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Realism required to fix health care system

 

Sicko PosterHealth care is a major issue facing Americans today. We as a nation pay the highest price for health care and prescription drugs in the world, and you would assume this would mean we get the best possible medical care. While that might be the case if you are wealthy, if you are not you face some tough choices.

Choices like do you get the prescriptions you need to have a decent quality of life, or do you eat? Do you get regular medical checkups, or do you because you can’t afford the price of a doctor’s visit skip them until a health condition forces you to the doctor, often after it’s too late to treat the condition? Do you look after your dental health, or do you have to let your teeth basically rot in your mouth?

I have personally been forced to make some of these choices, and I have friends and relatives who have been forced to as well. Choices no American should ever have to face.

Lets be realistic. The problem with health care in America is the private for-profit companies currently running it. In order to fix our broken system, we must take the profit motive out of it.

Private companies are required by law to return the largest possible profits to the shareholders of the company. There is no requirement that a company look after the public good, or to act in a moral manner. In order to get positive recommendations from financial analysts, they must increase the profits dramatically from previous years, every year.

We see a quick example of this with petroleum companies, as year after year they post increasingly large record profits — every dime of which was taken from our already strained pocketbooks.

There are several ways for a company to do this: they can improve delivery of services they offer, they can find cheaper suppliers, or they can raise the rates charged for their services. Since raising the rates they charge is the simplest way to accomplish their goal, this is what most commonly happens, and prices increase every year.

Let’s not even get into the complex issues of overly generous executive compensation, huge bonuses, and murder by spreadsheet (denying legitimate medical care to the insured).

So it’s easy to see why I have a major issue when I see candidates such as Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton advocating forcing people to buy health insurance from private insurers.

Here’s one example from the Associated Press via Yahoo.

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday she might be willing to garnish the wages of workers who refuse to buy health insurance to achieve coverage for all Americans.

budget.jpgThe New York senator has criticized presidential rival Barack Obama for pushing a health plan that would not require universal coverage. Clinton has not always specified the enforcement measures she would embrace, but when pressed on ABC’s “This Week,” she said: “I think there are a number of mechanisms” that are possible, including “going after people’s wages, automatic enrollment.”

Clinton said such measures would apply only to workers who can afford health coverage but refuse to buy it, which puts undue pressure on hospitals and emergency rooms. With her proposals for subsidies, she said, “it will be affordable for everyone.”

In the 1990s Hillary Clinton while pushing her national health plan stated, that her plan would cost the “average family of four” who makes $ 24,000 a year ONLY $4,000. Of course this would cost much more today.

So lets take a look at the the budget for someone getting paid weekly, and making a total of $24,000 a year, and with no state income tax.

$24,000 divided by 52 weeks comes out to $461.53 a week. Using a tax calculator and 3 exemptions we come up with the following amounts for withholdings.

$10.58 federal income tax
$28.61 FICA
$6.69 Medicare
————————-
$45.88 Total

That leaves $415.65 a week after taxes, or $1662.60 per month.

In our city three bedroom homes go for between $550 and $1,100 a month. Lets take $600 as an average rent. That leaves $1062.60.

In this day and age we must have electricity; $100 a month by time heating, cooling, and laundry and heating the water for baths is reasonable. We are down to $962.60.

Lets figure $50 for our gas and water bill, $912.60.

Telephone service will likely run us $30. This bring us to a total of $882.60.

Now we have to feed our family and ourselves, so lets low ball that at $350 a month. We now have $532.60.

Gotta get to work, take the kids to school, band practice, football practice and such so we need a car. $200 a month for a car payment is reasonable. We are now down to $332.60.

Car Insurance $70 (mandatory insurance for everyone really lowered the cost of that, didn’t it). We are now down to $262.60.

Gotta fuel the beast, and with gas prices constantly going up, we will likely spend at least $35 per week or $140 per month. Ouch! Only $122.60 left.

Gotta have some kind of entertainment, news source, and educational resource for the kids, so we should figure on TV service and Internet access. Most people currently get it from their cable company. Lets say $70 for expanded basic and broadband Internet service. This leaves us with $52.60.

Last but not least, if you are living this close to paycheck to paycheck, you can bet that you have a credit card for emergency use only. Lets say it has a $25 minimum payment so we end up with $27.60.

I didn’t figure on clothing, school supplies, medical and dental care, insurance copays, going out to eat or a movie now and then. Basically the stuff that makes life worth living.

Now lets take a look at 1990’s Hillary’s $4,000 a year for health insurance. That works out to $307.69 a month. I am forced to ask, where exactly is it supposed to come from!

