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Trump’s attack on universal health care grabs headlines — but here’s the real ‘$660 million hurdle’

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President Trump has just penned an op-ed for USA Today, in which he rants against Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare-for-all” plan, claiming that “The Democrats want to outlaw private health care plans, taking away freedom to choose plans while letting anyone cross our border.”

This article was originally published by Filter, a magazine covering drug use, drug policy and human rights. Follow Filter on Facebook or Twitter.

Critics jumped to point out Trump’s typical inaccuracies, lies and absurdities. Affordable, accessible healthcare for all must be a cornerstone of any genuine attempt to improve public health, including the addiction treatment system (see point 10 in Maia Szalavitz’s recent blueprint).

But a report that also came out today—by Public Citizen, a nonprofit focused on government accountability—shows that beyond Trump, the real obstacle to a single-payer system is entrenched industry interests. As this chart from the report shows, the majority of Americans want universal health care—belying its reputation in many establishment quarters, at least until recently, as a political nonstarter.

However, as the report, titled “The $660 Million Hurdle,” also shows, lobbying power in the health-care field overwhelmingly lies with the organizations and industries most invested in the status quo. Pharmaceutical and health product companies spent over $280 million in 2017 alone.

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The organization that spent the most—over $25 million—is Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), a trade group representing Big Pharma companies including Purdue (the manufacturer of Oxycontin and a new form of buprenorphine), Bayer, Bristol-Myers Squib, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson and Johnson, Merck, and Pfizer.

Insurance company Blue Cross Blue Shield also spent over 24 million dollars in 2017, almost as much as PhRMA.

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The Public Citizen report states that “these industry groups stand to lose the most under a single-payer system.”

Universal health care would put private insurance companies out of business, and force pharmaceutical companies to lower drug costs. Although private insurance and Big Pharma are sometimes at odds, the two industries recently teamed up to form “Partnership for America’s Health Care Future.” According to lobbyists, the vague name euphemizes the group’s very specific intentions: to run ads against single-payer plans and promote studies to undermine the idea. This partnership include PhRMA, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, America’s Health Insurance Plan, the American Medical Association, and the Federation of American Hospitals.

Most of us want universal health care. But given the vested interests involved, achieving it will mean putting up, as the report’s authors put it, a “titanic fight.”

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Here are 4 ways unrestrained crony capitalism is making Americans’ lives miserable

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Although Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, both running for president in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, have similar economic views, they part company when it comes to the use of the words “socialism” and “capitalism.” Sanders describes himself as a “democratic socialist,” while Warren has declared, “I’m a capitalist to my bones.” But truth be told, Sanders and Warren are both disciples of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society — and both of them are campaigning on the fact that unrestrained crony capitalism has been a source of misery for the American working class.

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The Vatican’s latest official document is an insult to LGBTQ people — and to history

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During the fourth-century, Sergius and Bacchus, two inseparable Syrian soldiers in the Roman emperor Galerius’ army, were outed as secret Christians when they refused to pay homage to the god Jupiter. The incensed emperor ordered them beaten, chained, and then, as their fourth-century hagiographer explained, paraded through the barracks with “all other military garb removed… and women’s clothing placed on them.” Both men were sent to trial; Bacchus refused to abjure his faith in Christ and was beaten to death by his fellow Roman soldiers as punishment. The night before Sergius was to be similarly asked to recant his Christianity, the spirit of Bacchus appeared before his partner. With his “face as radiant as an angel’s, wearing an officer’s uniform,” Bacchus asked, “Why do you grieve and mourn, brother? If I have been taken from you in body, I am still with you in the bond of union.”

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How the Iraq war and the Great Recession of 2008 paved the way for the Trump catastrophe

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In my dream, it’s 2021. Donald Trump has lost by the biggest popular vote margin in history. (The Electoral College? Unanimous!) Criminal charges rain down on him. As squad cars ring Trump Tower, a nasal voice shouts, “Come and get me, dirty coppers!” From a bullhorn, the reply issues: “Come out with your tiny hands in the air!”

Nancy Pelosi must have dreams just like it. “Sources” say she seeks to quell impeachment by declaring she’d rather see Trump in jail. Who wouldn’t? But would the next batch of Barrs, Muellers and Rosensteins be any more likely than the last to get the job done? It’s a sweet dream, but a risky bet.

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