Thursday, June 25, 2009

Health Care - Sense and Nonsense

I don't normally blog about political issues here. Not because I don't care about political issues, but because I don't want this blog to be taken over by them, which can easily happen.

However, I feel like I need to make a comment or two "at large" on the health care issue....

Our current system is based upon 2 fundamental flaws that will keep it from EVER being good at delivering decent health care when people really need it:

1) Employer funded health insurance. I know why this started, but it makes no sense for it to continue now. When someone gets seriously ill, one of the first side effects is that they usually cannot work. Therefore they lose their employer and, soon after, their employer funded health insurance. Thus, when they need health care the most, they can't access it. (Note: Being the primary societal payers for health costs also gives our business community significant costs that companies in other countries don't have, putting them at an economic disadvantage in the global marketplace.)

2) Health "insurance" itself. Everyone is going to get ill or require medical care, sooner or later, no matter how well we take care of ourselves. Health "insurance" is an oxymoron. Being able to pay for health "insurance" doesn't insure that we will stay healthy individually. On a societal level, siphoning profit out of our health care system doesn't "insure" that people will stay healthier either - it just means that sick people cost too much money for health insurance companies to make a profit on. The statistic that sticks in my mind (although I have no source to quote for this) is that about $.30 out of every $1 spent on health care in this country goes for insurance company costs and profits. That's stupid. The only people getting benefit out of that are health insurance employees and owners. It's time for them to make a living elsewhere, and not at the expense of health care for the rest of our population.

I read (and hear) such statements as "we have the best health care in the world" bandied about. No, we don't. We have the MOST EXPENSIVE health care, per capita, in the world. We are somewhere around 30-40th on most health related standards such as longevity, maternal health, newborn health, etc. etc. Most other industrialized countries (who basically all have "socialized" medicine, by the way) provide better healthcare, as a whole, for half the cost or less, per capita.

Or how about "if the government takes over health care, we'll have HEALTH CARE RATIONING and then NO ONE WILL GET THE TREATMENT THEY NEED IN A TIMELY MANNER". Bull corn. We already have health care rationing - we are very stingy, as a nation, on how we provide health care to the working poor, for example. In the current recession, with all the layoffs that have occurred, health care is one of the first expenses that people are being encouraged to cut out. Oh, if it's an emergency, people can go to an ER and get treated with the hospital writing off their costs, but it often bankrupts the person/family. Meanwhile, the cheaper, preventive care (that could have kept them healthier in the first place) doesn't get done because it's still too expensive for individuals to afford.

In fact, right now, those who can afford medical costs the least - those who aren't covered by employer-based health care or government programs and who are "self pay" because they can't afford "insurance" - have to pay the highest costs at doctors' offices and hospitals. The health "insurance" companies negotiate quantity discounts, then physicians and hospitals are bound to charge the higher prices (that the discounts were based on) to the patients not covered by such discounts. The "savings to the system" essentially get made on the backs of the working poor.

Then there's the "Everyone in countries with 'socialized medicine' complains about their systems and feels like they get inadequate care. The entire world looks to the U.S. in longing because our health care is so wonderful." Ah, That's garbage, being repeated by people who either have a strong stake in the system remaining as it is, or by folks who never actually talk with people from other countries. The relatives that I have in countries with "socialized" medicine (an uncle & aunt with their 3 sons and their sons' families in Norway; several cousins on both sides of our family in Canada - all of whom visit the U.S. with fair frequency, so they are familiar with both systems) report being very happy with the health care they receive. Our son, in Germany, has told us that the Germans he talks with are very happy with their system too. Both our son and our daughter have spent significant time in Britain, as well, where they've reported that the citizens they've talked with are quite content with their health care as well. Are there some complaints? Of course. There's always room for improvement and some people will always complain, but overall people are very happy with their health care in those countries. The objective numbers also say that citizens' health in those countries (longevity, maternal health, etc. etc.) is better for much less money, per capita, than in our country.

Then there's the proposal to give people "tax breaks" on health insurance costs. Another sounds-good-but-actually-doesn't-help, smoke-and-mirrors idea. People without health insurance are probably not going to be able to pay for health insurance, even with "tax breaks" - these are folks who don't make enough money to pay rent, food and transportation costs without problems. There's no room in a budget like that for hundreds of dollars for health insurance!

Plus "tax breaks" like that are actually taxpayers subsidizing the health "insurance" industry.

If you want the private health "insurance" industry to work, insurance companies need to take entire communities at a time, sick people as well as healthy people, and insure them all at the same rate. They wouldn't be able to single out the sick people and not pay for their care, as they do now. They shouldn't be able to search for ways to deny payment, based on bogus claims of "experimental protocols" or "pre-exisiting conditions" such as treatment years before for a cough that is used as the basis for denying later claims for lung cancer, or treatment for menstrual cramps used as a basis for denying later claims for ovarian or uterine cancer.

My last comment is cynical, but heartfelt. I wish the American populace, as a whole, would quit proving the claim that "a lie repeated often enough becomes accepted as the truth." Come on, folks, talk with your neighbors and fellow workers about their actual experiences. Quit passively listening to talking heads spewing half truths and outright lies. Question what you read and hear.

Most of all, remember, "There, but for the grace of God, go I." The truth, as far as health goes, is, "There, in my time, will go I."


qkslvrwolf said...

Hey, can I crosspost this to DKos for you?

Obviously, full attribution with a link back to your blog for folks.

Gaia gardener said...

If you think it would be appropriate, that would be fine.

(Thanks for your vote of confidence!)

prairiewolf said...

Outstanding! Dead on!

Hopegenie said...

Wow. Eloquent and to the point, as is most of your writing. I don't know what made you decide to comment on this, but bravo!

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now. Keep it up!
And according to this article, I totally agree with your opinion, but only this time! :)