Hillary has never in her life had to worry about an amount so small and so she doesn’t really understand the magnitude that taking three hundred additional dollars a month out of already strained budgets really is to low income people. So of course she wants to make it mandatory!

Let me make this clear, I personally WILL NOT vote for any candidate Republican or Democrat who intends to force people to pay a for-profit private insurance company for their insurance coverage. We have seen how well that has worked in Tennessee with car insurance.

Mandatory insurance, either health or auto, lets the insurance companies gouge everyone. They know that with mandatory insurance that you realistically have no place to go. Yes, they might lose your business to another company, but they will likely gain just as many back with the dissatisfied people coming to them from other companies.

If you really want to know how screwed up America’s for-profit health insurance system is; go rent a copy of Michael Moore’s Sicko from your local video store: you will be shocked!

There is only one real solution for fixing our health care system and that is national single payer health care.


About Bill Larson

    Bill Larson

    Bill Larson is  is politically and socially active in the community. Bill is a member of the Friends of Dunbar Cave.

    You can reach him via telephone at 931-249-0043 or via the email address below.

    Email: blarson@clarksvilleonline.com

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5 Responses to “Realism required to fix health care system”

  1. Scott Beasley Says:
    February 4th, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    I think there are many solutions that don’t involve socialism. If there’s something I need, but can’t afford, I don’t expect others to pay for it. Many peole CAN afford health insurance if they’d turn off the internet, cable, cell phones and other luxuries to provide health care for their family. We need to be prioritizing instead of looking for ways to raise taxes. I have seen Sicko, and respectfully disagree with you Bill, Moore’s movie only tells ONE side of the story.

  2. Bill Larson Says:
    February 4th, 2008 at 4:37 pm
    Bill Larson

    Why don’t you try turning off your Internet, cable, and phones for a couple of months, and see how much of a luxury it is vs an actual necessity. Yes you might be able to live without them but its not much of a life. Not to mention the social, educational, and economic opportunities you and your family will miss out on because you and your children don’t have access to these “Luxuries.”

    As for affording health insurance for a average family of four, health insurance generally runs $300 or more per month, and this is not the heavily subsidized plan that Hillary was promoting in the 1990’s

    I researched health plans for a family of 4, the cheapest started with a $10,000 deductible and high co-pay for $163.13 a month, with which you might as well not have insurance because you couldn’t afford to pay to the deductible to begin with. A more reasonable plan with a $1,000 deductible will run you $669 a month. Which would still mean choosing between food and health care. Lets not even discuss what happens if you need prescription drugs. It also does not cover dental care. If every other industrialized nation can provide health care, we can too!

    Your mail, police, roads, water, fire, sewer, gas, and electric services are all socialized and the system works well for each of them, it can work equally well for health care.

    I am not asking for government to be the only provider, just one of many. If private industry can provide better, higher quality, or more services, I am sure people would still be willing to buy coverage from the private for-profit. This simply leaves them with an option of last resort if they can’t afford insurance or the private insurance companies refuse to cover them due to their current health or a prior medical history.

    [youtube]bnUV6DAeGSQ[/youtube]

    There was a woman who had very good health coverage. It covered mental health benefits. She was raped and went to see a psychiatrist as a result of the trauma she was suffering afterwards. But her health insurance refused to pay the psychiatrist because they said the rape was a pre-existing condition. It had happened before she went to the psychiatrist, so they wouldn’t cover it. — Michael Moore on NPR

    Michael Moore’s film wasn’t about people without insurance it’s about the abuses suffered at the hands of for-profit insurance companies by people who do. You say that it showed one side? Is that why Fox News gave it a positive review? Because I never agree with Fox news…

  3. Christine Anne Piesyk Says:
    February 4th, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    One of my Massachusetts friends makes $23,000 a year, and is burdened by the $300+ a month health payments that eat up a major chunk of one week’s take home pay. He doesn’t have cable, doesn’t have a cell phone, lives a minimalist existence by choice, but still has to do things like make car and insurance payments, field high heating (gas and electric) costs, buy food, run a car to get to work…he’s hoping he won’t get sick because that will add co-pays for doctor visits and prescriptions at a time — if he were sick enough to need a doctor he wouldn’t be going to work…

    Yes, cell phones for most people are a luxury (one I personally would ban from the face of Planet Earth). and cable TV is something I have lived without for a long time. Internet is increasingly essential for school and work and has become my news and entertainment source since most TV shows and news programs are now available online for free. More and more, children come home from school with assignments that require internet access.

