THE REAL US HEALTHCARE ISSUE: MORAL DEFICIENCY…man’s inhumanity to man

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The fact that many of us do not feel any urgency to revamp a system that leaves millions of our sick without care is revolting

The fact that a significant number of Americans feel no urgency to revamp a system that leaves millions of our sick without care is symptomatic of the fact that many are suffering from a hardening of more than their arteries. You don’t need a college degree to see that America’s character crisis is not restricted to members of Congress. Our healthcare debate has revealed that far too many Americans suffer from a lack of compassion paired with moral deficiency. Many would prefer that our fellow citizens go without medical care rather than to make even the slightest of sacrifices. How many times have you heard someone say; “I don’t see why I should have to foot someone else’s bills”?

I’ve never heard a decent explanation for why a public healthcare option is bad. Most of the right wing contingent rail against “socialism,” real or imagined; they say we should fear the hand of “big government” upsetting the doctor/patient relationship [I find that ironic, given that private insurers dictate every treatment patients can receive]; they purport that a government-run program would compete unfairly with private insurers. More ironic is that in most states meaningful health insurance competition does not exist and furthermore, since insurance companies have been exempted from anti-trust laws, competition is meaningless — a sham. So our beloved “free market” system continues to line the pockets of insurance executives and shareholders; leaving policyholders defenseless against the prerogatives of insurance company actuaries, attorneys and claims representatives; and keeps healthcare out of reach for millions of people.

I can’t call the bill that the Senate has just voted on reform at all.  I might call it “ill-form” or, to be more blunt; a grand deception on par with the Iraq War, the TARP bailout, the energy bill, and recent finance reform legislation. The fact is there is no reform in this bill. In this bill insurance companies will benefit more than consumers. It is business as usual. Real reform is national health care. And with that said; NO reform is better than “ill-form.”

The stranglehold of drug companies on healthcare providers, the side-effects and symptom-based orientation they promote [rather than treating underlying causes] and their 2,000 to 3,000 percent markup are essential components of the health-care mess that need to be addressed along with the windfall profits of the insurance industry that are, effectively, the cancer of our health care system. Insurance companies demand higher profits every year. A five percent overhead is reasonable for collecting premiums and paying doctors [Medicare‘s amounts to 3%.] They have overhead rates approaching 40%. 

It is an obscene commentary that the greatest threat to the economic security of our country is the unfunded liability associated with Medicare. In concert, the costs increases to American businesses for providing healthcare coverage to employees is making us non-competitive with other countries and with more and more businesses shedding the burden of providing insurance, a larger group of uninsured Americans is created every year. If we as a country can’t work as a team to fix the greatest threat to our future economic security, then all hope is lost for the future.

The goal of the current bill is to provide 30 million more insurance premiums (that’s 30 million more customers for the insurance corporations) with as few strings as possible. All new costs will be borne by taxpayers. In order to make this as revenue neutral as possible, Medicare services will be gutted. What’s a few million old folks when there are hundreds of billions to be made, right?

The health care bill mandates insurance while increasing the profits of the insurance cabal. The bill provides an exorbitant financial gift for decades to the health care industry and Big PHARMA. There is not one item in the bill that will contain costs to the American consumer. It will, in fact, create an additional burden born on the backs of all middle income Americans…a tax with penalties if you choose not to enroll.

Passing just anything will not keep the health care reform issue alive — I believe it will kill it. Given the contentiousness of the debate, neither Democrats nor Republicans will revisit the health care crisis for another 15-20 years, perhaps more.

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Too many Americans are acquainted with hardworking people who can’t afford some critical medical treatment. I lived in a small town when I was in high school and every week we held some kind of school raffle, church stew or spaghetti dinner to scrounge together the funds to meet the medical expenses of a family who had a child with with a brain tumor–or to help pay for the open heart surgery of someone’s mom or dad.  We were actually trying to pay for brain and open heart surgeries with our bake sale earnings! 

It is difficult to understand how anyone, unless they are rich, could reach the conclusion that Americans are better served by their doctors than anyone anywhere in Western Europe. The reality is that in life expectancy we rank 42nd and our infant mortality rate ranks 29th. These somber facts attest that our healthcare system is not even a contender for the best. The state of American health care is truly repulsive.

