Wednesday, March 20, 2024

The Enshittification of Health Care

Last week David Moscrop wrote an excellent piece in The Walrus about Loblaw. 

He wrote, 

"If you live in Canada, you're probably part of the Loblaw ecosystem, whether you like it or not. . . . It accounts for nearly a third of Canada's grocery market. . . . Loblaw's sensational fourth-quarter results--$14.53 billion in revenue and $541 million in profit--suggest the mission is going well. . . . President Galen Weston Jr. was hauled before a parliamentary committee, which grilled him over soaring food prices. . . . Grocers in Canada have recently enjoyed not just higher profits but higher profit margins--a practice one might call profiteering. Retailers keep charging more, in other words, not just because of increased industry costs but because there isn't enough competition to stop them. . . . Another wave of outrage from customers and experts forced health insurer Manulife to walk back a deal to cover certain prescription drugs exclusively at Loblaw-owned pharmacies--an arrangement that would have deepened Loblaw's reach into Canadian lives, a presence already bordering on the imperial. . . . As Shoppers Drug Mart expanded into health services, critics warned it might be pressured into putting profits first and care second by cutting corners, rushing patients, and pushing unnecessary treatments. And right on target, Shoppers was recently accused of unethical billing practices in its MedsCheck consultation program.

Canada is notorious for nurturing oligopolistic tendencies--there are several variations of the joke that the country is three companies in a trench coat. . . . We are slow to prevent monopolies or oligopolies from forming, and then we are unable or unwilling to break them up once they've formed. . . . The Competition Bureau, in its Retail Grocery Market Study published in 2023, confirmed what many of us already knew: there isn't enough competition in the grocery industry. The watchdog offered recommendations, two of which amounted to the government encouraging more players to enter the sector. . . . 

Canadians seem to get that something is wrong. They pay the cost of higher food prices. They experience the enshittification of health care. They watch paycheques stagnate as corporate profits soar. They live, daily, the lack of choice. . . . We may just slip increasingly into a digitally driven capitalist totalitarian nightmare from which there is no escape. Our future, however, isn't determined. Corporate behemoths have fallen before. They may fall again. But no one ought to hold their breath."

Loblaw and Shoppers' forays into healthcare is particularly hard hitting as free healthcare has been a  major part of our Canadian identity for 65 years. 

Two days ago I posted a TikTok by Imani Barbarin about allowing Covid to transmit openly being a way to continue the Palestinian genocide outside Gaza's border. The second half of that video was about the boycotts and protests of places just like Loblaw despite their necessity for many people. There are many places that have horrific business practices, but maybe they're the only place that delivers. In my area, without Loblaw grocers, there's nobody that delivers. Anyone who can't get to the store themselves, maybe because they have or are avoiding Covid, has come to rely on this delivery service. 

What do we do when the very companies that add to our problems are the only ones lending a hand??

They own us - or at least a significant portion of us.

As Imani says, 

"At almost every fucking turn, ableism is movement work's Achilles' heel. At every single turn you all are undermining yourselves without even realizing it because you do not talk about disability or interact with disabled people. . . . Your ignorance is the greatest tool for imperialism."

We need all of Ontario to read Linda McQuaig's Sport and Prey of Capitalists, realize how much they're being ripped off, and work for greater rights to affordable food and health care for everyone. 

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