Obama Care vs. Don’t Care

When I was a lad and went to school
I had insurance, so I was cool

If I got hurt I’d go to see
The person in the in-firm-ar-ee

Obama Care 101But, that was back in my college days in the 60s. Back then, also, I had backup insurance because my parents, like many others, had good insurance plans through their union jobs. My dad was a Teamster truck driver, my mom taught elementary school; but, that’s a story for another time.

Not to crank the Nostalgia Wheel too hard, but the health insurance available to college students now is ‘way different than it was then. Just like the health insurance available to working folks is ‘way different. Both, unfortunately, have fallen victim to the morass of higher premiums with steeper co-pays paid for less coverage.

And, since we’re talking about college, it must be time for a quiz. But this one’s simple: all True-False questions, no penalty for guessing.

Heath Care Quiz

  1. Medical bills contribute to half of all personal bankruptcies.
  2. Medicare costs are far higher than private insurance carrier costs.
  3. Military members and their families have no problems with medical insurance.
  4. Except for Medicare, America’s health care system is paid for with private money.
  5. Immigrants and Emergency Room visits by uninsured people are responsible for the high cost of medical care in America.
  6. Over 40,000 deaths annually are associated with lack of health insurance.
  7. Competition among investor-owned, for-profit entities has lowered costs and improved quality in the US.
  8. With a single-payer system, the US could save enough on administrative costs to cover all of the uninsured.
  9. The American Medical Association is a professional standards organization that most doctors belong to.
  10. Obama Care (The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) is a sophisticated form of single-payer insurance coverage.

Done? OK. Number 6 and Number 8 are True; the others are False. More complete answers below.

So, here we sit, caught up in a bitter and long-running brawl between those who want better health coverage, and those who seem to just want to pad their profits. Referring to the American Health Care System as an entity is misleading, since it’s really hundreds of companies and plans. This, naturally, creates a whole industry just to process the different billing systems, with the extra financial costs that go along with it.

One party in this melee is any Federal or State government or representative thereof who dares to speak for those of us down here on the pick-and-shovel level; those of us who sit precariously, just one bad day away from being financially ruined by catastrophic medical bills.

Another party is Physicians for a National Health Program, headquartered in Chicago. This is a group of doctors who advocate a National, single-payer healthcare system. They sponsored H.R. 676 in Congress, a bill to establish a national, single-payer health care system.

SIDEBAR: Single payer is not single supplier. Screams and rants from the media and others about being forced into or out of a particular physician’s care come from ignorance about how the plans work, or are simple felonious assaults on the truth from the AMA and its minions. With single payer you can go to any doctor you want. The bills all go to one place.

Which leads us to the American Medical Association, the other party in the melee. Most of us just sort of assumed it was a professional standards group. As in, somebody who was mostly interested in our health and well being and in supplying us with trained and motivated doctors.

Not so, as it turns out. The AMA seems to be mostly motivated to keep doctor fees up and boost profits for pharmaceutical and insurance companies.

And it has been since the 1930s, when it told its members not to have anything to do with the fledgling health maintenance organizations that were starting up. This led to the AMA being convicted of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act, upheld by the US Supreme Court in 1943.

The AMA stepped up its game, though, in 1945 when it spent $3 million of its members’ money (about $40 million today) and five years making sure President Harry Truman’s reform plans (structured very much like President Obama’s reform plans) were never signed into law. The term “Socialized Medicine,” still used, was coined for this campaign by the AMA’s PR firm, Whitaker and Baxter, and first uttered by Ronald Reagan, who’d been hired by the AMA to appear in an anti-Medicare film.

And, the AMA is still spending lavishly to block any meaningful changes in the way we get our healthcare: over $15 million just in the 2012 election cycle.

So, what about us? We’re stuck with a system (although there isn’t much about it that’s systematic) where 30,000 infants die each year while U.S. health insurance companies increased their profits by 56 percent during 2009 alone.

Where wages increase by less than 4% over the last few years, but health care premiums increased by 87%; where America’s five biggest for-profit health insurance companies ended 2009 with a combined profit of $12.2 billion; where more than two dozen pharmaceutical companies each made over a billion dollars in profits in 2008, and the top executives at the five largest for-profit health insurance companies in the United States received nearly $200 million in total compensation during 2009 alone.

Where tens of thousands of American families are forced into bankruptcy each year by medical bills, only to find that the Bush Administration has made it more difficult to file for bankruptcy.

Obama Care isn’t the best answer we could come up with, but it’s light-years better than what we have.

However there is a ray of hope for those of who need healthcare coverage but are not fabulously wealthy: inmates in the American prison systems get top-tier care at no charge.

But if this path doesn’t appeal to you, then we’re basically stuck with the advice that Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) gave in a speech on the floor of the House: “Don’t get sick. And if you do get sick, die quickly.”

And, really, is the mess we have the best we can do?