For a country that loves to moralize, we fail to acknowledge that those things we do and do not find repulsive reveal a lot about who we really are. Being anything but reviled by people dying due to lack of medical treatment in the United States is both unfeeling and immoral. The lack of compassion for the un/under-insured is pandemic. We say we don’t like it and we wish that it could be otherwise, but it doesn’t exactly make us sick and we do nothing to change it. Can we not see what is wrong with this picture?

It is incontrovertible that the American health system is the most expensive in the world. Our health care system is an also-ran on virtually all measures of quality– It is discriminatory on the basis of employment (only large companies who pay some portion of exorbitant premium costs offer coverage to employees versus small companies that can’t or the self employed and un/under-employed who can’t), on the basis of health history (coverage is denied for having a health issue or revoked for having to use it), on the basis of marital status (surviving spouses and their families are often dropped if an employed spouse dies or becomes disabled)…the list goes on.

We are in the maelstrom of a concocted fear of change. Some are fearful of losing their current insurance even though their employer could very well drop or change their coverage at any time or increase their payment portion, thereby reducing their pay check. Others have fear of government run systems with expectations of inefficiency and concerns that a third party may make their health care decisions (although insurance companies do so routinely now.) Our medical decisions are made by insurance underwriters, backroom administrators determining which procedures and tests will be paid and which will not, and levying price pressures on brand-name pharmaceuticals without concomitant stipulations on generics. There is much decision making now that is neither in the control of physicians or patients.

A person’s health is not a product that should, be subjected to the machinery of the so-called free market. If one wants to argue that markets are in fact more efficient than regulated government programs, this requires evidence. There is NO evidence at all that the market rationally allocates health resources. It does not. Because, unlike deciding whether to buy an X-box or a big-screen TV, people do not choose when and where to be sick, or when and where to be injured, or to inherit a genetic disease. Their children do not decide to wake up at 3 in the morning screaming with a high fever. When these things happen, patients do not sit down and carefully research information to decide which of many emergency rooms they should go to.  It is an emergency and they go to the one that is closest!

There is too much human suffering and unnecessary death caused by lack of access to health care. Healing the sick and caring for the elderly should not be meted out, to those who aren’t wealthy, based soley on cost-effectiveness. Access to care must be the same for all.

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4 responses »

  1. Your tunnel vision amazes me! Most Americans feel reform must be done, just not through the government, we desire to use private solutions to social problems with the government being the referee only!!

    Get a hold of yourself!

  2. I totally agree that raising money at a community function for a dying child is obscene.
    If we can spend billions on the continous wars we have had an are having since my birth in 1938 then where are the funds for those truly in
    need?

  3. Tamara, you are indeed audacious and nothing more. It is you who has tunnel vision and need to get hold of yourself. If private solutions were the answer to all of our systems that need reform, then we would not be in the mess that we find ourselves in after 8 years of the Bush Administration removing regulation and anti-trust mandates. Have you been hibernating or have you heard about the financial crisis caused by the greedy private sector financiers who almost brought not only the U S down, but the entire global financial structure. Have you not read about the insurance companies that are exploiting their members who are denied care when it is needed most? Have you not heard about the private sector health care providers who deny medical coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, i.e. babies born with birth defects, or asthma. What about children with early onset of diabetes? Or are you blaming people for their genetic make up? Crawl back under the rock from which you have peeked out, go back to sleep and wake up when we have real reform in this country which we will. The government has always played a significant role in our Democracy because it is government of the people, by the people and for the people. We, the people are the government! The private sector is the arch enemy that rewards themselves with vulgar salaries and bonuses while being bailed out by “the government.” We the people are being denied credit excepty at usury rates. We are having our credit either denied or we are having interest rates (pennies on the dollar) inflated to the point where the average, decent, hard working person can barely survive this lawless, unchecked 8 year debacle of the Bush/Cheyney gang. These war mongers who are profiteering from the military industrial complex ( Haliburton, Blackwater, KRB) by slaughtering people in Iraq and Afghanistan; and at the same time, having our cream and our future coming home either in body bags or so maimed that with their artificial limbs they look like automatons, Get a clue. Keep your mouth shut until you have some factual data to share. There is the saying that you don’t have to open your mouth to let people know you are a FOOL! Helen L. Burleson, Doctor of Public Administration. hburl1229@aol.com

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