hearts and minds

May 4, 2009

We Hold the Trump Card in the U.S. Health Care Crisis

Filed under: Health care crisis — Hearts & Minds @ 4:48 pm

In the United States, one in every six citizens has no health insurance, and at least as many more have inadequate insurance, and don’t know it. The lack of adequate insurance closes doors to proper health care here. Many of those that have insurance only discover how inadequate it is, when they really need health care. That’s when they find out (from clerks with little or no medical training) about exclusionary clauses, unavailable treatment, pre-existing conditions, bankrupting deductibles and co-payments, and lifetime, annual, or incident limits. There is finally something we can do about this crippling and too-costly system.

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. Most of us play that game during our lives, like it or not. Half the personal bankruptcies in the United States result from medical costs and emergencies. And many, many people suffer and die from not getting needed preventive health care and treatment in time, from inability or reluctance to pay deductibles and co-pays.

Regardless of how good you think your “coverage” is now, you confront the crisis when:
• An employer changes or eliminates benefits to cut costs and improve profitability or just by mistake, or because insurance is no longer offered; or an insurance company changes its policy or its list of acceptable doctors, clinics, or treatment options; or it decides not to provide insurance any longer; or cost of self-insurance becomes prohibitive.
• Marital status, age, health, or employment of you or a family member changes, and insurance coverage ends or changes as a result.
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 business. This health care crisis is costing us jobs and commerce, as well as lives and health.

The four most outrageous health care myths we must overcome are:

Myth 1: “The United States has the best health care system in the world.”
Truth: We could have the best health care system in the world … if it weren’t for the way it is administered. If you (like any deposed, exiled dictator on good terms with the State Department) have unlimited wealth, or (like any member of Congress) are among the very small percentage who have an ironclad lifetime guarantee of no-strings-attached top-drawer insurance, you can get the finest health care here in the U.S. But for most all 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 now ranks the U.S. health care system in 42nd place compared to all other countries.

Myth 2: “Universal comprehensive health care sounds like a nice idea, but where are we going to get the money to pay for it?”
Truth: We are already spending more money on health care in America than comprehensive health care for all would cost – but we are not getting it. The truth is that the United States now spends twice as much per capita on health care related costs as all other modern nations in the world spend, and these other nations provide comprehensive health care for all, with no gate-keepers and better outcomes, at much less cost.

Myth 3: “Universal single payer health care is socialized medicine, which would eliminate patient choice of physician and care options, and we wouldn’t get health care when we need it.”
Truth: First, there is not a single bill in the House or the Senate proposing socialized medicine. HR 676 and SB 703 propose socialized insurance with medical care provided by the current national network of privately employed doctors, clinics, and hospitals. It’s like the insurance provided by Medicare and by the Social Security system. Second, the United States does actually provide some socialized medicine already, and has done so for a very long time. It is the network of hospitals and clinics owned and operated by the government for the military and the Veterans Administration. Bethesda and Walter Reed Medical Centers are examples of actual “socialized medicine” in the United States. Our active duty and veterans of military service, of all ranks, and their families, use socialized medicine. Our President and Members of Congress, and their families, enjoy the excellent socialized health care provided by these government owned and operated facilities. Third, other modern nations provide comprehensive universal health care where people have full choice of physicians, and where treatment is determined by the medical condition. HR 676 and SB 703 do not propose socialized medicine. But even existing socialized medicine systems around the world provide patient choice of physician and care options. By contrast, in the current U.S. employer-based system, supervised by private insurance corporations, it’s not the patient and her doctor, it’s the employer and the insurance company who have the real choices.

Myth 4: “Everyone should have affordable health insurance.”
Truth: The truth is that everyone needs health care. Private health insurance is not health care. Only private insurance companies, their executives and major stockholders need health insurance.

