companies, was arrested in December 2015 for fraud – while managing hedge funds prior to entering the pharmaceutical industry.
More recently, Shkreli appeared before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Governmental Reform. He was subpoenaed to testify on the issue of exorbitant drug prices. He refused to answer congressmen’s questions.
That’s one of the great problems with privatizing government services: accountability. The minute Congress asks for answers from private Medicare or private Social Security, the CEOs will cry, “There goes big government again! Meddling in the affairs of private corporations!”
“Too many regulations. Too strict regulations,” they’ll complain.
The fact that Medicare and Social Security are financially healthy for another couple of decades is a coin with two sides. There’s ample time to fix what’s broken in these systems and keep them in the public sector. On the flipside, that’s also more time available to proponents of privatization to scheme and employ their trusty “Chicken Little” tactics to scare the public into seeing things their way.
Think of this scenario: a privatized healthcare system to replace Obamacare; privatized Medicare and Social Security; private insurers, minimally regulated; private, multinational pharmaceutical corporations. Picture all of them joining forces (they might prefer to call it “working together). What could patients and their doctors do in the face of such might? When given their marching orders by the corporations, they can just line up and march.