Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Health Care in the United States is Not a Right – it's a “Racket.”

by Dee Newman

Health insurance companies are businesses. Their goal is to make money. And believe me, the healthcare industry generates enormous profits while their top executives live extravagant and lavish lifestyles.

They do not care about the health and well being of the American people. They care about only one thing – profit margins.

Health care in the United States is not a right – it's a “racket.”

When we purchase medical insurance from the American insurance industry, our goal is to pay money up front to protect ourselves from paying a whole lot more later if we get injured or sick.

However, if what we pay insurance companies is less than what we cost them, then they will not make money. In fact, they will lose money.

In the relationship between consumer-insurer, either the consumer will pay too much up front and not get enough value for their dollar, or the insurer will pay too much for the consumer’s care and will lose money.

In theory, it is a gamble for both the consumer and the insurance industry. In reality, the for-profit insurance industry always wins and they win on a scale that is almost beyond human comprehension – enough so, that they are able to pay their CEO’s and executives multi-million dollar salaries and bonuses, record after record profits for their shareholders, while spending nearly a million and half dollars a day (A DAY) to lobby congress in order to prevent any reform in the system, as well as, millions more on TV ads to try and convince folks like you and me with lies and scare tactics that the present system does not need to be reformed.

A lot of the money has also gone into contributions to politicians of both parties to try to delay congressional action. According to Wendall Potter, the once top Public Relations executive for Cigna, “they [the insurance industry] know that if they keep the process going for months, and turn it into a big mess, then the political impetus behind it will lessen."

And, where do you think all that money comes from that they use to pay their executives and shareholders, their lobbyists, their cronies in congress, etc? That’s right – it comes from you and me, from the premiums we pay them to provide us with health care when we need it.

Over 30% of the premiums paid to health insurance companies go to things that have nothing to do with providing health care to the American people – exorbitant executive pay and bonuses, lobbying, sales and marketing, extremely high administrative costs, and excessive profits for their shareholders.

Wendall Potter began his testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation by saying, “I know from personal experience that members of Congress and the public have good reason to question the honesty and trustworthiness of the insurance industry. Insurers make promises they have no intention of keeping, they flout regulations designed to protect consumers, and they make it nearly impossible to understand — or even to obtain — information we need. As you hold hearings and discuss legislative proposals over the coming weeks, I encourage you to look very closely at the role for-profit insurance companies play in making our health care system both the most expensive and one of the most dysfunctional in the world. I hope you get a real sense of what life would be like for most of us if the kind of so-called reform the insurers are lobbying for is enacted.”

With testimony like this, it is beyond my understanding how anyone, especially those folks who are suppose to be representing the interests of the American people, could defend the present system and call it the “best in the world.”

Unfortunately, the insurance industry has convince a significant number of Americans that a government run health insurance plan will provide us with a quality of care that is substandard.

But, that's exactly what we have now.

Nearly 50 million Americans do not have any health care insurance at all and millions more are inadequately insured.

The number of uninsured Americans is growing (14,000 people a day), premiums are skyrocketing, and more people are being denied coverage every day. It should be a moral imperative for congress to make sure that every American has access to high quality health care.

The sad and disturbing truth is the U.S. health care system is both outrageously expensive and inadequate. The United States must bring its health care costs under control and make it possible for every person in the country to have access to affordable health care.

Despite spending more on health care per person, per year than any other nation in the world, the United States lags far behind other industrialized nations on most major health care statistics – such as life expectancy, infant mortality, and immunization rates.

In comparative study after study, report after report, the statistics show that the United States ranks at or near the bottom of all the major industrialized nations in the delivery of health care to its citizens.

For example: among the 191 member nations included in a World Health Organization study, the U.S. health care system only ranked first in cost and expenditure, but a dismal 37th in overall performance and 72nd in overall levels of health. And each day it continues to get worse.

The CIA World Factbook ranks the United States 41st in the world for lowest infant mortality rate and only 45th for highest total life expectancy.

Overall, the United States ranks a depressing and deplorable 67th (right behind Botswana) in immunizations for its children.

The latest report of the highly regarded Common Wealth Fund ranked the U.S. health care system dead last or next to last on most measures of performance, including quality of care and access.

According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the United States is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not have a universal health care system.

On top of all of this – preventable medical mistakes are one of the leading causes of death in the United States? An estimated one million people are seriously injured by medical errors during hospital treatment each year and 120,000 people die from the results of these injuries.

It may be true that certain hospitals in the United States are the best in the world, but only for those of us who can afford them. Unfortunately, too many of us cannot. We are only an accident or sudden illness away from bankruptcy.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of people are denied the ability to purchase health insurance in this country. They apply for and are willing to pay for insurance, but have their applications rejected.

The reason they get turned down is because the for-profit insurance industry believes they are too big of a risk to insure – that, in the long run, these folks will cost them money and reduce their profit margins.

When we fill out a health insurance application we are asked to specify certain lifestyles choices and conditions. If, in that process, we disclose some pre-existing condition or lifestyle choice that the insurance company determines to be too risky, then they will most assuredly turn us down.

The insurance companies belong to a group called the Medical Information Bureau. MIB (not the government) keeps tabs on all of us, at least, those of us who have ever had health insurance or seen a doctor, including any diagnoses we may have had. When we apply for health insurance, insurance companies ask MIB to checkout our health histories. If we withhold information from our applications, the MIB report will more than likely reveal it anyway.

