Health care is another area where America is stuck. We just aren’t sure what to do about the escalating costs of health care in this country. Private health insurance vs. public health care is one of the many modern choices we have been divided by. We have had a private health care system for years and it has come with certain problems. When for-profit corporations are in charge of making decisions about our health we have learned that financial considerations and stockholder’s expectations require private health insurance companies to do things like drop patients with pre-existing conditions, place life-time caps on what the insurance companies will pay and charge prices that prohibit low-earners and the poor from having insurance. Drug companies are not answerable to their clients in any way, although the insurance companies may sometimes control drug prices by refusing to cover the most expensive drugs, which sometimes prevents patients from choosing the meds they need. Some doctors still make plenty of money, but many find that their salaries may be limited if they chose to treat patients with no insurance or poor insurance. Doctors also find themselves treated like piece-work workers in a factory who must schedule patients into smaller and smaller segments of time. Hospitals are apparently also profiting from our current health care configuration by charging astronomical fees, although not all hospitals are thriving.
Medicare gives us a glimpse of what savings we could expect from a public health care system with a single payer. There are obvious savings especially in the power of numbers to make advantageous price negotiations, but there are negatives also. In a system that provides public health insurance to everyone we run the risk of seeing the insurance provider setting limits on treatment options available, as well as drugs available. Medicare and Medicaid have learned from private insurance providers and would continue many of the same cost-cutting measures. Single-payer insurance does not have to generate profit but it has to be set at levels that guarantee sustainability and such insurance has to be sure that costs stay low throughout the system. In a nation that is seriously dedicated to capitalism, single-payer insurance is highly unlikely to fly. Switching systems too quickly would also push unemployment stats much higher .
So what we have now in America is a collage of health care approaches, an amalgam of the public and the private. We have Medicare, we have Medicaid, and we have expanded Medicare which will offer those with no insurance a choice between public and private insurance. We also still have private health insurance. But apparently hardly anyone is happy with this array of health care options. And the continuing problem remains that health care costs continue to increase at an alarming rate. Sometimes we wonder if the health care industry is deliberately allowing prices to balloon in order to convince us of their unhappiness with the Affordable Care Act.
Sunday evening CNN aired a special called Escape Fire. They used an analogy that describes something a fire fighter tried when trapped by a forest fire. He had heard that if he lit his own fire that it would keep the main fire away from him. He recommended that his fellow fire fighters try it also. They could not accept such a counterintuitive approach and they perished in the fire, but our out-of-the-box fire fighter lived and the main fire passed him by. The point here is that when we are trying to solve the problem of lowering health care costs, the health care industry is like that powerful forest fire sweeping over us all, uncontrollable and expensive. They like their profits; they have no incentive to cut costs and lower their profits. So unless we can light some kind of escape fire we will be unable to fight the force of these powerful health care players who are addicted to more and ever more profit. They don’t care who they consume in their fires because there are lots of us. Does anyone have any out-of the box ideas that will satisfy our capitalists and our insurance companies and our hospitals, our drug companies, our doctors, nurses, et al – and us, the patients? That’s a pretty tall order. So there we are again, and although this is a national problem and not a global one, we are stuck once again.
Perhaps the best solution would be to go back to the days when no one had health insurance. It would lower life expectancies for bottom earners which sounds like something that would make Republicans happy. We already go broke when a medical catastrophe comes along so why not forego the inadequate amounts paid by insurance companies in order to get our lives back. We could also contribute to a not-for-profit to fund expensive hospital procedures, although they would probably have to have a board that would decide who could have a procedure and who couldn’t.
Here are some interesting tidbits describing how much money we are talking about. Although these facts are already out-of-date, referring to data from 2007 – 2009, we have been told that cost have gone up and that profits have also increased.
#1 The chairman of Aetna, the third largest health insurance company in the United States, brought in a staggering $68.7 million during 2010. Ron Williams exercised stock options that were worth approximately $50.3 million and he raked in an additional $18.4 million in wages and other forms of compensation. The funny thing is that he left the company and didn’t even work the whole year.
