“This ongoing experience of startling significant inequities in our society, particularly brought to my attention in the field of health care, but also evident in education, employment, criminal justice, finance, and other areas, has revealed to me a society and its leaders pathologically unable to face their responsibilities and take effective action, and who instead persistently seek to deny responsibility, hide problems, and blame the victim.” – Glenn Winter, M.D. “Caring for the Uninsured and Underinsured – A Communication from the Front Lines”
The Health Care Crisis in America is getting worse, and all of the legislators representing Ozaukee County (except Senator Russ Feingold) stand directly in the way of the health care Wisconsin and America needs. Our elected Rip Van Winkle representatives ask, “What crisis?” When pressed, they deny and fail to discuss the cause of the crisis.
What is that cause? It’s an ideology of greed, which decrees that there is not enough health care for everybody who needs it. Health care in America is becoming only for those who the gatekeepers decide deserve it. And regardless of the hand Fate deals, you don’t deserve the care if you ain’t got the dough for the gatekeeper.
In the United States, one in every six citizens has no insurance. The lack of adequate insurance, or of unlimited cash, closes the door to proper health care here. Many of those that have insurance, only discover how inadequate it is, when they need health care. That’s when they find out (from insurance technicians without medical training) about exclusionary clauses, pre-existing conditions, and lifetime or incident limits.
If you’re one of 100 million Americans without adequate or any insurance, whether by choice or not, you are playing a cruel game of Russian roulette with stakes the likes of which you better hope and pray you never learn about the hard way. Half the personal bankruptcies in the United States accompany medical costs and emergencies. And many people suffer and die from not getting needed preventive health care and checkups in time, or from inability or reluctance to pay deductibles and co-pays.
Regardless of how good or bad you think your coverage is, you confront the crisis when:
1. An employer changes or eliminates benefits to cut costs and improve position with competitors, or just makes a mistake; or insurance is no longer offered; or an insurance company changes its culture, its policy or its list of acceptable doctors, clinics, or treatment options; or cost of self-insurance becomes prohibitive. (Did I miss anything? Well, there’s two more, at least.)
2. Your marital status, or your age, or your health (!) changes (or that of a family member) and insurance coverage ends as a result.
3. You lose or change your employment, or even think about it.
We all encounter the crisis, every day, as American business and industry down-sizes, out-sources, relocates, or ceases operations due to inability to compete with companies that do not have to shoulder the exorbitant costs of private health insurance that unfairly burden American employers. We are losing jobs and business, as well as lives and health, over this crisis.
The 3 biggest, most outrageous health care myths we have to overcome are:
Myth 1: The United States has the best health care system in the world.
Truth: If you have unlimited wealth, or are among the very small percentage who have an ironclad lifetime guarantee of no-strings-attached top-drawer insurance, you (like any deposed, exiled dictator on good terms with the State Department) can get the finest health care here in the U.S. But for the rest of us, measured by all basic health care outcomes, from infant mortality rates to life expectancy, the United States has steadily fallen from number one in the world to the back of the pack of industrialized nations. The World Health Organization ranks the U.S. health care system in 37th place compared to all other countries.
Myth 2: It would cost us lots more to provide proper health care to all, than the current patchwork, fine-print and loophole-ridden system costs, that leaves so many out.
Truth: The truth is that the United States spends about twice as much per capita on health care related costs as other modern nations in the world spend, and these other nations provide universal health care with no gate-keepers and better outcomes.
Myth 3: Universal single payer health care is socialized medicine, and would eliminate patient choice of physician and care options.
Truth: The truth is that other nations provide single payer universal health care in a system with most or all health care providers being self-employed or private employees, and where health care users have full choice of physicians. (By contrast, our employer based, insurance industry supervised system, greatly restricts or even eliminates most people’s choice of physicians and treatment options).
Until Canada adopted single payer universal health care 35 years ago, their health care costs were the same as ours (less than 8 percent of GDP). Now, the U.S. spends 15% of GDP on those costs, while Canada spends 10%. One-third of the dollars spent in the U.S. on “health care” are not actually spent on health care. Eliminating the unnecessary costs of overlapping and contending corporate bureaucracies, marketing, administration, patient-specific accounting and billing, excess profiteering, and extravagant CEO compensation, would reduce overall health care costs by 350 billion dollars annually, as well as extend full coverage to all. We don’t have to duplicate Canada. But we’d be wise learning the truth about Canada and the rest of the world.
According to market theory, for-profit providers and the 1500 private health insurance plans in the U.S. are supposed to control costs. They clearly are not doing so. Instead of restraining costs they are restricting care. And they are crippling U.S. business in a global marketplace, and running good work and jobs right out of the country.
I initiated conversations this spring with both State Senators and both Assemblypersons representing Southern Ozaukee County, which reveal their attitudes and positions regarding the Health Care Crisis. Do you want to know what the people that you elect think and care and are doing about it?
Do you want a concise source of more information on the health care crisis in the U.S., and the solution? A two part series explores the Health Care crisis in a bit greater depth.
The best national source of accurate information is Physicians for a National Health Program. The best source of accurate information emanating from right here in southeast Wisconsin (present company excepted, of course) is the eNewsletter and web sites of retired businessman Jack Lohman.
In Wisconsin, the Miller/Benedict Universal Health Care Bill (SB51 and AB94) gives us hope and a solid law worth struggling for. Ditto for H.R. 676, the Medicare-for-All Bill introduced by U.S. Congressmen John Conyers, Dennis Kucinich, Donna Christensen, and Jim McDermott.
Don’t miss the funny, sad, riveting story in the Cannes Film Festival winning movie, SICKO, the best summertime flick of 2007.