A third of the dollars spent in the U.S. on “health care” do not actually provide health care. It is spent on “administration” – by, for, and because of the private insurance industry. This includes the costs of overlapping corporate bureaucracies, marketing, administration, many different policies, complex billing for each individual item for each patient, profit-taking, extravagant executive “compensation”, lobbying, and campaign “contributions”. Eliminating these unnecessary costs will reduce overall annual health care costs by 350 billion dollars. We can solve the health care crisis in America, provide comprehensive health care to everyone, produce better health care outcomes, and simultaneously reduce the overall cost of health care. Other nations have done it. We can’t afford to ignore the truth about Canada and the rest of the world, as well as the truth about how our own health care system is being administered.

According to free-market theory, the for-profit providers and the 1500 private health insurance plans in the U.S. were supposed to control costs. They clearly have not done so. Instead of restraining costs they are restricting care and increasing profits. And they are crippling U.S. business in a global marketplace, while running good work and jobs right out of the country. The Health Care Crisis in America continues to worsen, and the legislators that should represent us stand, instead, for the corporations, and against the health care America needs.

Single-payer comprehensive universal health care is the only way we can solve the health care crisis. And solving the health care crisis is essential to extricating us from the current drastic economic crisis caused by unbridled greed managed and facilitated by huge corporations and by government officials enthralled and beholden to them.

The trump card is in the hands of the American people, and we need to play it now.
Talk about it with your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family. Take action.
Tell everyone that we need our elected legislators to sponsor H.R. 676 and S.B. 703 now.

Here are ten uncompromised, solid sources of useful, accurate information. Please contact them.
See how you can help. Do what you can – now – for your family and for your country.

http://www.healthcare-now.org/Health Care – Now!
http://www.pnhp.org/Physicians for a National Health Program
http://guaranteedhealthcare4all.org/Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care
http://www.freshaircleanpolitics.netCampaign for Fresh Air and Clean Politics
http://www.singlepayeraction.org/Single Payer Action
http://pdamerica.org/policy/priorities.phpHealth Care not Warfare
http://www.calnurses.org/media-center/press-releases/2009/april/america-s-rn-union-targets-congressional-healthcare-leaders-in-new-ad-drive.htmlNational Nurses Organizing Committee
http://unionsforsinglepayerhr676.org/Unions for Single-Payer Healthcare
http://www.businesscoalition.net/Business Coalition for Single-Payer Healthcare
https://clydewinter.wordpress.com/category/health-care-crisis/ examining the health care crisis

“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”


  1. Thanks, Clyde. A very good summary.
    It can be done if anyone decides to lead the country. We’ll see. I’ve contacted reps several times and get the standard form letters in response.

    If socialized medicine is good enough for ‘the troops’, then it’s good enough for me.

    Comment by Dan C — May 4, 2009 @ 8:18 pm | Reply

    • Thank you, Dan. I think it’s the people who have to take the lead on this one. It takes more than one good-hearted, willing person to make change happen in the USA – especially when the health insurance industry will do everything it can to derail this reform by calling in their substantial lobbying and campaign contribution chips.

      I have been contacting elected officials on this particular subject for years. But right now is finally the time that constructive change can happen – the change we have hoped for and worked for in the past – so this year, right now, is the most important time to talk with the people we know, to write letters and make phone calls to the media, and to keep calling the Washington D.C. as well as the local offices of both of our U.S. Senators and our Representatives. If they are disdainful or disrespectful, and fail to provide a satisfactory response, I don’t hesitate to call them and object. We’ll never get single-payer comprehensive universal health care sitting on our hands. Don’t just call once. Starting today, keep calling your Senators and your Representative until you are able to thank them for finally announcing they are co-sponsors of single payer comprehensive health care for all.

      Socialized medicine (Walter Reed and Bethesda) accurately describes the health care provided to our highest federal officials and their families. But the charge of “socialized medicine” is a false red-herring. HR 676 and SB 703 do not propose socialized medicine. These bills would establish single-payer comprehensive health care for all by ending the extremely inefficient, costly, complex, and overlapping insurance industry administration of our health care system, while retaining the current, existing actual health care infrastructure of self-employed and privately employed doctors and nurses working for privately owned clinics and hospitals.

