Our 6th rate health care system

46 million Americans have no health care at all. Most of us still receive health insurance through our employer, and most have seen sharp increases in premiums, deductibles and the coverage limits of such policies meaning we have less coverage than ever before at higher costs. Yet health insurers see record profits. It is time to pull ourselves up from the bottom tier and actually DO something about our criminally deficient system. It is time for the candidates running for President to come forth with solutions not more platitudes.

"The U.S. spends more on medical care than any other nation, and gets far less for it than many countries. According to the 2006 analysis by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. spends an annual $6,102 per person — more than any other country and more than twice the average of $2,571. Yet Americans have the 22nd highest life expectancy among those nations at 77.2 years compared with the analysis’ average of 77.8 years. People in Japan, the world leader in longevity, live an average of 81.8 years." – Los Angeles Times

Yes we have some of the latest innovations and are the envy of the world in certain medical procedures, but the net impact is not translated into better health for the American public. European nations and Japan are much more effective at lower cost than our patched together system of for profit health care. If you have enough money you can afford the premium care procedures and travel to the institutions that offer them. The vast majority of Americans cannot afford this level of care and instead must accept what their insurer will pay for.

Under our system, if you do not have health insurance you are left to the care of the emergency room unless you are poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. That means the most cost effective health care – prevention, is not available to those who need it most. Even those with coverage are finding they often must trade health care costs for food and living costs. Premium costs alone often costs over $500 per month for a family of four.

Add to this the steeply increasing cost of prescription medicines and the picture for most Americans is getting worse every year. While the percentage of people without health insurance edges upward slowly, the actual number increases more rapidly. Add to this that the effectiveness of insurance has dramatically dropped with higher co-pays, deductibles and exclusions, and our system is failing the grade.

Part of the problem is that our system has unacceptably high costs of administration. On average, insurers allocate over 25% of their premium income to administration. This compares with rates in the single digits in most other major systems. Another part of the problem is that American health care providers have failed to enter the digital age, meaning there is a level of inefficiency built into the system that is correctable.

For many of us, coverage is not there when we really need it. Blue Cross was recently sanctioned in California for illegally terminating insurance coverage when people actually used their policy for major illnesses. One of the complaints about European-style systems is that they end up rationing health care and exclude certain coverage. But that is what happens in private insurance as well, so it is not a matter of rationing but who does the selecting.

Whether the remedy for our failed system is single-payer or some combination of government and private coverage is less important than the urgent need to find a way to universal coverage now, not ten years from now. Any solution must impose limits on administration costs, effective bargaining to lower prescription costs, and, yes, some form of rationing of benefits.

Americans have been told for so long that we have the best health care system in the world that it may come as a shock to many that they didn’t read the fine print attached to that statement – it is the world’s best only if you can afford it. Most of us cannot. Some cannot afford anything but emergency care.

It is costing us dearly in lives lost too soon, difficult choices between medical care and the basics of life, and even with all the significant failures, it costs us more than anywhere else. Best health care system? No if you are part of the vast majority of Americans. Yes if you are an insurance company.

Comments

  1. Sandra Price

    Again, I see the answer to the problem is for more federal government to step in. The federal government is the reason our insurance and healthcare is out of control cost wise.

    It is seen (CSPAN)on some sessions on Congressional discussions how our House and Senate nit pick every tiny item when it comes to how long the insurance companies will pay for mastectomies. I took out a petition to send to D.C. demanding that the Doctors determine how long a patient stays in the hospital. One site here on the internet called it my plea for “Dialing for Breasts” and I was highly criticized for bringing it to their attention.

    Yesterday the fight was on whether a rape victim should be offered the morning after pill as it was against the Pope’s desire. This is your government in action.

    Are we willing to turn all of this over to our federal government? Will it simply take the responsibility off our own precious time to discuss so we can return to American Idol? It seems that every discussion on health care and coverage sends the problem to the House and Senate and will end up being just one more of our freedoms handed to the corrupt Congress and White House.

    If Americans want socialized medicine then say so! If Americans are eager to give illegal aliens free health care paid for on the backs of the rest of us then say so! We sit around and wait to see what the government wants and then we pick up the crumbs of what is left. Many of you want this to be used as a redistribution of wealth. Yes, America has fallen that far into greed.

    Everybody has limits on what they consider solving the problem but it all comes down to how much freedoms the government will give us. It’s similar to the plans that men desire on the subject of abortions. They want limits set on when and why an abortion is done and of course they look to the federal government for those limits.

    What the hell has happened to individual choices and decisions? Are we incapable of making these on our own? Must we look to big daddy for everything including our health insurance?

