Thursday, September 20, 2007

Living in Absurdistan--the State of American Health Care

President Bush not only denounced, but threatened to veto a congressional plan to insure kids who have no health insurance, calling it a step “down the path to government-run health care for every American.” I wonder if he realizes how stunningly oxymoronic that sounds, as costs among private insurers rose over 6% this year, following a rise of near 8% last year.


Bushhealthcare President Bush not only denounced, but threatened to veto a congressional plan to insure kids who have no health insurance, calling it a step “down the path to government-run health care for every American.” I wonder if he realizes how stunningly oxymoronic that sounds, as costs among private insurers rose over 6% this year, following a rise of near 8% last year.

America has become the Absurdistan of health care;

  • Spending more, both as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) and on a per-capita basis, than any other nation in the world.
  • Currently Americans spend 15% of GDP (the world's highest) and rate 37th down the list of effective programs, according to the World Health Organization.
  • Costs are predicted to reach 20 percent of GDP in nine years.
  • 48 million of us don’t have any health insurance at all (which puts an interesting slant on what ‘per capita costs’ actually mean—we are all included, insured or not).
  • Medical bills are overwhelmingly the largest cause of American bankruptcies.
  • Meanwhile, the state of our health for all this dough rates an embarrassing 72nd of 191 countries compared.
  • 60% of us get our health care through an employer
  • Which means most of us who have a dependent with serious health issues cannot change jobs because of the pre-existing condition clause in most health insurance policies.

Government-run (paid and administered) health care for every American should be a goal rather than a scorned ‘down the path’ destination by an elitist president. This president (and his Republican party) smear single-payer health insurance as ‘socialized medicine,’ a derogatory term worthy of Joe McCarthy’s ‘fellow-traveler’ or ‘card-carrying member of the ACLU,’--terms that were equally meaningless and inflammatory.

Healthinsurance The 36 nations that spend less and the 72 whose citizens enjoy a better standard of health are almost uniformly ‘socialized’ in that they provide single-payer systems.

Here is my proposition to you as a fellow citizen:

I’m going to sell you an insurance policy to cover the health of you and your family. Pay attention now, because if you think your employer is currently picking up that cost, you are sadly (and badly) mistaken. You are paying the premiums, either directly or as a deduction to what your salary would be were those costs not taken out.

Employers do not pay for health insurance. They administer the costs, just as government does not pay in a national program (where you pay the costs through taxes). Now that we have that squared away, let’s talk about coverage.

I’m proud to say that my company, the Freeman Health Care Scam (FHCS) is a leader in holding down premium costs. We do that by denying claims. In fact, we are currently denying 21% of policyholder claims, up from a healthy (no pun intended) 18% last year. It is our hope and expectation to deny even more claims as we bring new computer  models online, keeping premiums low with the best claim-denial software in the industry.

Got a child with spina bifida of a wife fighting breast cancer? Sorry--pre-existing condition--just another small battle won on your behalf in the greater war against premium surge.

Hospitalsign_2 Why, you might ask, would a serious-minded and intelligent consumer want to

  • pay an insurer to deny him coverage,
  • argue over what is and is not covered,
  • pay higher and higher co-payments,
  • not be allowed to switch jobs without loss of coverage, all the while
  • paying increasing premiums at four times the cost of living index?

Good question. Which the real world fails to answer.

(NYTimes) The cost of employer-sponsored health insurance premiums has increased 6.1 percent this year, well ahead of wage trends and consumer price inflation, but below the 7.7 percent increase in 2006, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported today.

Somehow the Times makes 6.1% sound like a victory.

Because doctor and hospital costs continue to rise at an even faster rate, the modest slowdown in insurance inflation mainly reflects cutbacks in coverage by many health plans, which have found ways to make employees pay more for their care. Industry experts said that without those measures, premium costs would have risen by 9 percent or more.

We actually slowed inflation by cutting your benefits. Without that, you’d really have been in deep shit.

The total average annual cost for family coverage premiums rose to $12,106.

That’s 28% of median family income, friends. Damned near a third (and will be soon).

“For that kind of money, you could buy a compact car every year,” said Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Foundation, a nonprofit group that produces the widely watched annual survey. He noted that health costs had increased 78 percent since 2001, more than four times as fast as prices and wages.

Gmrichardwagoner Interesting analogy about the compact car, because the overarching reason Ford, GM and Chrysler are on the brink of going under is their cumulative health-care obligation. Which they haven’t a prayer of paying off.

Same goes for the airlines, manufacturers in other industries, retailers and the service sector. Toss in the employees in the city where you live, all those teachers and garbage collectors, meter-readers and bus drivers.

On the way to trying to solve social security, health care costs are going to run us down like a rabbit on the highway. All because of a Republican bugaboo, all for a bogeyman called ‘socialized medicine.’

The government will not pay for socialized medicine. You pay for it through taxes, just like you pay for roads, bridges, Yellowstone Park, air traffic control and national defense.

What you do not pay for is the overhead and profit of an entire industry devoted to skinning you out of decent care. You will not continue to pay the highest pharmaceutical costs on the face of the earth, nor will you indirectly pay the tab for bribing your Senator or Representative to deny you health initiatives.

You will not pay the uninsured costs of emergency care for the 47 million of your neighbors who do not currently have access to health care, nor will you pay the long-term costs of their illnesses within American society.

You will not spend half again as much as Switzerland, Germany, Canada or France, getting crap health-care as part of the bargain. Your premiums will not rise 87% in six years (as they have). We will not, as a nation, spend over four times as much on health care as we do on national defense (remembering that we already spend more on our military than the combined military budgets of all the nations of the world combined).

Canadahealth For our president to blithely deny us the health benefits enjoyed by the Swiss, Germans, French or our neighbors to the north, Canada, is incomprehensible. To deny us those benefits, which would cover all 300 million of us at a third less cost for twice the effective care, is unconscionable. To deny us those benefits and break the national bank, while destroying our remaining business base, is treasonable. To deny us those benefits in favor of a small and narrowly focused business base, is criminal.

President Bush denigrates the expansion of health care to uninsured kids as “a step down the path to government-run health care for every American.”

Universal single-payer health care is a step up the path we should have taken years ago, a path big business interests in the United States are beginning to demand. George Bush, who never experienced a personal obligation of any kind that was not paid by someone else, is not fit (nor has he ever been) to comment on what health care path this nation deserves or should pursue.
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