Saturday, December 04, 2004

Time for the Democratic Party to Take Cooperative Action on Healthcare.

Health Care Costs Overwhelm the Uninsured.

There are forty-five million Americans without health insurance. The majority avoid going to doctors because they don't have insurance and can't afford the cost for visits. The result is that minor medical problems may turn into major medical emergenicies, forcing emergency room visits and enormous bills. Those who can't pay the emergency room bills may be forced to file bankruptcy.

At least half of my bankruptcy clients seek my help because they have thousands of dollars in medical bills which they cannot pay. Their delinquent credit card bills frequently arose because they were ill, had no income, and were forced to rely on their credit cards for basic survival expenses.

What does this have to do with the Democratic Party?

The Party Used to Provide Direct Help to Its Members.

Historically, the Democratic Party, organized into precincts or wards, was the chief social worker in over-crowded, immigrant-packed slums. When someone needed a job, they went to the Democratic "ward boss", who knew who to call and where to send them. If the family's wage earner was hospitalized and the rent was due, the ward boss would call the landlord and work out an extension of time to pay. At Christmas, the Party gave out turkeys and canned goods to its members. Indeed, the Democratic Party ran the first food banks and social work centers in the U.S. In return, party members showed up and voted Democratic on election day.

The Democratic Party held a central and crucial role in the life of the community. Its party leaders knew its members and knew intimately what the needs and aspirations of the community were. Those needs and aspirations became the party's platform and the legislation that they pushed at the county, state and national level.

The Democatic Party has lost its integral function in the community and we have to get it back if we are to start winning elections again.

Access to good health care has been on the party platform for years, and those of most of the Democratic Party presidential hopefuls in 2004. Congressman Dennis Kucinich called for universal, government organized health care, former Governor Howard Dean called for universal access to health insurance, such as he created in Vermont, Senator Kerry promised access to the same benefits of health insurance provided to members of the Congress.

Democrats, being in the minority in the House and Senate, are not in a position to implement any of their health care plans legislatively.

Build the Democratic Party By Providing Cooperative
Health Care to the Community.

What the Democratic Party can do is make group health insurance available to its party members. We are a large group, and would be very much larger if the forty five million uninsured Americans could gain basic health insurance through membership. The fees for our group health care might be set on a sliding scale based on income, with fundraising to cover
the costs for those completely unable to pay.

Ultimately, we might have a pool of "Democratic Doctors" who would agree to provide service at a reasonable rate in return for a guaranteed yearly fee. This would free doctors from having to see 100 patients a day to make their office expenses because the large insurance companies are massively under-paying doctors for their services. Expensive equipment purchase could be pooled for a given geographic area.

The farmers in the mid-west have used "cooperatives" for years, sharing the costs of purchasing feed at bulk prices, creating cooperative food markets for bulk purchasing and giving all the profits back to its members. We could establish medical service cooperatives for those ancillary services needed in the medical profession: cooperative laboratories for blood tests, cooperative radiology services for x-ray and ultra sound. The profits, instead of going to the insurance companies, would be used to improve services, even return as "dividends" to the members.

The Democratic Party Can Establish a Cooperative Model for the Provision of Health Care and Thereby Grow the Democratic Party

Once our cooperative health care service is in operation, it can be used as a model for national implementation when the Democratic Party is back in power in the White House and the Congress. And, with the possible addition of forty-five million new Democratic Party members, then we will be in power for a good long time.


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