#2 The top executives at the five largest for-profit health insurance companies in the United States combined to receive nearly $200 million in total compensation in 2009.
#3 One study found that approximately 41 percent of working age Americans either have medical bill problems or are currently paying off medical debt.
#4 Over the last decade, the number of Americans without health insurance has risen from about 38 million to about 52 million.
#5 According to one survey, approximately 1 out of every 4 Californians under the age of 65 has absolutely no health insurance.
#6 According to a report published in The American Journal of Medicine, medical bills are a major factor in more than 60 percent of the personal bankruptcies in the United States. Of those bankruptcies that were caused by medical bills, approximately 75 percent of them involved individuals that actually did have health insurance.
#7 Profits at U.S. health insurance companies increased by 56 percent during 2009.
#8 According to a report by Health Care for America Now, America’s five biggest for-profit health insurance companies ended 2009 with a combined profit of $12.2 billion.
#9 Health insurance rate increases are getting out of control. According to the Los Angeles Times, Blue Shield of California plans to raise rates an average of 30% to 35%, and some individual policy holders could see their health insurance premiums rise by a whopping 59 percent this year alone.
#10 According to an article on the Mother Jones website, health insurance premiums for small employers in the U.S. increased 180% between 1999 and 2009.
#11 Why are c-sections on the rise? It is because a vaginal delivery costs approximately $5,992 on average, while a c-section costs approximately $8,558 on average.
#12 Since 2003, health insurance companies have shelled out more than $42 million in state-level campaign contributions.
#13 Between 2000 and 2006, wages in the United States increased by 3.8%, but health care premiums increased by 87%.
#14 There were more than two dozen pharmaceutical companies that made over a billion dollars in profits in 2008.
#15 Each year, tens of billions of dollarsis spent on pharmaceutical marketing in the United States alone.
#16 Nearly half of all Americans now use prescription drugs on a regular basis according to a CDC report that was just released. According to the report, approximately one-third of all Americans use two or more pharmaceutical drugs, and more than ten percent of all Americans use five or more prescription drugs on a regular basis.
#17 According to the CDC, approximately three quarters of a million people a yearare rushed to emergency rooms in the United States because of adverse reactions to pharmaceutical drugs.
#18 The Food and Drug Administration reported 1,742 prescription drug recalls in 2009, which was a gigantic increase from 426 drug recalls in 2008.
#19 Lawyers are certainly doing their part to contribute to soaring health care costs. According to one recent study, the medical liability system in the United States added approximately $55.6 billion to the cost of health care in 2008.
#20 According to one doctor interviewed by Fox News, “a gunshot wound to the head, chest or abdomen” will cost $13,000 at his hospital the moment the victim comes in the door, and then there will be significant additional charges depending on how bad the wound is.
#21 In America today, if you have an illness that requires intensive care for an extended period of time, it is ridiculously really easy to rack up medical bills that total over 1 million dollars.
#22 It is estimated that hospitals overcharge Americans by about 10 billion dollars every single year.
#23 One trained medical billing advocate says that over 90 percent of the medical bills that she has audited contain “gross overcharges“.
#24 It is not uncommon for insurance companies to get hospitals to knock their bills down by up to 95 percent, but if you are uninsured or you don’t know how the system works then you are out of luck.
#25 According to one recent report, Americans spend approximately twice as much as residents of other developed countries on health care.
These facts appeared in an article written by Michael (no last name) entitled 25 Shocking Facts That Prove That The Entire U.S. Health Care Industry Has Become One Giant Money Making Scam
Whether or not we chose to value data from a Michael with no last name, we can see that he collected his facts on-line and you can follow the links to his sources. I will leave if up to you to decide if these facts have any weight, but I think a fact-checker would find that they do. I doubt that we need much convincing as we have drawn the short end of the stick and we are very aware that we are being abused for profit. Here’s the link to the article: