hearts and minds

March 9, 2010

The Solution to the Health Care Crisis is Staring Us In The Face

Filed under: Class warfare,Ethics & lobbyists,Health care crisis — Hearts & Minds @ 4:30 pm

You and I and virtually everyone knows how important Medicare has been to the health and the economic well-being of every American family over the last couple of generations. Where would our families be without Medicare? Where would your family be? What would have happened to your elders, in this and in the previous couple of generations? What would have happened to your life style and to your children’s futures – if Medicare for elders and the disabled had not been signed into law some 45 years ago? Can you even imagine what your family life would be like without Medicare today?

I’ll tell you, if you can’t – Life in almost all American families would be cold-blooded. We’d have agonizingly difficult decisions to make. Should we provide health care, and even continuation of life, to the elders and disabled members of our families? Or should we provide basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, education … and health care, for the younger family members (to say nothing of rainy-day savings, retirement planning, and amenities, luxuries, and vacations). Uncounted millions of families would have experienced severe privations, and bankruptcy, had the insurance corporations, and their corporate and political allies, been successful in preventing the Medicare bill from becoming law 45 years ago. (Be sure to investigate which politicians and members of Congress, of which political parties, opposed the creation of Medicare at that critical moment, and which politicians, of which political parties, have tried, over the last five decades, to discredit, cripple, or kill Medicare, using a variety of false pretenses, before you swallow without question their successors’ deceptions and lies right now.) Unfortunately, and tragically, those corporate and well-heeled opponents of Medicare did succeed in preventing us from getting Medicare to apply to everyone back in 1965. And things began going downhill since then, for those not protected by the Medicare administration of health care.

With the growing health care crisis we have today, the simple, obvious, solution is to (belatedly) strengthen and expand Medicare and extend it, with no co-pays and no deductibles, to cover ALL Americans. The cost of doing that is LESS than what we are currently paying for this system that is being administered by insurance corporations for their own profits.

The two hyperlinks in the previous paragraph link to my first two-part series examining the health care crisis, researched and published fully seven years ago. The particular facts and statistics supporting those conclusions have only worsened, and made the case stronger, in the intervening years. For example, in the last sentence of the opening paragraph of the article “Cost, Quality, and Choice in Health Care in the U.S.“, the latest peer-reviewed research has established that (corrected for factors other than insurance coverage) not 25 percent, but 40 percent higher fatality rates occur among those without health insurance, and that not 18,000, but now 45,000 Americans die annually due to the lack of health insurance. Those statistics are made even more ominous when one realizes that often in America (and only in America!) illness or injury results in loss of both employment and health insurance, which results in denial of needed appropriate health care. So, drop your illusions. Because you happen to have what you think is “good” health insurance now, doesn’t change the fact that you and virtually ALL American families are playing Russian roulette with our insurance corporation administered for-profit, employer-based health care system.

Medicare is neither a government takeover, nor is it a drastic makeover of health care in America.  
Medicare is simply the people taking the administration of our health care away from insurance corporations.
Those corporations have failed miserably to provide comprehensive health care security.
Allowing insurance corporations to inefficiently and incompetently administer the health care system, for their own profits, is costing us all three to four hundred billion dollars wasted annually, and 45,000 lives lost tragically every year.
The fact that Enhanced Medicare for All (HR 676) has been denied even public hearings in Congress by BOTH parties, is proof positive that we do not have government that is of, by, and for the people. The stark, simple truth is that we have government that is by and for the corporations and the lobbyists. Shame on Congress. And shame on us if we Americans don’t straighten this out.
It’s high time for us to say to the insurance corporations who have appointed themselves the gatekeepers of our families health care, “You won’t allow our Congress to hold public hearings about strengthening Medicare and making it available to all? You won’t even allow our Congress to put a decent public option in the compromised health insurance reform bill to let anyone chose Medicare instead of one of your for-profit policies? YOU’RE FIRED!
It’s time for us to say to any elected legislator, and any political party, that protects and defends insurance corporation control of our health care, and does not demand public hearings on the 30 page bill that would strengthen and extend Medicare to ALL Americans, with no co-pays and no deductibles, “No public hearings on Medicare for All? Not even a vote for the record? And not even a public option to choose Medicare instead of mandated for-profit insurance? YOU’RE FIRED!

