Sunday, March 05, 2006

Health Care in the USA

Since I am over 50, it is time for a colonoscopy. So, a couple of days ago I called my health insurance company to determine how much this wonderful experience is going to cost me. Well, I will be paying about $1,000 out of my own pocket! Fortunately, I have a good job that pays fairly well, and I will be able to afford it. However, this year my wife will need one as a well (there goes another $1,000) and she will also need a mammogram (that should cost some $ too). So, 2 colonoscopies and a mammogram = one holiday (or for Americans, one vacation). We will be married 25 years this year, so I guess we will be celebrating by having something shoved our bum to take pictures of our colon. Maybe we could do this together and hold hands -- how is that for romance.

Now, here is my issue.

I currently pay $3,510.00 a year for health insurance. My employer pays an additional$7,800.00 a year. For this, I still pay a doctor $25 everytime I visit ($40 for a specialist), $45-$60 per perscription, $250 for an emergency visit in a hospital and I have a $2,000 per person deductible. Last year, about 15% of my income went to pay for healthcare. This year it will be about 20%.

In the USA we pay a higher percentage of our income on healthcare than any other western nation -- and we still have tens of millions of people who have no insurance worth speaking about. If I save my money, I can afford the colonoscopy. But I know lots of responsible, hard-working people who could not.

We live in what is perhaps the richest country in the world, but we don't take care of our own people -- why? Primarily because we are ruled by greed, consumerism, and multi-national corporations that have only one value -- the bottom line. The healthcare business -- and the legal profession which is also responsible for the absurd cost of healthcare in the USA -- both need to be confronted and changed -- but as long as there are politicians in the USA (both Republicans and Democrats) who are more concerned about getting re-elected and enjoying their perks, nothing will happen.

This country needs a single-payer healthcare system that combines the best of the private and public world. We can learn from other countries who spend less per capita than we do on healthcare, yet have a lower infant mortality rates, longer life-expectancies, and who provide basic healthcare to all those who live in their borders.

Will a single-payer system be perfect? No. But the cost of prescription drugs will drop by 25-50% or more ( don't buy the lies of the pharmaceutical industry -- they actually spend more on lobbying and advertising every year than on research), the number of unnecessary tests will drop dramatically (if we include legal reform), administrative costs will decline by $75 billion annually, there would be less conflict of interest (doctors couldn't own laboraties, etc.), health insurance premiums would drop dramatically, since much of the profit motive in healthcare decisions would be eliminated, and everyone would have coverage -- and the working poor wouldn't have to decide whether or not they should eat, or buy their medication -- and best of all, I wouldn't have to celebrate my wedding anniversary holding hands with my wife as we both get colonoscopies.

But, I suspect as long as politicians, lawyers, health insurance companies, etc. can continue to brain-wash the American public simply by saying the word "socialism", the healthcare in this country will become increasingly more like that in the developing world -- where a few rich people can afford decent care, and the masses die unnecessarily. It is not there yet, but talk to me in 10 years or so.


Michelle said...

I think I'm going to like reading your posts. Your blog has been added to my "favorites".

This particular post stirs my blood a little, but I do respect your opinions. I work for the largest health insurance company in the United States (although some may debate that). Please know that we are doing our best to make a difference and have made great strides in providing quality and affordable healthcare to all individuals...even the under-insured and the un-insured.

We're trying our best. Health care isn't something that can change overnight, but in time, I think this "animal" will get under control.

Thanks again for allowing me to read your thoughts and opinions. I look forward to reading additional posts!

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