    We saw this week the solution to our oil costs. The government issued a mandate to the automobile manufacturers to increase the number of miles to be expected per gallon in 2020.

    The voters in 2008 will find a candidate who will offer us free health care. Do we care what the real cost is to this plan? Or will it simply stop the discussion so we can spend our time doing important things like playing poker or watching television?

  2. Thomas Bonsell

    Comment to Sandra Price:

    No one has suggested socialized medicine. Socialized medicine would require that government employ all the physicians, surgeons, nurses, therapist and others, such as in military hospitals.

    Socialized medicine would require that government own all hospitals, clinics, and such as with the VA hospitals.

    Socialized medicine would require that government own all pharmaceutical companies. No one has suggested any of this.

    What has been suggested is a method to pay for medical care in a way that it serves all Americans, not most Americans. What has been suggested is a way to get quality health care at an affordable price, like the rest of the civilized world has managed to do.

    What has been suggested retains HMOs as private companies, such as Kaiser and Group Health. What has been suggested is that hospitals remain private entities.

    It seems that people on the political right have no problem with outsourcing American jobs to nations that pay slave-labor salaries and leaving millions of Americans destitute, but suggesting a health-care system that serves all Americans ~ including those who had their jobs sent to India, Vietnam, China, etc. etc. etc ~ draws conniption fits because it may cut into profits of corporations and the seven-figure compensation of inept executives.

    Please explain how some government involvement has caused health-care coats to skyrocket in the United States while having the exact opposite effect in every other advanced nation.

    This hatred of government must stop. Government exists to benefit the entire people of a nation, not just the “special” people.

  3. kent shaw

    It is either every woman for herself or we are all in this life together. Pick a side.

    We already have a single payer system that works very well (although there is lots of room for improvement, especially in the area of FRAUD committed by medical PROVIDERS), with around 4% administrative costs, and it is called MEDICARE at the federal level and MEDICAID at the state level. It would be a simple matter to expand Medicare/Medicaid to cover everyone. Why is this such a big deal? All of Thomas Bonsell’s comments above apply. We can spend a trillion dollars attacking a country which has never been and never would be a threat to the United States, but we can’t pay for a kid’s broken leg out of our tax dollars? We can’t pay for granpa’s prostate surgery? PUH-LEEZ!!!! Of course there would no longer be obscene profits accruing to corporations with their 25 to 35 percent “administrative costs” and multi-million dollar salaries to CEO’s and 50 thousand dollars to a surgeon for a liver transplant (maybe $10 thousand) … ummm … just cry me a river.

    Get over your “capitalist dreams” you who are downtrodden and still voting Republican in spite of the fact that they are screwing you to the wall.

    Read Joe Bageant’s “Deer Hunting With Jesus”.

    Kent

  4. pondering_it_all

    The whole idea of insurance is to spread the costs of known risks over a large pool of individuals. If insurance companies are allowed to cherry-pick their customers, and then drop anyone making a claim, that IS NOT INSURANCE! It’s a con game!

    Even if the only reform we could get was a law requiring insurance companies to treat people fairly, it would be a great advance. The other great advance would be to form state-wide pools, so that anyone could get coverage at the same price as large companies do now. Insurance companies that wanted to get the state pool business would have to agree to accept all applicants (and keep covering them even if they get sick), and charge everyone the same per capita or per family rates.

    Health care reform doesn’t require socialized medicine. It just requires honest companies. And apparently the only way to keep them honest is by close oversight and regulation.

  5. Sandra Price

    We have the choices of HMOs now and if they are working efficiently then why aren’t they more in use?

    Those of you who want to redistribute the wealth and give it to the poor will find that in 10 years the rich will regain their wealth and the poor will continue to whine. It is not the wealth that is at fault here but the lack of incentives, goals, training, education, you name it; is keeping too many Americans under-employed.

    I see no correction for any of these problems including health insurance that could equalize our coverage. How many more Katrinas do we have to witness before we get off our collective butts and get our American citizens educated?

    Pondering, you want government control over private enterprise and it is socialism whether you call it that or something else.

    I am aware that the GOP wants government controls over everything. This is why I am no longer a Republican. But the Democrats have nothing but wanting government controls over our industries like the Insurance and Pharmaceutical companies.

    When I lived in California I had a very affordable supplemental coverage to protect me for 90% of any medical needs. I moved to Arizona and discovered the coverage did not cover the area. So I paid $120 per month for supplemental on top of $98 taken out of my SS check and simply gave up my television cable costs. When I moved to this area I found that my old company did offer me the same costs which at the time were under $75 a month (on top of the $98 taken out of my SS check. I connected to cable again. These are choices we all make in our daily lives. I am on a fixed income and make these choices every damn day. I do not ask you to cover my costs.