Answers to the Quiz

  1. Technically, FALSE. It’s about 62%
  2. FALSE. Medicare operates with 3% overhead (by law). Non-profit insurance (like Kaiser Permanente) has a 16% overhead. Private insurance (like Blue Cross or Aetna) has a higher overhead, at 26-33%.
  3. FALSE. 20% of all bankruptcies filed by veterans, active duty service persons, or their families are for medical bills.
  4. FALSE. 60 percent is paid by taxes. This includes tax subsidies for private insurance (costing the Federal treasury over $180 billion annually); and Government purchases of private health insurance for public employees such as firefighters, police officers, and teachers (over $120 billion annually). In 2005 this was just under 25% of the total spending by US employers for private insurance.
  5. FALSE. The main reasons are inefficiencies.
  6. TRUE.
  7. FALSE.
  8. TRUE. About $350 billion annually.
  9. FALSE. The AMA is primarily a lobbying group focused on keeping incomes up for physicians and insurance companies. Only about 15% of American doctors (217,490 of approximately 954,000 practicing physicians) belong to it.
  10. FALSE. Its main focus is on regulating the health insurance industry and reducing spending in health care. Nothing about single payer.

More information at:

 

John MacMurray

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Image: Bigstock Photo.

About John MacMurray

John MacMurray is a retired junior high teacher from the Fullerton School District. He ran as the Democratic candidate for California's 72nd Assembly District in 2006, 2008, and the Special Election/Runoff election of 2009/2010. He is active in voter registration and candidate support in his community; and in union affairs as a member of CTA/Retired. He lives in La Habra, with Ida, his wife of 37 years.

Comments

  1. #6 is a vague statement without meaningful definition.
    #8 is speculation

    I would say that of the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of projects attempted by government, probably nearly zero cost as LITTLE or save AS MUCH as advocates say… so such speculation is, by way of track record, useless.

    A single payer system could reduce spending on medical easily, by forcing everyone into it, and then simply not buying services.

    Of course the down side is that nobody would get care.

    When I discovered that Canadians come to the US to get care, spending their savings or selling their homes to get what they need, I realized how Canada saves money.

    Since government is responsible for almost all of the high cost of care already, it seems nearly insane to believe that more government will actually do the opposite of what it has done in the past.

    Government controls the insurance industry, invented the HMO, and about a dozen other large scale, heavy-handed involvements that have in each case, caused costs to soar.

    I think this article is ill-informed.

    • jmacmurray says:

      To
      address these points raised, consider the following:
      Point #1: “#6 is a vague statement without meaningful definition.”

      My information comes from a Harvard University study (http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2009/09/new-study-finds-45000-deaths-annually-linked-to-lack-of-health-coverage) which leads
      off by stating, “New study finds 45,000 deaths annually linked to lack of health coverage. Uninsured, working-age Americans have 40 percent higher death risk than privately insured counterparts”

      “Nearly 45,000 annual deaths are associated with lack of health insurance, according to a new study published online today by the American
      Journal of Public Health. That figure is about two and a half times higher
      than an estimate from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2002. . . .”

      By David Cecere, Cambridge Health Alliance
      Thursday, September 17, 2009

      Point #2: “#8 is speculation”

      My information comes from the language of HR-676 (http://www.healthcare-now.org/whats-single-payer/hr-676), which states, “HR 676 Would Save $400 billion. The U.S. could save enough on administrative costs with a single-payer system to cover the uninsured.”

      Point #3: “I would say that of the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of projects attempted by government, probably nearly zero cost as LITTLE or save AS MUCH as advocates say… so such speculation is, by way of track record, useless.

      A single payer system could reduce spending on medical easily, by forcing everyone into it, and then simply not buying services. Of course the down side is that nobody would get care.” . . .

      is hypothetical and needs evidence to support the
      statement.

      Point #4: “When I discovered that Canadians come to the US to get care, spending their savings or selling their homes to get what they need, I
      realized how Canada saves money.”.. .

      needs attribution.

      My research showed the contrary, as in the citation from the Denver Post Debunking Canadian health care myths (http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_12523427#ixzz2IRZgSJgS), which states that, “. . . If a Canadian goes outside of the country to get services that are deemed medically necessary, not experimental, and are not available at home for whatever reason (e.g., shortage or absence of high tech medical equipment; a longer wait for service than is medically prudent; or lack of physician expertise), the provincial government where you live fully funds your care (italics in the original). Those patients who do come to the U.S. for care and pay out of pocket are those who perceive their care to be more urgent than it likely is.”

      Point #5: “Since government is responsible for almost all of the high cost of care already, it seems nearly insane to believe that more government will actually do the opposite of what it has done in the past. Government controls the insurance industry, invented the HMO, and about a dozen other large scale, heavy-handed involvements that have in each case, caused costs to soar.” . . .

      needs attribution.

      My research showed that the high cost of care was attributable to the high
      overhead of the private insurance and pharmaceutical companies, including high salaries paid to the management of those companies. Insurance companies are controlled by the management on behalf of the stockholders.

      What is surprising in this process is that after spending over 70 years and
      tens of millions of dollars fighting every government proposal to keep the
      majority of Americans healthy and productive, the AMA has not simply put up a proposal or proposals of their own.

      Also, since America is a capitalist country, that a business situation so
      fraught with inefficiencies and sloppy management practices has not been a
      large open door for business competition.

  2. Thanks John, all fact based, which of course some will choose to ignore to the bitter end. Note also, 75% of all medical bankruptcies were folks who HAD insurance! Also, big Pharma is making in excess of 3 to 4 times the median profits of all the Fortune 500 companies. I think we know who the real robber barons are in healthcare. Just sayin’.

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