He said giving everyone in the country access to health care was the political cause of his life. Right now that also is my cause and I’m delighted that 40 plus people demonstrated in St. Cloud to say we need more, not less, government involvement in health care.
Competing for profits works fine for selling stuff, but it doesn’t take care of sick people. We can shop for refrigerators and cars, but nobody shops for health care because we don’t know “the product.” In times of need, doctors don't shop for health care, they rely on the expertise of other trusted doctors.
Our profit-driven system results in 60% of surgeries being unjustified. Among the most frequently performed unnecessary surgeries are hysterectomies, Cesarean sections, coronary artery bypass surgeries, and mastectomies. Conservatives call for tort reform but that wouldn’t address the motive of simple greed in surgeons and hospitals.
While encouraging unnecessary procedures, our profit system denies procedures that are needed. To satisfy stockholders, insurance companies find 1400 ways to “rescind” the policies of people needing care—they simply cancel their policies. Katha Pollitt reports in The Nation that Assurant Health, UnitedHealth and WellPoint saved $300 million between 2003 and 2007 by rescinding at least 19,776 policies. If an insurance company doesn’t dump enough sick people, its stock falls on Wall Street. So says Wendell Potter, who converted from a propagandist for private insurance to testifying in Congress as a whistleblower.
And for-profit companies deny coverage in the beginning. A friend of mine in good health was rejected by three insurance companies. She’s over 60. Was this the reason? What good is health insurance for people who don’t need it?
Then there’s the wasted time and cost of begging insurance companies to pay up. Doctors and nurses spend hours on the phone and in writing trying to get compensation for necessary procedures. While only 3% of Medicare’s premiums go for administrative costs, 10 to 20% of private insurance premiums go for such costs.
In funding efficiency, wait times, rationing, life expectancy, infant mortality, treatment of chronic disease, and use of technology, the World Health Organization ranks our country 37th in the whole world. But we rank first in the amount of money expended. Only in the U. S. can you go bankrupt because you got sick. Over half of our personal bankruptcies result from medical costs.
Loudly-trumpeted are examples of Canadians coming across the border for treatment, but it should be coupled with this fact—the U.S. excels in offering elective surgery for those who can afford it. We lack BASIC, PRIMARY care. We don’t have enough primary-care doctors in the U.S. because specialists earn a lot more. Here we are back to profits again.
This is what our private insurance system has wrought. All systems better than ours have some form of government care. Opponents of proposed reforms like to say we have the best health care in the world. That’s true for the privileged few. Ted Kennedy was one, and the unfairness of that motivated his decades of work to expand care.
One more fact—Minnesota’s health care system really is superb, among the very best in the world. It may be that I’m alive only because of MinnesotaCare—a government system.
What would Jesus say?
Both developed and developing countries around the world grant every human being the moral right to basic health care. Not America, the richest country.
18,000 Americans die yearly because they lack health insurance, reported USA in 2007. A 2009 figure raises that number to 22,000. No other industrialized country lets that happen. Our health care mess accounts for more than half of personal bankruptcies in our country. No other industrialized country lets that happen. Only in America do you go bankrupt because you got sick.
Are Americans crueler than people in other countries?
T.R. Reid, foreign correspondent for the Washington Post and writer about health care, thinks Americans just don’t know how cruel our system is. We in Minnesota don’t know because our system is excellent, among the very best in the world. I may be alive because I live in Minnesota, a state with the "socialist" program of MinnesotaCare.
But thousands elsewhere in our country die for lack of care, when the models of good care exist, some in our own country. What’s the matter?
Certainly Americans in part hesitate to learn from government programs in other countries because opponents of change shout loud lies and use words designed to trigger irrational fears—“socialism,” “euthanasia,” “rationing,” “abortion.” Certainly money from private industries that profit from our dysfunctional system plays a role.
I’m afraid part of our reluctance to learn from other systems is American exceptionalism—the belief that we are best in everything, that we always teach other countries, help other countries, that we have nothing important to learn from them. I’d love to be shown wrong.
Here’s how our profit-driven system rations care:
• It denies insurance to people who obviously need care.
• It cancels the policies of people who, despite a former “clean” bill of health, turn out to need care.
• It wastes hours of caregivers’ time as they beg insurance companies to pay for necessary procedures.
• It focuses on making money. This fundamental law of capitalism works for selling things like cars and mousetraps. But the drive toward CEO and stockholder profits demands culling the expensive unhealthy people.
• It kills 18,000 to 22,000 Americans yearly and accounts for over half of our personal bankruptcies.
I used to think we had to get rid of private health insurance entirely, but T.R. Reid is giving me second thoughts. He points out that some wealthy countries with systems far more effective and efficient than ours have private insurance companies. But they also have strict government regulation.
There is so much misinformation and outright lies being spread about health care. The talk radio "commentators" as well as those with their own TV shows are fomenting such rage in people who think their rights or health care will be impacted. These public figures have a political agenda and get paid millions to promote it. Unfortunately, the health care industry is also spending millions to kill the Obama health plan. Betsy McCaughey of the Hudson Institute, the expert rumor starter, thought up the euthanasia to seniors scenario, which is a total fabrication. But it's working because people believe her after her multi-media blitz! She was also this busy defeating the Clinton health plan.Bottom line—we need more government involvement, not less.
However, today, I worry about the consequences of the constant barrage of malicious invective by the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck. Fox News even published the locations of Democratic (not Republican) Town Hall Meetings. They seem to be encouraging these mob scenes. I worry about assassinations. If a tragedy should occur, will these "entertainers" and their sponsors claim responsibility? No.
For information on better health care, read the findings of T.R. Reid and facts from the World Health Organization.
September 20, 2009
Here’s a correction on health care facts just released by Harvard researchers. The number of people who die annually for lack of health insurance is not only around 20,000, it’s 45,000! A co-author and professor of medicine wrote, "We're losing more Americans every day because of inaction ... than drunk driving and homicide combined."
This certainly is a pro-life issue.
45,000 is still a small number compared to the million abortions per year which kill unborn persons DELIBERATELY, not simply by inaction. Now THAT is a pro-life issue.
Do you believe in a consistent ethic of life? When was the last time you Pax Christi people protested abortion in front of an abortion clinic?