    At this time my choices would be to stop the costs of this damn war and continue to protect our borders and security instead of putting innocent people in a state of terror of the government. Cut back the damn government, release the people from the debt of IRS and let us take care of ourselves and our communities. Once we start educating the next generations, our problems will be solved.

    Teach some survival skills as well as occupational skills and the change would be amazing. To look to the government to solve all our problems is cheating. Quick fixes never solved a single problem.

    At this time, the government has no choice but to over the authority of our medical costs, hospitals, medicines and emergency care. The Democrats will be running on free health care and they will win.

    Another generation of helpless under-employed Americans will be living off the labors of those who took control of their lives. Somehow I think our founders would be horrified. Many factors in our lives have dumbed us down and we are all victims of the government programs.

  6. kent shaw

    “Those of you who want to redistribute the wealth and give it to the poor … ”

    “So I paid $120 per month for supplemental on top of $98 taken out of my SS check and simply gave up my television cable costs.”

    SS = Social Security? Is that the same Social Security which is clearly a “redistribution of wealth”?

    “I do not ask you to cover my costs.”

    The please stop accepting those Social Security checks. If I am wrong about the definition of “SS” then I apologize and take it all back.

    “The Democrats will be running on free health care … ”

    Nothing is “free”. A single payer system’s payments come out of tax dollars paid by all, with the risk spread over the entire pool of taxpayers. Free health care would involve hospitals and doctors providing care for free, without compensation, and no one is asking for that. Any candidate who says they will provide “free health care” is not speaking responsibly and should not be voted for.

  7. nuQler Ostrich

    Jeez, I remember when….

    When “Blue Cross Blue Shield” was decried as “Socialism.”

    “And $120 on top of $98…” How about $585 a month with $2,800 deductible for a single 52 yo male?

    That’s so my provider’s CEO can get his $15 million.

    GoD help me if I really get sick. Because I surely can’t count on Michael B. McCallister helping little old me.

    I’ll lose my house and everything else I have worked for all of my life. And eventually, it will happen. It will happen to most of us. At least most of us who aren’t getting $15 Million compensation packages.

  8. kent shaw

    nuQler wrote: “I’ll lose my house and everything else I have worked for all of my life. And eventually, it will happen. It will happen to most of us. At least most of us who aren’t getting $15 Million compensation packages.”

    It is already happening all over the country. Many of us, even with insurance, are one medical emergency away from bankruptcy and homelessness. But at least the good news is the CEO is getting his hard earned $15 mil.

    It sure is too bad the government regulates the insurance corporations because otherwise they could REALLY gouge us and the CEO could make a well deserved $30 million. But not to worry. Some of us advocate for government abandonment of regulation of corporations so the future is not totally bleak.

    Kent

  9. Jim C

    Miss Price , your derogatory and ( in my opinion ) mean spirited comments about the poor speak for themselves . This conservative wonderland you pine for has been tried ” it doesn’t and never will work ” except for the fortunate few . Your statement ” the government is why prices are high ” to paraphrase is amazing . Would you be so kind as to explain how ? If that is the case , why is medicares overhead at somewhere around 4% ? The VA was a model of efficiency through the 90’s until they did guess what ? If you guessed started privatizing it you are correct . When you privitize the prices go up the quality of care goes down , but the amount of money siphoned off for upper management goes through the roof . I also keep reading posts going on and on about the horrors of socialized medicine . Guys check out the facts , it just ain’t so . Before you start screaming commie , look up some facts . Which countries with socialized medicine are having all of these problems ? Find me one , not Germany , not Sweden , not France , Denmark , Finland and no not Canada . Even Cubas health system takes pretty darn good care of its people even though their dirt poor they have the best healthcare system in the caribbean . All of the countries I mentioned pay a fraction of what we do and get better care . If this system of ours is such a great model , show me an example of where it works ( for the average citizen ) and not your opinion or personal story please . The information is fairly easy to find so I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding a greed driven healthcare plan in some country that takes great care of the average citizen ( yes Miss Price , even the lazy , stupid poor ) . When you do please tell me where it is . You might start by looking at Mexico . Their system is what ours is going to be if we stay on this path .

  10. Jim C

    Please pardon the speelling and punction errors in my last post . At present I am battling bronchial problems . There seems to be something about the combination of medication and lack of oxygen that makes me want to misappropiate vowels and commas .