Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wall Street Comes to D.C. to Profit from Health Care; 99% Say 'Wall Street Greed Kills Those in Need'

Dr. Margaret Flowers

The Movement confronted Wall Street investors who came to Washington to figure out how they can make more money from health care. The Wall Street Comes to Washington Healthcare Conference underscores why people across the United States are occupying their cities to protest Wall Street greed.

The meeting was sponsored by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation which has spent decades trying to undermine our social insurances: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Panelists included representatives from JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.

According to Paul Ginsburg, current President of the deceivingly-named Center for Studying Health System Change, who moderated the panel, the purpose of the conference was to discuss market development and Wall Street health policy, to look at trends for an equity analysis of publicly traded health companies.

The panel started with a discussion of why people are currently using less health services. They blamed employers for clamping down on employee costs. They said this ‘trend’ may reflect the ‘new normal’ of people choosing the care that they think is the most important. There was no mention that people are self-rationing, delaying or avoiding necessary care, due to the high cost.

Then they addressed the large increase in health insurance premiums, stating that the Kaiser Family Foundation study which revealed a 9% increase in premiums was false. They stated their goal of having more people with private insurance and more people using health services. Of course, this is not because they want to make sure that people who need care can get it. For Wall Street, health corporations are businesses and they are out to maximize profit, usually by collecting premiums and then denying payment for care.

When the discussion turned to how far they could push their profit gimmicks before the public started to shame them, I stood up and walked to the microphone. I told the Wall Street bankers that they had no place in health care, that because of them people are dying of preventable causes or going bankrupt or homeless trying to pay for needed care. They are criminals masquerading as health policy experts.

For too long investors have put profit ahead of human needs. This is particularly clear in health care where more than 100,000 Americans die each year from preventable causes. The United States spends more per person than any other country, but gets very poor results. Countries that spend less provide health care to all and have better health outcomes. Countries that have universal health systems do not have people losing their homes because of health crisis while in the U.S. two-thirds of foreclosures are due to a health care crisis.

Marriott security officers took me out of the hotel and I sat in front of the entrance where I was joined by 2 more protesters, including Adara who shared the story of her father’s suicide which happened because of a health problem and the inability to afford care. Dozens of people were outside the hotel protesting. They were chanting “Wall Street Greed Kills Those in Need,” “No More Wall Street Health Care” and “We Are the 99%.”

The protest lasted for several hours blocking the entrance to Marriott. Police did not make arrests. In fact, DC police have agreed to a 4 year wage freeze in order to maintain health benefits. That’s why we are the 99% and we are standing together to make the country and the world a better place for all of us.

The continues to occupy Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC seeking to shift power to the people and end corporate rule.