That’s the solution to the health care crisis. It’s staring us right in the face. It’s an administrative system that has been proven right here in America (as well as in all the rest of the industrialized world) to improve health care outcomes, reduce costs, strengthen the economy, and promote the general welfare. Obviously, the best way to protect Medicare for elders and the disabled is to strengthen Medicare and to extend it to cover ALL Americans. Medicare for all would eliminate the crazy quilt patchwork of health care administration we have now, or that the Congress is thinking of imposing, including employer mandates and you being stuck with your spouse’s boss’s choice of insurance policy (as long as she hangs onto both that job and you). Medicare for All would make unnecessary all the band-aid federal government programs like COBRA and Medicaid and SCHIP and state programs like BadgerCare, and even city programs that try to close some of the gaping loopholes that people are falling through. HR 676 would cover everyone in every family for life. The cost of such comprehensive health care guaranteed for all, administered by Medicare would be no more than the loophole-ridden, patchwork, obscenely inefficient administration of health care is currently costing us. And it would cost way less than the currently proposed crippled “reform” in Congress that would not even provide a sham of a “public option” as an alternative to the wily, corrupting, deadly greedy insurance corporate gatekeepers of our health care system.

Click on the pnhp link and/or the peaceteam link to conveniently and quickly remind our elected officials that health care (as well as our government) should be of, by, and for the people, not by and for the corporations and the lobbyists.



  1. 🙂 thank for this article

    Comment by postmunnet — March 10, 2010 @ 9:40 am | Reply

  2. Thanks for a good seedling, Clyde. Maybe someone will listen.
    Combined with the FairTax bill,one could imagine a wildly simple life without government paperwork and where the actual costs of the things we buy (like fast food) would be reflected in the price at the cash register. Eat fat, pay fat. Grow a garden and pay nothing and be healthier.

    Though, I am curious how the 45,000 number stacks up against the number of people killed by medical mistakes. We may actually be doing ourselves a favor by not being able to go to a doctor.

    Those darned statistics again. 😉
    # 44,000 to 98,000 deaths annually from medical errors (Institute of Medicine)
    # 225,000 deaths annually from medical errors including 106,000 deaths due to “nonerror adverse events of medications
    ” (Starfield)
    # 180,000 deaths annually from medication errors and adverse reactions (Holland)

    Comment by Dan C — March 11, 2010 @ 4:26 pm | Reply

  3. on the mark!

    Comment by Marjie T. — March 11, 2010 @ 5:05 pm | Reply

  4. Absolutely superb solution to our nation’s healthcare crisis, Clyde. But remember what Winston Churchill once said, “America will always do the right thing, but only after everything else fails.”

    Importantly, the very politicians that should be protecting our country’s health care needs are in the pockets of the insurance companies that want exactly the opposite, and they’ve given $46 million in campaign contributions to ensure that fixes are not made.

    As well, as a former business owner I was seeing 17% per year increases in health care costs… money that I would have much preferred spending on new employees and expanding my business. The Medicare-for-all system would be the best corporate bailout ever, and it would go to 100% of employers rather than just the bankers. But the political money from bankers far outstrips that from small businesses. Go figure.

    Comment by MoneyedPoliticians — March 11, 2010 @ 7:35 pm | Reply

  5. The problem with the current debate over health care reform is that there is an underlying assumption that is never stated. The debate is almost exclusively about who should pay for health care and almost never about the system itself. No one ever questions whether this system, whether in the U.S., Europe or any other “developed nation,” is at all sustainable, even if we do manage come up with all the money needed to pay for it.

    Our technology dependent health care system could not exist without the energy and resources it consumes, energy and resources that have peaked and are in decline. We need to change the debate from “how do we pay for health care” to the more critical question of “how do we provide health care” or the even more fundamental question, “how do we stay healthy.”

    The health care system we have created, like every other system in industrial society, would not exist if we had not begun to tap into a billion years of solar energy stored as fossil fuels starting in 1765 with the invention of Watt’s steam engine.

    Our health care system is extremely energy intensive. Think about all the diagnostic tools and their need for an uninterupted supply of high voltage electricity. Think about ambulances or Fight for Life. Think about multi-story, climate controled hospitals. Think about all the plastics used and disposed of daily by medical institutions and practioners of all kinds. Think about almost any component of the current system in any depth and it will become obvious that the entire system itself as currently constituted can not be sustained for much longer.

