Health Care in the World’s Richest Nation

Beth’s been receiving bills lately. Now, I know that we all have to pay our bills. She’s been receiving bills from a doctor’s office because her insurance isn’t paying it. She received some lab services through her doctor’s office and it seems the insurance company didn’t think it would be important to test to see if our son – with whom she’s still pregnant – had some important-to-know-about diseases. So they’re just not paying for that service.

The good news is, they said in a letter to us that we shouldn’t pay it either. I wonder if that will hold up in court if this office tries to sue us or send us to collections.

Why is it that there is such an outcry not to change health care today? The statistics I’ve seen indicate that the U.S. is ranked #37 in the world in terms of health care. Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I understand that the last time the World Health Organization ranked nations in this way was in 2000 (see the article here). The good news is that we’re ranked above countries like Slovenia, Cuba and Brunei. The bad news is that we’re ranked behind countries like Costa Rica, Dominica, Chile, Canada, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Oman, and France (to name just a few).

So, we might argue that it’s been 9 years and that things must have changed. I can tell you that my health insurance is practically unaffordable and that Beth has been denied health insurance twice for previous (corrected) conditions. The only way we have insurance right now is through my school and we’re forced to use the same company that (literally) killed my mother – mis-diagnosing breast cancer three times doesn’t usually end well.

To further the level of transparency, the insurance company that denied the claim I mentioned earlier isn’t this same company. It’s another insurance company that contracts with the state of California through their Access for Infants and Mothers program. The state subsidizes the company – a major national health insurance firm – and we pay an amount too. It’s a program for low-middle-income pregnant women. And it’s not the only denial problem we’ve had with them.

So, maybe this is just an isolated incident. Maybe it’s just us. Maybe it’s just bad luck. In a report by the New York Times (click here to read it) dated July of 2008, we read that “American medical care may be the most expensive in the world, but that does not mean it is worth every penny… The United States spends more than twice as much on each person for health care as most other industrialized countries. But it has fallen to last place among those countries in preventing deaths through use of timely and effective medical care.”

The article acknowledges improvement in U.S. health care. “The United States… has reduced the number of preventable deaths for people under the age of 75 to 110 deaths for every 100,000 people, compared with 115 deaths five years earlier, but other countries have made greater strides. As a result, the United States now ranks last in preventable mortality, just below Ireland and Portugal.”

So have we improved much since 2000? It doesn’t look like it to me.

What might be a solution? The White House and Congress are working on some possibilities, but the going won’t be easy. A recent article from MSNBC (found here) showed this headline: “Health insurance ‘haves’ to pay for ‘have-nots’?” The article says that, “It’s an idea likely to be met with howls of opposition if it makes it into the final version of health insurance legislation that President Barack Obama is pushing.” My question: why? Why is it a bad thing for those who have more to help out those who have less?

What is up with this selfishness? Why are we a nation of: me, me, me! Mine, mine, mine!

The argument can obviously be made that it is those without health care or insurance that are the selfish ones. Or can it? What’s wrong with, “I want my family to be able to go to the doctor.” Or, “I want my pregnant wife to receive prenatal care.” Or, “I just got hurt (or sick) and I want to be helped without having to risk losing my house.”

As near as I can tell, the plan being pushed by President Obama is one where people can keep their existing health care or they can buy into a national plan that uses a third-party intermediary to hold funds to be paid. This looks to me to be similar to single-payer, which (by the way) is different from the systems used in England or Canada which are both state-owned. But to be honest, I don’t think the President’s plan goes far enough. I think we need to be more progressive, not less. I think we should very strongly consider a state-run health care system.

Ok. So then the shouting ensues. We’ll have this giant bureaucracy! We’ll be on waiting lists and people will die! Tell me, is that really different than how it is now? Is it really? The current health insurance bueaurocracy eats something like 31% of each dollar for overhead, paperwork, CEO salaries, and profits. Medicare eats 3%. (Source: Physicians for a National Health Program)

And what of the benefits for the economy? If we all paid according to our ability and took the burden off of our businesses, do you really think GM would be in the trouble it’s in? Do you think small businesses would be able to be more competetive with larger companies that – today – offer health benefits?

This is the world’s richest nation. Why are we hording it instead of acting like the generous loving people that I really think we are? I’m not in any way saying that this idea is perfect. I’m saying it’s better. It’s progress.

2 thoughts on “Health Care in the World’s Richest Nation

  1. You know that at least I agree with you whole heartedly! For profit health care puts the health of the business ahead of the health of the people for whom it is meant to be caring.
    Canada values the instigator of their state run health care system as a national hero above that of their most famous prime minister. And we are the only industrialized nation without such an option to our citizens!
    As long as we allow health care companies to make their billoins off of the sick and injured of our country, we will always have one of the highest numbers of sick, injured and preventable deaths of an industrialized nation.
    I don’t see the logic in those who would cling to the overpriced insurance they do have because paying less or paying in a different form would mean helping those who don’t have insurance when by doing that they themselves would likely receive more for the money they do pay.
    But who am I to talk, I am not allowed to be one of those with that option. Unless I am a memebr of a business or organization that provides that benefit, which in this economy you are lucky to find, I am not able to get health insurance at all. It all sounds very weepy and pathetic but whatever your opinion it is true and I am one of millions.

  2. This is a cool post to read a year after the affordable care act was made into law. Kudos for having a political section in your blog!

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