Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Healthcare on life support

I just wanted to add my two cents to the healthcare article that SJ wrote. He always says it better than I do, but here are my thoughts. As we go to sleep tonight there are at least 48 million Americans without healthcare. I have only one question to ask to the 250 million Americans who are fortunate enough to have healthcare. Is that okay with you? Our current healthcare system was basically set up under the Nixon administration with the promise of providing quality healthcare to all Americans. Yet how can it be that more than twenty five years after the Nixon administration opened the gates for HMO's to decide the level of medical care we should receive, that there are more Americans without healthcare than ever.

There is a simple answer to that question. Medical coverage is now a matter of dollar and cents. The medical insurance companies are in the business of making money. Their bottom line is that they only make money if they take in more than they pay out. That means that they would like your insurance premiums to be more than the medical care that you are provided with for that year. Judging by immense profits that the medical insurance companies have been amassing over the last two decades, they have been doing a very good job at making sure the ledger balances in their favor.

When the former Fed chairman, Alan Greenspan was in front of a Congressional committee trying to explain what went wrong with Wall St., he said "I thought they would do the right thing". What he meant was that he thought that the people whose only job was to make as much money as they possibly could, would also take it upon themselves to police their own greed. That was akin to letting wolves loose in a hen house and expecting them to make sure that they left enough chickens alive so that everyone would have omelets the next morning. The health of Americans is now a "for-profit" enterprise. The insurance companies "do the right thing" by making sure that their profits are as big as possible. After all, they have stock holders to answer to. The health and well being of their policy holders is not their primary concern. They have thousands of people hard at work right now, trying to find a way to deny needed medical procedures for their policy holders. The system is now set up so that less medical help you get, the more money they get.

The "for-profit" system is what those fortunate enough to have coverage have to endure. The almost 50 million without health insurance have a different set of problems. While having insurance is not a guarantee that you won't end up tens of thousands of dollars in debt because of uncovered "experimental" treatments, or denied claims, or non pre-approved emergencies, but at least you usually get treated at the hospital. Try to show up at a hospital without medical coverage and see how you get treated. Hospitals have been known to try and ship people to other hospitals for emergency care because they don't have medical coverage. They have been known to put sick people in cabs and drop them off in the middle of the city because they don't have medical coverage. There is no such thing as preventative medicine for those without health insurance. A simple infection can turn deadly without proper treatment, but under the current system, those without coverage are almost destined for the more serious situation.

At the end of the day, the question has to be, what kind of country do we want to be? Do we want to be a country where we let children and the elderly die because of the lack of affordable medical care? Do we want to be a country where possible life saving treatments are denied because they hurt the bottom line? Our healthcare system is broken. The insurance companies, along with the American Medical Association and the Pharmaceutical companies seem hell bent and milking every penny possible from the pockets of the American workers. The lobbyists for the "Triangle of Terror" (that's my trademark, by the way), spend tens of millions of dollars every year to make sure that our representatives in Washington keep the gravy train rolling. I have always believed that we as a people are better than our current healthcare system would reflect. We are generous when people are in need. We spring to the aid of neighbors during time of crisis. We help strangers half way around the world that we will never meet. I simply cannot believe that the majority of Americans are happy with a system that holds human life as cheaply as our healthcare system does.

Is Universal healthcare possible in America? The answer is obviously yes. The American people cannot be afraid to do what's right. The opponents of healthcare reform will say that the government will now be deciding whether you get to have surgery. They will say that you will have to wait much longer for life saving treatments such as transplants. They will say that we are not socialist and that providing healthcare to everyone is a socialist idea. They will try and convince the majority of Americans that they currently get treated like they wealthy do and that reform will lead to them being treated like the poor are. If Americans were to closely examine the current system they would realize that they are already being treated like the poor. Healthcare reform is absolutely necessary for us to move forward as a world leader in this new century. The health of our citizens should not be one of those things that gets worse as time goes on, but somehow it is. We rank behind every developed nation in western hemisphere in life expectancy. We rate no better than in the thirties in overall infant mortality rates. We can do better and we must do better. There is a better way, we just have to demand it.


SJ said...

"48 million Americans" uninsured...
Jesus, what is wrong with us?

Jack Jodell said...

Michael, you raise some vitally important points and questions here. As far as I'm concerned, "for-profit" health insurance prioritizes profit over health care, is slanted in favor of those who can pay its ridiculously and unjustifiably high premiums, is inherently immoral, and should be forbidden altogether. That millions of dollars which could be used for universal coverage, or even better coverage, are being used instead for deceitful ad campaigns and very bloated executive salaries is a crime that should be punishable by firing squad!