    We need to refocus this debate. We need to think of how we will provide for people’s health without most of the wonders of the industrial age. We need to look to places like Cuba rather than Canada or Europe for examples of what can be done with far fewer inputs. We need to think of how we will preserve the knowledge of the human body that we have accumulated in the last 300 years for use by future generations. We need to go back to basics and change the general expectation that we can find a cure for anything or even that someone will always be there to take care of you when you get sick, and recover the knowledge and skills needed to simply stay healthy.

    Even if Congress managed to pass “Single Payer” or “Medicare for All” it would only be a short rest stop on a much longer road. We need to start planning that journey now. The longer we wait, the fewer options and pathways we will have later.

    Comment by Bruce H — March 17, 2010 @ 9:28 am | Reply

  6. Thanks, Bruce. An argument that is always forgotten.
    We have spent the last 100 years replacing people doing the ‘drudgery’ of growing food by hand with cheap oil and pesticides that put them out of work and financed schools that sent them off to the Big Cities to ‘Succeed’.
    Now that they are all fat, unemployed, and choking down genetically modified corn in ‘foodstuffs’, the government is looking around and wondering how to do more of the same things they did in the past (subsidizing cheap food and energy).
    Haiti is the best proof that cheap food doesn’t help anyone. Clinton admits that forcing them to drop tariffs and buy our cornstuffs was a big mistake that is killing people now because they don’t have the ability to grow their own food. They chose cheap over skilled and became dependent on handouts to buy cheap food. There is no media discussion of what those same policies have done internally to the U.S. in destroying our village and township economies.

    Comment by Dan C — March 21, 2010 @ 8:38 pm | Reply

    • To Bruce and Dan, you are skating on the thin edge of irrelevancy with your comments. The article on which you are commenting is about the health care crisis in the United States, and efforts to reform the administration of that health care which is currently controlled by mega-corporations to maximize their control and profits.

      Global war, climate change, economic disasters, diminishing fossil fuel supplies, and Armageddon scenarios, are not rational reasons to argue against a simple, reasonable reform to the health care system.

      The closing sentence in your opening paragraph, Bruce, demonstrates that you have not read my articles on the health care crisis, and that you have swallowed at least one of the most pervasive, most fallacious myths that is preventing us from getting a grip on the health care crisis – the myth that it would require more resources to administer the provision of health care more equitably and efficiently and provide better health care outcomes for all.

      The issues of flawed food production and distribution, and the question of a life style and a social organization of modern civilization which could be healthier, are undoubtedly worthy and important questions. But those questions do not obviate or dismiss the need for reform in the administration of the professional health care we all need.

      Comment by clydewinter — March 23, 2010 @ 2:48 am | Reply

  7. It’s not always the system, Clyde. Fully half of the problem is psychological with the people involved, both in the demand for doctors, and the availability of doctors. There is nothing stopping the doctors and nurses from stepping out of the system and forming their own health care system without the government, setting prices based on their expertise rather than their access to equipment and drugs, and simply ignoring the paperwork and insurance companies. It’s called a “Cooperative”, and it is one option, but they won’t do it because they, as well as everyone in this country, are individual little corporations. We talk about the Big Business jerks who “run everything”, but the reality is that the rich get richer because WE GIVE THEM OUR MONEY. The doctors are controlled by insurance companies because we expect something for nothing (medical costs paid far above what we pay in premiums), and the illusion of insurance is to promise just that. That pie-in-the-sky attitude is what takes us to religion, food, government, and all of our belief systems that are based on a lack of sense-able reality. The reality is that people don’t want to pay for the expensive care they receive when they live their lives eating Twinkies and rat poison (nutrasweet), while they also want their doctors to be from exclusive schools (they exclude anyone without a lot of money), and spend money they don’t have on crap they don’t need and demand the right to ride motorcycles drunk without wearing helmets.
    We get the health care costs we deserve when we live like the idiots we are.

    Comment by Dan C — March 23, 2010 @ 7:37 am | Reply

    • The problem in health care that I am focusing on is the administration of health care in the United States, and that is, indeed, a “system”.

      The rich get richer because they TAKE our money through such schemes as tax policies and corporate welfare and loopholes that they procure through legalized bribery corrupting our government representatives and policies. See my article, “Social Engineering for Wealth” for a concise summary with references.

