Organising globally to defend health care
by Phil E Benjamin It's becoming more and more apparent that worldwide, global corporate co- operation must beget its natural opposite reaction. And, indeed the actions in Seattle, Washington and Prague show that the forces of progress are moving ahead. In the case of maximum access to health services, including prescription drugs, the people in no country — even the richest of them all, the United States — can go it alone. CIGNA, Aetna and a few other international insurance carriers (with their behind-the-scenes financial backers) coupled with their greedy partners, the prescription drug companies, are collectively attempting to decide the fate of health-care services for the entire world's population. To some extent they are having disastrous success. Witness the dire condition of the Russian people. But their successes only spawn more anger and resistance from the labour movements, people's organisations and professionals. There has never been more mobilisation for protecting people's right to health care in all countries in the world. The example of European countries controlling the price of drugs in their national health systems is not being lost in the United States. The prescription drug issue has dramatised the interrelatedness of the peoples of Mexico, Canada and the United States. In the struggle for people in the US to receive the prescription drugs that their physicians prescribe it is now understood that if you live close to the Canadian or Mexican border you can go there for drugs that are dramatically less costly than in the United States. Of course, this doesn't sit well with the drug companies and their partners in the insurance companies or their Wall Street financial backers. There is growing evidence that a concerted attack is being mounted by the drug and insurance corporate cartels to force the Canadian Government to cutback on its national health program. Who knows what negotiations corporate powers are now having with the right- wing Mexican Government? People's Voice, the Canadian Communist Party newspaper, reports: "Documents obtained by the media through the Freedom of Information Act prove that the federal government, despite its fine talk, secretly approves of Bill 11, the Alberta [province] law that creates a wider opening for the privatisation of some health-care services. "The recent creation of the extreme-right Canadian Alliance increases the pressure on the [Canadian] federal government to speed up moves toward privatisation and defunding of health services." The newspaper then reported on the demonstrations taking place in Canada, including "a Five-Point Program to Keep Medicare" (Medicare is the name of their national health program for everyone, not just seniors): * Public (non-profit, funded and administered by government); * Comprehensive (insuring all medically necessary services rendered by hospitals and doctors); * Universal (covering all residents on equal terms regardless of pre- existing conditions, age, gender, income); * Portable (available outside one's own province or state); * Accessible (no extra billing, no user fee, no means tests, no other hindrance to access). There is little doubt that home-grown Canadian corporate right-wing forces are leading these anti-people actions, but you can also be sure that millions of US dollars are finding their way into their coffers. It is quite clear that labour and people's movement in the US and Canada have a lot to talk about and to work together on. But, to make it abundantly clear, the organisation that is a unifying force in these demonstrations, "SOS Sante" (Sante means "health" in French), fingers the international organisations for greed and hate as the culprits and the enemies of all of us: NAFTA, WTO and the IMF. The world trade union and people's movement is the only force to protect health and social services that still exist and establish the same in countries that do not now have them.
* * *People's Weekly World, paper of the Communist Party, USA.