      Comment by clydewinter — May 4, 2009 @ 11:36 pm | Reply

  2. make people realize how important health insurance isn’t easy. Thanks for the summary, it’s make me more understant about health insurance conditions 😉

    Comment by kesehatan — May 5, 2009 @ 8:57 am | Reply

  3. On May 5, 2009, the day after posting the above article, eight medical doctors and nurses were arrested at the Senate Finance Committee hearing on health care reform. They publicly questioned and protested the refusal of the Senate committee to allow even one of the 15 seats at the table to be occupied by an advocate for single-payer comprehensive universal health care. They were handcuffed and taken to jail while the insurance industry spokespersons occupying those seats laughed and joked with each other, the media present ignored the questions and the protest, and not one Senator present objected to the outrageous exclusion from consideration of a health care reform proposal that is shared by a majority of medical professionals and a majority of U.S. citizens. My written protest of these arrests follows. I hope you will take appropriate action.

    Single-payer comprehensive universal health care MUST have a seat at the table in each and every Senate hearing on health care reform or the table itself is worthless and must be dismantled.

    If single-payer comprehensive universal health care continues to be denied even a seat at the table by the Congress, there is no better proof that America has government by and for the corporations and the lobbyists, instead of government of, by, and for the people.

    This struggle over the growing health care crisis has now become about more than just the need of the American people for health care that is not controlled, administered, distorted, and denied by the health insurance industry, and the desperate need of the American economy for health care costs to be equitably restrained and controlled rather than be a ballooning cash cow for insurance industry executives and major stockholders.

    This struggle is now about demanding comprehensive health care for all as a human right. This struggle now encompasses demanding that the United States government be our government, and that it serve the American people, not the corporations. This struggle now necessarily includes rooting out and ending, by any means necessary, the blatant legalized bribery that has so fouled and corrupted our government, and the failure of the media to investigate and inform the people of the truth.

    People don’t need no stinkin health insurance, ridden with fine print, loopholes, exclusions, exemptions, discouragement, hidden costs that just say no, and abrupt cancellations. People don’t need their health care and choice of provider to be defined and decided upon by insurance executives, and by whether they are employed when they or their families need health care, and by choices made by individual employers.
    People don’t need health insurance. People need health care.

    Comment by clydewinter — May 6, 2009 @ 3:23 am | Reply

  4. Not to mention that the ‘health care’ system we have now only gets paid if we are sick. There is only token attempts by corporations who can’t afford the insurance to encourage healthy living by their employees.
    In the end, what we get for our health insurance premiums is a lot of buildings with no actual doctors.

    Comment by Dan C — May 6, 2009 @ 11:40 am | Reply

  5. Great summary of a very serious problem with a very simple solution: single-payer health care. But as much as we all care, it will only happen if we all call our US Senators and demand it. The insurance industry gave $46 million in campaign contributions in 2008, all to bribe politicians and ensure that single payer fails.

    If it’s that important to them that it fails, it’s even more important to us that it passes, thus telephone calls to Senators are needed. Today! Demand that single-payer be put on the table and HR676 and SB703 be voted on.

    Comment by MoneyedPoliticians — May 8, 2009 @ 10:23 am | Reply

  6. Clyde,
    What about getting Greater Milwaukee Area involved with this: http://www.healthcare-now.org/campaigns/may-30th-day-of-action/ At the end of the list of cities is an invitation to get involved. If we can set something up for Sunday, May 31, I will be there!

    Comment by Madaline R — May 28, 2009 @ 9:19 pm | Reply

    • It is never too late to plan a relevant event of significance, Madaline, but if the participation of many people is sought, and if wide publicity is desirable, a little earlier planning is wise.

      As far as I can tell, the only health care crisis event planned and publicized in Wisconsin for the May 30 “day of action” is today, featuring the raging grannies, telling our U.S. Senators at their local offices in Middleton and Madison that “Everyone should have Health Care (not ‘insurance’) comparable to what the Senators have”.