      Nobody sane wants to “beat” the health insurance companies by getting more health care than they paid for in premiums. Getting a lot of health care means that you have suffered a lot of sickness and/or injury. Duh, that’s not winning.

      Your implication throughout, Dan, is that our health care crisis is primarily due to everyday people being just way too stupid. But then, my friend, you cannot avoid drawing the inevitable conclusion that people in the United States must be way more stupid in their personal life choices than the citizens of all three dozen other modern industrialized nations in the world that each have systematically measured health care outcomes that are substantially better than ours in the U.S., and that have per capita health care costs (including administrative costs) that average HALF the per capita costs in the United States. And all three dozen of those “foreign” countries provide universal, comprehensive health care to all their citizens, guaranteed for life.

      You seem to harbor way more contempt and blame for your fellow Americans than you do for the trans-national corporations that are sucking all the oxygen out of our democracy experiment, while bleeding dry every life form, including human, they can get their greedy hands on.

      Your backhand also widely misses the mark. In a strictly personal conversation between us, I once confessed that when I first got my motorcycle, I realized that I loved riding bare-headed, drunk, under a full moon. But I also quickly recognized how stupid and dangerous that was, and have not repeated that folly. And it is completely untrue that I have ever, or would ever “demand the right to ride motorcycles drunk”. Regardless, there are people who do drive drunk, and those people do not only reside in the United States. There are irresponsible citizens of France who drive drunk, also, but that does not prevent the French from having the best health care outcomes in the world, and spending half as much per person for their professional health care system as do we. The French system of health care administration takes care of all victims of drunk drivers, including life-long treatment and follow up care, if need be, regardless of the age, status, or personal wealth of the victim or the victim’s family, and regardless of whether the perpetrator had any or adequate liability insurance at the time of the incident. Do you and your family prefer playing Russian roulette with the insurance corporations, et al, loading the chambers and spinning the cylinder, and paying a premium for the privilege, to boot?

      Strengthening Medicare, and extending it to cover all of us, of any age, is simply a better – a much better, and a much less costly way to administer professional health care, than the inefficient, ineffective deadly for-profit corporate way it is administered now in the United States. But I’m talking about a solution for a different health care problem than that which you chose to focus on which is that people shouldn’t eat Twinkies, drive drunk without helmets, and “give” all their money to corporations.

      Comment by clydewinter — March 23, 2010 @ 4:02 pm | Reply

  8. “Nobody sane wants to “beat” the health insurance companies by getting more health care than they paid for in premiums. Getting a lot of health care means that you have suffered a lot of sickness and/or injury. Duh, that’s not winning.”

    EVERYBODY sane wants to get more for their money than they pay for. That’s business.
    Risk distribution is not done to help people: it’s done to help them be relieved of their money (unless done by the people themselves with coops or government) while they think they are getting the better deal (“you can’t cheat an honest man”).

    “Your backhand also widely misses the mark. In a strictly personal conversation between us, I once confessed that when I first got my motorcycle, I realized that I loved riding bare-headed, drunk, under a full moon.”

    That was not a backhand comment about you and your personal stories. I don’t remember such a tale from you. I often use the helmetless as an example of stupidity when I talk to people. My mother worked in the ER for a while. Wisconsin always reminds me of drunks and Harleys because there is an drunken idiot bar (oops, I mean a ‘biker’ bar) 1 mile from my house.

    I was not commenting to defend the corporate system. Just commenting on the fact that what we have is because of the actions we take and the resulting ‘business’ that our actions create a demand for. Helmetless riders create a demand for emergency neurosurgery, rather than general practitioners who might tell us to wear a helmet and eat vegetables. The demand for emergency surgery is also created by wars for oil to get us energy to drive to jobs to promise to pay money to buy more motorcycles.

    Now that the boomers are all getting sick and dying, they want all of the medical care that they didn’t pay for while partying at their Underwater Basketweaving Universities. The insurance companies and the government which the boomers sold to them are more than happy to tax our grandchildren to provide it through the companies that employ them. Americans are spoiled children in the playground who refused to play by the natural world’s rules and their corporate parents will buy them anything they ask for as long as they promise to create more children sometime in the future who will be trained in the same paradigm of consumption.

