Healthcare Letter

After decades of experience, notice that privatized health care  has been obscenely profitable, complex, bureaucratic, error prone, and expensive. It does not cover a large fraction of the people, and it is not the best in overall quality. The private market does not work well for healthcare for a lot of reasons.

Consider this note from the Economist:

"SIR – Michael Moore’s claim that Cuba has a better health-care system than the United States is not as “ridiculous” as you think (“Health screen”, January 10th). The United States was ranked 37th in the latest report on health care from the World Health Organization, whereas Cuba ranked 39th. I suspect there is little difference between being placed 37th and 39th. However, when productivity is factored in Cuba’s health-care system does indeed seem to be more effective than America’s. America spends 15% of GDP on health care (which works out at $6,700 per person in 2006 dollars) while Cuba spends 8% ($360 per person). Most businesses would consider themselves better than their competitors if they delivered an equivalent product or service at one-twentieth the cost. Kenneth McLeod, Chair, Department of bioengineering, Binghamton University"

It is an unfortunate fact that medical errors are a major problem. "Death by medicine is now the leading killer and cause of injury in this country, ahead of the prior champion killers, heart attacks and cancer."  (Gerry Spence quote) That is why victims need a way to recover damages. 'Tort reform' can allow errors to go uncorrected and a way to be sure consumers do not get justice. Victims should have their day in court.

Not only is US healthcare expensive, it is corrupt. Politicians use it for their own ATM and for jobs: examples include Jeb Bush, Bill Frist, Billy Tauzin, Rick Scott and many others.

Insurance companies  seem to run the show now. They have thousands of employees to 'process' health insurance claims, many in very expensive office buildings, and many obscenely paid CEOs. For all that expense, what do they contribute to the actual delivery of health care ? Nothing. They have no business making decisions that are rightfully made by doctors and their patients. Although they do deny payment and exclude sick people (very crude rationing) , they do nothing to actually provide health care. (They pay plenty to lobby politicians though, so they may manage foil any real reform, and continue to rip off sick people for profit.)

So here's a suggestion for health care reform. Retrain health insurance employees so that they can actually do real work in doctors offices, hospitals, or other real jobs in health delivery. Close down the health insurers. Free their workers to help with the millions of newly covered.

Everyone agrees that health care reform is necessary. Our outsized healthcare expenses are, alone, enough reason.

Because right-wing ideologues are constantly assuring us that the government can't do anything for us (Republicans seem to want to prove it), there does not seem to be real discussion of functions that are best done by the public or private sector. Since I am covered by Medicare, it is reassuring to know that I will not arbitrarily be dropped, that copays are not necessary, that pre-existing conditions will not exclude me. I'd say the government mostly does an excellent job when it is simply paying for health care.  

It is true that the US has heavy expenses that other countries do not. It has a military that is larger than the rest of the world's combined, it is a world leader in incarcerations,  and, its healthcare expenses are much more than other developed countries. If money is your most important 'value', you could argue that we cannot afford more inclusive healthcare. Then again, an unhealthy population is itself a heavy expense, and it is a drag on the economy. It is not a matter of money. It is a moral obligation. There is no excuse for the lack of a working, efficient system. 

Although prospects for health reform are better than they have been in a long time, Republicans are throwing up serious obstructions.  Money (paper) is more important to them than the public good, and besides they wouldn't want Democrats to get credit. Our own Senator Lieberman, often on the Republican page, opposes a public health option. (His Contributions from health & insurance interests: $3,308,621.)

A simple solution that works well in other countries, that would make US business more competitive by removing their healthcare burden, and level the global playing field would be a single payer plan that would cover everyone. Media has blacked out this approach, but there is a bill, HR676 which could do the job.   



GOP Healthcare Plan: Delay, Obstruct, Lie, Rinse, Repeat

Healthcare Notes 

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