Friday, February 26, 2010

The Search for Reality

I think many of us are battle-weary about the health care debate. I would guess this is partly due to our modern lack of an attention span, but it has also been the result of a deliberate stalling strategy that defies reason and believability, and yet it continues to work. I never realized before this last year how incredibly broken our American system of health insurance was, at least for most of us. You might notice I didn't use the term health care, as the care itself is way down on the list of priorities. It's not that the insurance companies are evil just for evil's sake; after all, it's "just business."

It's only logical that a business must do whatever it can to make a profit. That is the nature of business, and the law of survival. So, of course a for-profit insurance model would use the following tactics to maximize a high rate of return:
Deny coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Drop coverage as soon as possible for people that need to actually use it.
Raise rates as much as possible.
Especially if you can manipulate a non-competitive environment.

This is simply what you would expect in a system designed to protect the concept of profit in a world where health is needed.

And this is simply what the fight is all about. All the talk about cost containment, 'government-run' healthcare, 'death panels,' and fraud is just a smoke screen. It is purely and simply a struggle to maintain a system unlike any other developed country.

The fact that we treat health care as a sacrosanct source of profit, instead of a human right is the problem. Don't be distracted away from that. Just try to imagine what kind of world it would be like if your local fire department was run like a for-profit health insurance company: Your house is on fire, but if you can't pay COD, too bad for you.

There are so many lies around, I made an effort to find just a couple of facts I could confirm at the source. I didn't want to quote some political web site. I think if you can hang on to just these two things, it would put the issues in perspective.
First, let's put the magnitude of the crisis in perspective.

The world was aghast when 3,000 people were killed on 9/11. Over 5300 Americans service men and women have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since they began, to say nothing of the civilian casualties.

OK, have we all absorbed that? Well here's something I think we should never forget:

Nearly 45,000 annual deaths are associated with lack of health insurance

Maybe you've heard this before, but perhaps it just fades into all the other screaming about the issues of the day. This is not something the Huffington Post invented. This was a study conducted by the Harvard Medical School.

Here is a link to the Harvard site

Don't let anyone tell you this is a made-up number.
45,000 people a year.
Is that enough to notice?

Let's move on to the money.

Putting aside the obvious morality of just declaring access to health care a right, let's quit talking about how we can't afford it.

I've just got three words to say:

Bush Tax Cuts!

According to an article I found written in September 2004 from the Brookings Institute, well before Obama entered the race. At that point in time, there were "$1.7 trillion of revenue losses already locked into law."

There has basically been a campaign to cast modern progressive taxation as "Socialism.' And you thought Joe McCarthy was dead!

We are letting people die just so rich people can get a couple of extra percentage points off their income tax.

For Shame.

In closing, I'd like to quote a few lines about our health care system from an article on the PBS Frontline web site about how different countries finance their health care systems. I recommend reading the short article about the 4 basic models different countries use.

These four models should be fairly easy for Americans to understand because we have elements of all of them in our fragmented national health care apparatus. When it comes to treating veterans, we're Britain or Cuba. For Americans over the age of 65 on Medicare, we're Canada. For working Americans who get insurance on the job, we're Germany.

For the 15 percent of the population who have no health insurance, the United States is Cambodia or Burkina Faso or rural India, with access to a doctor available if you can pay the bill out-of-pocket at the time of treatment or if you're sick enough to be admitted to the emergency ward at the public hospital.

The United States is unlike every other country because it maintains so many separate systems for separate classes of people. All the other countries have settled on one model for everybody. This is much simpler than the U.S. system; it's fairer and cheaper, too.

1 comment:

Leslie said...

Hey Geoff, this is Leslie , Macbeth's sister, and brother, you are speaking the truth! My husband and I have been self-employed jewelers for over 20 years and have had to supply our own health insurance all along. I think everyone should have to be self-employed and supply all their own benefits for 5 years before being allowed to enter the make- believe world of corporate employment. Anyone who gets their health insurance through their job has not one clue about how this system works and really, they don't care because they think it doesn't affect them, bu oh baby, are they ever wrong! Thanks for framing this conversation is such a clear, concise and logical manner. When I talk to Clueless Ones about this their eyes tend to glaze over and the subject is quickly changed; they don't care and they don't want to know what the facts are. Thanks again, Leslie Broz