    Humans are at a crossroads of learning enough to see where they are going, and now must choose between self-ishness and their future usefulness to everything else. The bolder choice when among selfish people is to choose the latter. Are we too tired to be that bold, or are our “representatives” using our belief in their system to steal even more from us?

    Comment by Dan C — March 26, 2010 @ 12:33 pm | Reply

    • Drinking and driving (or riding) clearly poses a hazard and potential tragedy to everyone on the road (as I said) and should not be tolerated.

      I’m not sure it’s true that riding cycles without a helmet causes more health care costs than riding with a helmet, Dan. The unofficial medical shorthand for a cycle accident victim brought alive to the ER who was not wearing a helmet is GFPO – “good for parts only”. An accident victim wearing a helmet is much more likely to survive the accident, thus potentially requiring much more medical care. If we don’t have a decent study to answer that question, your implication that riders without helmets drive up health care costs more than riders with helmets is, I think, just an hypothesis.

      A second factor strongly affecting the likelihood of personal injury is the way in which riders operate and pay attention. A person riding carefully, but not wearing a helmet may be much less likely to require costly medical care (or pose a hazard to others on the road) than his or her opposite.

      A third factor affecting the cost of personal injury to cycle riders is the awareness and alertness of other drivers. Inattentive, careless, or otherwise impaired automobile drivers may be responsible for the great majority of the total cost of personal injuries to cycle riders – whether or not they are wearing helmets or other protective clothing.

      It is hard to understand your logic about insurance and personal motivation for profit. You seem to believe that “EVERYBODY sane” who purchases health insurance would naturally be impelled to seek circumstances and make claims that result in payments to providers of health care that are greater than the amount of the premiums they have paid, in order “to get more for their money than they paid for”. You seem to have a bleak and (frankly) irrational (and possibly misanthropic) view of human nature on this particularly beautiful Spring day, Dan.

      Comment by clydewinter — March 26, 2010 @ 2:41 pm | Reply

  9. First, I have read a number of your previous posts on health care. My point is simply that even if we were able to do everything you support, it is only a temporary fix. The larger issue that I am trying to point to is that in the long run, probably just 20 years or less, even the system that you envision will fail. As will the systems in the three dozen other countries currently ahead of us in health care outcomes. We know that because we know that our Industrial Civilization can not continue indefinitely. But you, like most everyone else, seem to assume that it will.

    This is not a matter of opinion. It is a matter of science. I’m not talking about fallacious myths. I’m talking about the laws of physics and chemistry and the principles and theories of geology, biology and ecology. The same sciences that helped create all the facets of our “modern” life that we take for granted (the cars, the aircraft, the electronics, the Internets, the pesticides, the drugs, the MRI machines) is also telling us, and has been telling us for over a century, that we are now reaching some very basic limits. Do I need to enumerate them?

    It should be obvious that a mode of civilization based on continuous growth and expansion can not continue forever on a finite planet. It will be replaced by something sustainable and resilient, but not overnight. There will be a transition period. We will need lead time. The sooner we begin to plan for what comes next, the less destruction, chaos, pain and suffering will be inflicted on our children and grand children, pain and suffering far greater than any experienced today as the result of our inadequate health care system.

    Comment by Bruce H — March 30, 2010 @ 9:41 am | Reply

    • Everything political is temporary. Even geology, such as mountain ranges and land/sea margins, and cosmology (the existence of the solar system itself) is temporary. Your point is certainly well taken (and I concur completely) that “continuous growth and expansion can not continue forever on a finite planet”, and I agree that we are certainly at a critical turning point.

      The smaller issue, that I continue to insist upon (in this series of articles focusing specifically on the health care crisis in America) is that (regardless of the resource base, and sustainability of a certain lifestyle or level of consumption) a health care system should be administered to serve human needs for health and family well-being – to “promote the general welfare”, for those among us who assert we are all about defending the Constitution. It should not be administered to fulfill the corporate desire for maximizing profits. Such a health care administration would be best suited to deal with changes, including catastrophic changes such as you postulate, as well as changing technology.

      By the way, Bruce, you are welcome to provide a url address to a web site of your choice if you wish to provide readers with more info on the subject you are introducing here.

      Comment by clydewinter — March 30, 2010 @ 11:30 am | Reply

  10. There is certainly a great deal to learn about this topic. I really like all the points you have made

    Comment by haarlem oil — January 30, 2014 @ 10:54 am | Reply

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