      That should be enlightening and I plan to join and support them there, if they’ll have me.

      For those unable to participate with the raging grannies today, or to initiate or engage in other organized group action at this time, I encourage taking relevant, appropriate, effective individual action.

      Comment by clydewinter — May 29, 2009 @ 6:49 am | Reply

  7. 1. How/why did the govt get medicare in 1965 in the first place?
    2. Medicare became the primary payer when most start to have problems.
    3. What a financial windfall for the insurance companies!
    4. You can’t convince healthy young people to buy insurance.
    5. Tort reform is required. Which is a large part of the cost.
    6. Where in the world has socialized medicine worked for the majority?
    7. Long waiting to see a nurse! Another long wait to see a doctor!
    8. When you need a major operation you get in a queue.
    9. The Canadian medical system is bankrupt! Their taxes are obnoxious!
    10. If you need a cat scan in Canada go to the states. You get it quickly!

    Comment by Zeke — September 1, 2009 @ 4:38 pm | Reply

    • 1. Imagine if government-administered health care in America were abolished. (That would include Medicare, the military medical system, the VA hospitals … and Medicare.) Talk about “pulling the plug” on granny! Medicare was established in 1965, despite unremitting opposition from the health insurance companies, because American families demanded it. And it was government run from the start. Because no one else would get done what needed to be done.
      2. Duh! That’s why employers retire people at that age, and insurance companies stop covering them at that age.
      3. Medicare was not a windfall for insurance companies back then. Insurance didn’t cover the great majority of elders back then. But they did sell insurance to a small minority of wealthy elders who could afford it after retirement, and they hated losing some of that business, because Medicare covers everyone over 65. Also, there was then a small (and since, rapidly declining) percentage of retired workers (primarily union members) who had health insurance benefits “guaranteed” for life, after retirement. For-profit insurance companies always want an ever larger market from which they can cherry-pick people of any age who can pay premiums but are less likely to need health care. And the fear engendered in the population by the specter of a large percentage of people who can’t get comprehensive, medically appropriate health care, is an excellent marketing tool and serves to increase the price that “the market” will bear for the insurance corporations’ products.
      4. When I was quite young, I (like everyone else my age) knew I would never get old and wrinkled, never get seriously sick or injured, and would never die. So I (like most everyone in the United States) have gone for relatively long and relatively short periods of being uninsured, well-insured, and under-insured. That’s why I say that in America, every family is playing Russian roulette with the insurance corporations regarding health care. We get wiser as we get older. But not unless we are willing to learn. And the sooner the better.
      5. Tort reform is NOT a large part of the cost of health care. Defensive medicine, practiced to protect against the possibility of a malpractice suit, is an unnecessary financial cost, as well as exposing a patient to potential harm and intrusive procedures, but the total cost savings possible by completely ending legal liability for malpractice is very small compared to the cost of continuing the administration of our health care system by for-profit insurance corporations. And those legal costs would more easily be reduced, with far more justice for all, with a single-payer administration of health care, than with the present administration by a myriad of for-profit insurance corporations all seeking to reduce or delay or avoid payment for health care.
      6. Socialized medicine works very well right here in America, for starters. Consider Bethesda Medical Center, where our Presidents and their families, and U.S. Senators get the finest medical care in the world. Consider the medical care provide to our active duty military and their families. That’s socialized medicine. There is more socialized medicine in the United States than there is in Canada. Canada has Medicare for all. That’s not socialized medicine. That’s socialized insurance. And that’s what I am proposing, and what HR 676 and S 703 are proposing. Socialized insurance.
      7 – 10. Canadians have consistently polled with a much higher approval rate for their health care system than have citizens of the United States for our health care system, for years. I have never met a Canadian who would willingly change their health care system for ours. But then, I have never talked about the subject with a very wealthy Canadian.

      Comment by clydewinter — September 2, 2009 @ 8:36 am | Reply

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