Sunday, March 20, 2011

Protecting The Money Pit

In one respect the “health care reform” bill is using a howitzer to kill a fly because it is a 7600-page piece of legislation that tries to solve a problem which could actually be solved by simply stating that “health insurance is not the problem.”

Dean Baker says in Beat The Press that “Of course people who are not dumb know that the story of exploding budget deficits is a story of exploding private sector health care costs.” But everyone knows, of course, that Medicare costs cannot be reduced because to do so would be to implement “death panels” and to sacrifice the elderly upon the altar of a balanced budget.

The problem is that we spend more than twice as much as any other developed nation on health care, and we get poorer results. If we were spending $10 per loaf for bread while the rest of the world was eating better quality bread for $5 per loaf we would not tolerate that, but we not only tolerate getting poorer health care for more than twice the cost, but we actually brag about it. “We’re not them.”

Forget the claim that we use too much health care because we are “insulated from the cost” by insurance. We are far less insulated from the cost because, unlike most developed countries, we have copays, deductibles, “maximum allowables” and we pay insurance premiums. In other countries they merely pay taxes and, because they are getting such good value, they don’t complain about taxes. In those countries health care is completely free and they do not “use too much” of it.

The real problem is that in this country health care is a profit center, and a huge one. Billions and billions of dollars of profit are generated from the illness of the American people, and the more illness that the people of this nation suffer the greater the amount of profit that is generated in the health care industry. Health insurance adds to the cost of health care, but it does not create the cost of health care, and it is not even close to being the largest profit center in health care. The drug companies, hospital companies, laboratories and testing centers generate more profit in a week than health insurance companies do all year. Our most successful doctors do not merely make a comfortable living, they become multi-millionaires.

Everywhere in the world there are people who make their living tending the sick, and in many cases they make a very comfortable living in the process. But only in America is the illness and suffering of people seen as a bottomless money pit to be exploited without mercy. For so long as we worship at the altar of that profit, our health care system is going to remain utterly dismal. No amount of legislation is going to change that, particularly when, as this one was, it is designed to protect the money pit.

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