Thursday, June 22, 2017

For-Profit Health Care Is a Dysfunctional Rip-off

by William Rivers Pitt

The health insurance industry, for the most part, is the Mob painted over with a veneer of legitimacy. They're a protection racket. The Mob got people to pay by offering "protection" for your restaurant or store, and would burn it down if you didn't pay up. With the insurance industry, your body is the store, and as all flesh is inevitably weak, your store will eventually burn down, taking your financial stability with it unless you pay the insurance middleman in full. Nice health you got there, be a shame if something happened to it.  That's only if they don't turn down your claim because of a typo on your claim form, which is hardly rare. I had ICU nurses telling me insurance horror stories that made one wistful for the ringing sound of guillotines in the town square.
The problem is the fact that health care in the United States is a for-profit industry, like petroleum speculation or automobile manufacture. It's a few people making a lot of money off of sick people, and after so many years of this being the status quo, they have the political system wired to keep it that way.
The core issue, as usual, is the loot. They're after the loot, period, end of file, and if your health suffers as a consequence, well, that's what they call in Wisconsin "hard cheese."
Of course, a justification for genuine change and true reform is not difficult to find. You probably heard it first while in grammar school, right there in the Declaration of Independence, the hood ornament of our national idea. "We hold these truths to be self-evident," it reads, "that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness.
There is no life without health.
There is no liberty without health.
There is no pursuit of happiness without health.
Health care is an unalienable right, up there with freedom of speech, and it is front and center in our founding document. Treating it as anything else, and especially treating it as a cash machine fed by illness and injury, should be considered a criminal act. Ultimately, the solution is not to be found by expanding the reach of the insurance industry, or by any other "reform" that keeps health care a for-profit phenomenon. The solution, as it turns out, is simplicity itself, and has been adopted by a vast majority of the world's developed nations to excellent effect.
According to the organization Physicians for a National Health Care Program:
Single-payer national health insurance, also known as "Medicare for all," is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health care financing, but the delivery of care remains largely in private hands. Under a single-payer system, all residents of the US would be covered for all medically necessary services, including doctor, hospital, preventive, long-term care, mental health, reproductive health care, dental, vision, prescription drug and medical supply costs.
The program would be funded by the savings obtained from replacing today's inefficient, profit-oriented, multiple insurance payers with a single streamlined, nonprofit, public payer, and by modest new taxes based on ability to pay. Premiums would disappear; 95 percent of all households would save money. Patients would no longer face financial barriers to care such as co-pays and deductibles, and would regain free choice of doctor and hospital. Doctors would regain autonomy over patient care.
The main ingredient that is required to see this happen is courage. Courage to face down the insurance industry and their formidable lobby. Courage to convince, or vote out, politicians who are financially invested in the current system by way of campaign contributions from the industry they have spent so long protecting. Courage to embark upon a sea change that would alter the very face of the nation forever, and for the better.
Politicians trying to sell you on the idea that ours is the greatest health care system in the world have at least one part right: Our doctors, nurses and hospitals rank with the best on the planet. If you want to see the very face of compassionate determination and professional excellence, find an ICU nurse and thank them for me, because ICU nurses did nothing less than save my life. Our health care system is a tangled, inefficient, hyper-expensive mess, but many of our health professionals are stars. To free us from the for-profit system is to turn them loose, and believe me, we will all be the better for it.
Do you have that little card in your wallet? Will you have it tomorrow, or next year? You will get sick, as I did, if you have not already. It will likely be amazingly expensive. We are all breathing pre-existing conditions who will get sick or hurt at some point; there is no avoiding this axiomatic truth. Health care is a right, not a privilege, and it is time to claim it as such. Let us relegate the for-profit health care industry to the dustbin of history and seize our right to health -- without which we can never wholly claim our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Let's make it a reality for everyone. 

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