Healthcare Not Warfare?

September 4th, 2009 by David Leave a reply »

The healthcare system in America is a mess. Profit has taken what used to be a system based on General Practitioners (GPs; remember a time when there was such a thing as a family doctor?) and turned it into a bloated conglomeration of for-profit health insurers who have every motive to charge you high fees to enter their program and zero incentive to actually pay for your care, specialist doctors who can make more money by performing expensive procedures than they can actually keeping you healthy, pharmaceutical giants who take government money to perform research and then sell overpriced, heavily advertised pills to a brainwashed public, and revolving door government watchdog agencies who are fully in the pocket of the industries they are supposed to be regulating. It’s not pretty.

Now President Obama’s watered down, corporate-friendly ‘health insurance reform’ (remember when it started as healthcare reform?) won’t do anything to fix this. In fact, it will most likely create more profit for insurers by mandating that everyone must buy health insurance, thus increasing the pool of suckers, er, customers for their overpriced products. And yet, a sizable minority is up in arms over the so-called Obamacare plan, goaded on by what appears to be a coordinated campaign and talking points coming from right wing think tanks. But in the absence of clear information and logical thinking, any shouting can fill the vacuum of public debate. To get one’s point across, simply shout louder.

There is no more clear evidence than the following video clip:

When you peel back the facade of the protesters’ arguments (aside from the lovely street theatre of the Billionaires for Wealthcare folks who are the true heroes of this clip) it seems they are constructed from talking points fed to a populace fired by thinly veiled racism, which is in itself fed by poor economic conditions that cause people to want to lash out against someone, anyone as the cause of their problems. Americans know something is very wrong with our country; most of us just have no idea why things went wrong. (Here’s a hint: deregulating the finance industry and giving corporations more rights than people had something to do it.)

The answers the healthcare problems are actually fairly simple. A properly administered single payer plan is proven to be the most efficient solution to controlling medical costs. Our current system is burdened with both the need for profit (as opposed to effective medical treatment) and high administrative costs. As of 2003, the overhead for medical care was estimated at 31% of all costs.

DemocracyNow! has been doing a good job of covering this issue. Here’s Doctor Michael Rachlis speaking on DN!

That is, that if you have a single-payer system, like Canada has—and virtually every other wealthy country, as well, has some variation of either a national health system like the UK or, more commonly, a national health insurance program like France and the Nordic countries, etc.—that if you have a single-payer system, when you don’t have to have thousands of actuaries to set premiums or thousands of lawyers in your country to deny care, there’s huge savings on administration, both within the insurance system but also in doctors’ offices.

A recent report in the US said over six percent of all doctors’ revenues are spent on billing and reconciliation. The Massachusetts General Hospital has more people working in their billings and reconciliation department than we have at the Ontario Health Insurance Plan head office to administer health insurance for 13 million people. So, all through the system, there is increased administration.

And so, Canada spends ten percent of its gross domestic product of our national economy now on healthcare. You folks are spending 16 percent. Half of the difference is due to the increased administration of insurance, and the other half is due to the fact that a single-payer system can negotiate much lower prices than multiple payers in your system. And so, about half of the rest of the difference is due to higher prices.

In fact, Canadians get more of some services than Americans. We get fewer of some high-tech services, but even in the high-tech end, like for lung transplants, Toronto is an international center. We do more lung transplant surgery per capita than the US.

So, the first couple of lessons would be that single payer or a national health insurance program is going to be cheaper, because it will have lower administrative overhead and, secondly, because we’ll have lower prices. And then, that, too, that a national health insurance program, or single payer, also means that everybody is covered.

Seems fairly clear, no? And I haven’t even gotten into the ridiculous nature of spending hundreds of billions (we are into the trillions now) on unprovoked foreign wars that are causing misery while only putting the US in greater danger by giving millions of people greater reason to dislike the policies of the US. I’ll take love over war any day, and good medical care counts as a form of love to me.


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