    You can cut back on some things, of course, but the price of health insurance and health care costs in general are absurdly high. Most industrialized nations offer some form of universal health care with emphasis on wellness; the USA is antiquated and obsolete with its profiteering health care system. What good are the new developments in medicine and the newest hospitals if the average American can’t afford to access them?

  4. Scott Beasley Says:
    February 10th, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Bill, when I lost my job that’s exactly what I did. Its NOT a necessity. We grew up just fine without cell phones. Didn’t know what the internet was until college and never got cable TV until I moved into a dorm. The question is not whether or not they hold value, for they do, the question is what’s more important, health care or HBO? I too, have researched health care costs and you are correct in your assessments in the cost, that’s what I found to be true myself. However if they can afford, cable TV, cell phones, internet, and MANY other luxuries, in most cases(obviously not all), they could provide their own care, or at least make a significant dent in it.

    As far as your example of social services in other areas, you lose the argument. Electricity is paid for by the ratepayers, not the taxpayers, you pay for what you use. Same goes for the post office, water, sewer and gas. They are funded by consumption and what happens when you fail to pay?

    Roadways are a little different, I’ll concede that, but government, in my book, exists to provide things the people cannot provide for themselves. Sure there are those who need our help and I have no problem doing so, but what I do have a problem doing is paying for their health care when they have cable, internet, cell phones, IPODs, X Box 360’s, etc.

    Well in his movie he quoted the international rankings. The criteria for those rankings was very flawed and I hate to get into that, for it is very extensive. I have seen and heard first hand how socialized medicine in other industrialized nations is terribly flawed and many come here to pay out of pocket rather than waiting to die in their own country. I know that’s not what you’re advocating, but look at government’s track record of spending. Then tell me they have been responsible with our money! You know the deal, bigger government, bigger waste. Again, I don’t mind helping those who TRULY need help, but government expansion seems ill advised at this time with their recent performance of spending, Republicans want to cut taxes, Democrats want to raise taxes, but NEITHER of them can get a grip on spending( although the Dems seem to do it a little better). Expanding services is NOT the answer. Good points though.

  5. Bill Larson Says:
    February 10th, 2008 at 5:33 pm
    Bill Larson

    I never said cellphone. I said phone service. You are telling me you can get by without any phone service at all? Not likely especially when you are unemployed.

    Electricity in Clarksville is municipal that’s why we had to vote to allow them to offer telecommunications services. The rate payers is every tax payer in Clarksville, TN. You are arguing semantics here. They are services provided by local, state, and federal governments. You just don’t want to admit you are secretly glad this stuff is socialized.

    Private health care is not and has not worked. There is nothing you can do to fix it. The only option is for the government to provide an option.

    • Annual premiums for family coverage reached $10,880 in 2005, eclipsing the gross earnings for a full-time minimum-wage worker ($10,712).
    • Insurance premiums increased an average of 9.2 percent in 2005.
    • Fewer employers are offering coverage to workers, down from 69 percent of employers in 2000 to 60 percent in 2005.

    The health care numbers he used were based on quality and accessibility. We may have quality but that means absolutely nothing if you can’t afford the “luxury” of medical care. After all you could just suffer and die couldn’t you, so it’s not required as you have another option right?

    Lets look at the facts from that report.

    A WHO survey ranked the health care systems of 191 countries, based on factors such as the health of the general population, patient satisfaction and equality of access. France ranked first overall, the United States placed 37th, and Nigeria was near the end of the list at 187.

    • While the U.S. health system spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product than any other country, it ranked 37. The United Kingdom, which spends just 6 percent of GDP on health services, ranked 18. France ranked first. And Cuba, which Moore describes as a great place to get health care, ranked 39.
    • A key recommendation from the report is for countries to extend health insurance to as large a percentage of the population as possible, whether in the form of insurance or taxes.
    • The United States ranked highest on patient satisfaction, followed by Switzerland, Luxembourg, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Canada, Norway, Netherlands and Sweden.
    • On the consumer afford ability of health care, Colombia ranked No. 1, followed by Luxembourg, Belgium, Djibouti, Denmark, Ireland, Germany, Norway, Japan and Finland. The United States ranked 54.
    • We can do better!

      It’s not raising taxes it’s using existing taxes more wisely.

      We spend $623 billion a year, more than every other country in the world on defense spending: 17x Russia, 13x China. $623 billion a year is not counting the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, which adds another $430 billion to the yearly total since 2003. We also provide significant funding to Nato which is not included in this number. Our intelligence budget is approximately 60 billion a year. Which is more than every other country except the UK and France spend on their entire militaries.

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