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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

What do we want our health care system to do? Care for our health! Yours, mine, our families’, our country’s. But don’t look for such straightforward logic or ethics in the labyrinthian industrial complex that now controls the “care” we get — or are denied. The structure itself must be changed if care and the Common Good are ever to be prized over profit.

The proof of that is made clear by the Affordable Care Act, the admirable attempt passed almost a decade ago to mitigate the effects of unrestrained corporate greed. Dubbed Obamacare, the ACA dramatically decreased the number of uninsured Americans. And yet — because its Democratic authors caved to corporate demands that the profiteering structure be kept intact — Obamacare cannot deliver the universal coverage and range that other (often less wealthy) countries provide.

Don’t despair, for a warm glow of hope beckons from the very midst of today’s cold, often nightmarish system. Millions of Americans are doing much, much better through an alternative structure that already delivers superior care for much less: Medicare.

This government program pays the health care bills of 44 million Americans — those over 65 and 9 million younger people with disabilities. For more than half a century, Medicare has comforted and benefited so many patients and families that it’s now treasured and integral to our people’s sense of the Common Good. Yes, the program needs more controls to prevent hospitals, drugmakers and others from overcharging taxpayers and doing unnecessary treatments, but such fixes are included in various bills to extend the successful program to all Americans: “Medicare for All.”

As shown by other countries, a universal single-payer system eliminates insurance middlemen, dramatically cuts administrative waste, reins in price gouging and focuses care on the less-costly approach of improving long-term health. Thus, while Medicare for All would cover every American — from birth to death — it would actually reduce what we pay for the inefficient, insufficient, incomplete coverage provided by today’s industrial health complex. Check the numbers:

U.S. health expenditures jumped 16.5 percent between 2009 and 2016 for corporate-insured patients, while the cost dropped 2 percent for Medicare patients — despite their having more complicated, chronic and expensive problems. The for-profit system eats up 12 percent of its of budget just on billing and paper shuffling, compared to Medicare’s 2 percent. Even a 2019 Koch-funded analysis concluded that Medicare for All would cut U.S. health spending by $2 trillion over 10 years. Less ideologically biased studies estimate even higher savings from Medicare for All’s administrative efficiencies.

Taxpayers already foot the bill for nearly two-thirds of America’s health care spending — including Medicare, Medicaid and the subsidies that corporations get for their health plans, plus coverage for congressmembers, veterans and a few other groups. Medicare for All’s big savings (as shown above) mean overall expenditures would drop while the quality and quantity of coverage would rise. And any additional funding needed for full universal coverage could come from progressive tax mechanisms (e.g., a transaction tax on Wall Street speculation) that don’t cost middle-income families a penny.

America’s Medicare patients are regularly able to get more timely appointments than privately insured people. In fact, delays in the corporate system are growing worse, as so much of doctor and staff time is consumed by insurance company red tape (plus, private insurers are increasingly limiting policyholders’ choice of doctors). Also, among advanced countries, our corporate-run system produces by far the highest percentage of people who skip treatment because they can’t afford it — making some wait times … eternal.

Every major Medicare for All bill in Congress includes several transitional years, with substantial funding for training, placement and other assistance for those whose jobs will not be part of the restructured system. Besides, some new administrative and fraud protection jobs will be created in the single-payer program, and universal provision of dental, mental health and other health services will create new jobs as well.

Health care giants already spend more than half a billion bucks a year on lobbying — the most of any industry — and that spending is mushrooming as they rush to maintain, by hook or crook, the status quo ethic of profits over care. But a growing majority of Americans see that we’re being robbed of our money, health and rights, and they’re demanding that politicians reject the entrenched interests and produce real change. (At least 48 of our newly elected congressmembers ran on pledges to support Medicare for All or similar health justice programs.) The power of the establishment’s money and lies wilts in the face of the moral imperative that is at the heart of Medicare for All: Everyone deserves, as a human right, affordable access to quality health care.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was forced to defend President Donald Trump's recent attacks on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, an unenviable task she nevertheless intentionally signed up for. She desperately tried to divert the attention back to Scarborough — without engaging in the president's conspiracy theorizing — but offered no credible defense of the president's conduct.

Trump has been spreading the debunked theory that Scarborough killed a staffer in 2001 while he was in Congress, even though it was determined she died of natural causes. The staffer's widower wrote a released a letter on Tuesday pleading with Twitter to take down the president's offensive tweets promoting the thoery. He said he was "angry," "frustrated," and "grieved" by the president's promotion of the harmful allegations. Trump is perverting his late wife's memory, he said, and he fears her niece and nephews will encounter these attacks.When asked about the letter, McEnany said she wasn't sure if the president had seen it. But she said their "hearts" are with the woman's family "at this time." It was a deeply ironic comment because the only particularly traumatizing thing about "this time" for the family is the president's attacks, which come nearly two decades after the woman's death.

McEnany refused to offer any explanation of Trump's comments and instead redirected reporters to a clip of Scarborough on Don Imus's radio show in 2003. In that show, Imus made a tasteless joke obliquely referring to the death, and Scarborough laughed at it briefly.

"Why is the president making these unfounded allegations?" asked ABC News' Jonathan Karl. "I mean, this is pretty nuts, isn't it? The president is accusing someone of possible murder. The family is pleading with the president to please stop unfounded conspiracy theories. Why is he doing it?""The president said this morning, this is not an original Trump thought. And it is not," she said, bringing up the Imus clip. But she made no mention of why the president is bringing up the issue 17 years later and with a much larger platform.

When pressed further on the president's conduct, she again diverted blame to Scarborough, saying his morning show unfairly criticizes the president. But again, she offered no substantive defense of Trump.

After McEnany had moved on, PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor brought it up again: "Why won't the president give this widower peace and stop tweeting about the conspiracy theory involving his wife?"

McEnany said she had already answered the question, which she hadn't, and said the onus is on Scarborough to explain the Imus clip."The widower is talking specifically about the president!" Alcindor shot back. But McEnany called on Chanel Rion, with the aggressively pro-Trump outlet OAN, who changed the subject to conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia investigation.

"Are you not going to answer that?" Alcindor called out, still trying to get a substantive response to her question, but Rion spoke over her.

At the end of the briefing, another reporter asked whether Trump was looking for any actual law enforcement steps be taken in response to his conspiracy theory. But McEnany had nothing to add, and simply told people to listen to the Imus clip again. As she hurried out of the briefing room, a reporter asked if Trump would stop promoting the theory — but she left without answering.

Watch the exchange about Klausutis, which begins at 48:45.