There are changes on the horizon – changes that the for-profit health insurance industry is spending millions and millions of dollars to try to prevent. If the health care reform legislation being considered by Congress is passed, insurers will no longer be allowed to deny coverage to those of us with pre-existing conditions. This measure alone will cost insurance companies hundreds of millions of dollars.

The present health insurance system is stacked against us. It is intentionally and maliciously complicated, complex and full of ambiguity, engineered so that even those of us with coverage can have it withdrawn at anytime.

This past July three of the nation’s healthcare CEO’s were questioned by a congressional subcommittee about their companies "rescinsion" policies. When they were asked point blank if they would end their companies policy of dropping coverage and liability for expensive claims except in clear cases of intentional fraud, each them simply said: "No."

“Rescission” is supposed to protect against fraud and to help keep insurance premium rates down. However, though millions of Americans have had their health insurance rescinded for bogus reasons, the rates have continued to rise and rise exorbitantly.

In reality, "Rescission" is where insurance companies hire people to figure out ways to deny us coverage when we get sick, even though we have paid them to provide us coverage for years.

In their relentless search for profits the health care insurance industry has miserably failed the American people. They have had chance after chance to mend their ways, but their behavior has only gotten worse.

They have continued to push up costs, buy politicians and refuse to pay for coverage when many of us have actually gotten sick. In his revealing testimony before the Senate, Wendall Potter said, "I worked as a senior executive at health insurance companies and I saw how they confuse their customers and dump the sick: all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors."

At this point the for-profit health insurance industry and its conservative republican attack-dogs seem to be winning the fight against health care reform – labeling reform as "socialist" and warning ordinary Americans that government bureaucrats, not doctors, will determine the kind of care they will receive. They are misrepresenting the facts, telling the American people that reform will be paid for by massive tax increases on ordinary Americans and that others will have their current healthcare plans taken away.

The Blue-dog-Democratic in congress, fearful of their conservative voters, have also done their share of obstructing health care reform – successfully delaying all Senate legislation until after the summer recess, enabling the conservative attack machine to go into high gear with its lies and scare tactics. The industry is hoping that the loss of momentum will kill the legislation altogether.

As I have said countless times before in this blog, contrary to what opponents fear and believe, single payer, universal health care is not “socialized medicine.” It is a health care payment system. It is not a health care delivery system and is no more socialized medicine than the public funding of the defense department is socialized defense.

The sad truth is – the problem with President Obama's health care reform plan isn't socialism, it's capitalism.

If the for-profit health insurance industry and their conservatives shills are allowed to lie and call universal health care "socialized medicine" and get away with it in the media, then those of us who support a single-payer system should, at the very least, be able to defend the truth and reveal the private for-profit healthcare industry for what it is – a depraved bloodsucking parasitic money making machine that is willing to say and do anything to continue to make a profit off human suffering and pain.

Private health insurance companies are motivated by one thing and one thing only – profit. They are in business to make money, that's it – nothing else.

They are not concerned about the health and well-being of the American people, let alone, to provide preventative care.

To them – a pound of cure is a whole lot more profitable than an ounce of prevention.

If a single-payer government health care insurance system were to pass congress they would lose big time. That is why they are spending 1.4 million dollars a day to try to delay and obstruct the Democrats' efforts in Congress and to mislead the American people about the pending healthcare reform legislation.

Though the health insurance industry continues to fight a “public option,” they already believe they have won because most members of congress and the President are no longer considering a government run single-payer health care system a viable alternative. The industry knows that any reform that continues to perpetuate their dominant role will do little to diminish their influence and profits.

The truth is – in a marketplace where competition involves a race to the bottom and not the top – where health insurers compete by not paying for care, a “public option” would not provide much competition and would soon fail. Even a strong “public option” would sacrifice 90 percent of the bureaucratic savings achievable under a “single-payer” system.

The health insurance industry does not want us to know the truth. They do not want us to know that with a single-payer government run health insurance system we would no longer have to pay for such things as their excessive administrative cost, sales and marketing, lobbying, enormous bonuses, exorbitant executive pay and profits for shareholders.

They do not want us to know that with a single-payer government run health insurance system could save $350 billion a year.

As President Obama admitted recently, the only way for all Americans to be adequately covered and for these wasted healthcare dollars to be saved is through a single-payer system.

If a single payer, universal health care system was ever put into affect, the insurance, pharmaceutical, and medical supply coalition would stand to lose big time. As we have seen, this powerful coalition will say and do whatever it takes to protect their profits.

If you want reform – stand up and be counted!

Call the President!

Call Congress!

Take to the streets if you must! Reform is too important to sit on the sidelines.

Get involved – NOW!


Sally said...

I Love your blog. It's a wonderful antidote to the blather heard on the news and helps to reduce my rising frustration (okay, rage) over all the propaganda and idiocy. I have shared your blog address with my friends who, like you, are trying to keep the faith. It is always a good thing to find another person who represents the voice of reason. Thanks. Sally Schloss

Matthew said...

You need some percentage statistics to back up your claims that marketing, lobbying, and executive pay will support a single payer system. What you'll realize is its pennies on the dollar spent to provide quality care, something Medicare has failed to do. Why do you think people pay for-profit insurance companies for more comprehensive coverage. Medicare is and will go broke along with any single payer system. If it was that black and white more people would realize...