Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Thoughts on Health Care reform

Things to consider during this current tumult over Obama and the Dems' push for Health Care reform:

1) The United States is the only wealthy industrialized nation (think France, Germany, UK, Canada, Japan, anyone else in the G-8 group I missed) without universal health care. India has universal health care. Israel has it. Brazil has it. Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert probably have it. In fact the question is which country DOESN'T have universal health care... and the U.S.A. tops that list.

1a) Which makes the argument about "Universal Health Care" = "SOCIALISM ZOMG!!1!1" rather specious: you can't accuse some of the most prominent Capitalist nations on the planet (England, for God's Sake! Thatcher is living on universal health care!) of being Socialists for having universal health care. This isn't the Cold War era anymore: why use labels to oppose something that, you know, works in every other pro-business nation?

2) The two biggest problems with health care in the United States are:

2a) Not everyone is covered: the number bandied about is 47 million uninsured (roughly 15 percent of the nation), although critics point out that includes illegal immigrants... so the real number would be really around 32-37 million. WHICH IS STILL TOO MANY. And I'm not sure if this includes children and college-age teens. The problem is these uninsured people still require health care, and the costs of treating the uninsured gets shifted over to those who are insured.
2b) Rising costs: partly from the fact the insured are paying for the uninsured, but mostly from the fact that the managed-care system that came about in the 1990s (the HMOs) basically have monopolies in each of the states. Ezra Klien's op-ed in the Washington Post (highlights mine):

In the modern health-care system, there is no higher power than the insurance market. And the insurers who populate that market have grown all the stronger. The Justice Department judges an industry "highly concentrated" if a single company controls more than 42 percent of the market. By that definition, 94 percent of statewide insurance markets are highly concentrated. A recent study by the advocacy organization Health Care for America Now showed that in Indiana, WellPoint controls 60 percent of the insurance market; in Iowa, Wellmark accounts for 71 percent; and in Alabama, Blue Cross/Blue Shield holds 83 percent. In the past 13 years, there have been more than 400 corporate mergers involving health insurers.

Economics textbooks tell us that concentrated markets reduce the competitive behavior that benefits consumers and lead to outsize profits for the dominant firms. Predictably, health-care premiums shot up more than 90 percent between 2000 and 2007, while the profits of the 10 largest insurers increased 428 percent over the same period.

Without government regs encouraging competition, companies can basically charge what they want, deny coverage to those they deem at-risk to their profit margin, and pass the savings on to the Senators and Congresspersons they 'bribe' with massive campaign contributions. But that's just me being cynical I suppose...

3) A solid majority of Americans - 76 percent - want a public option as part of the health care reform. Problem is, Obama has only 33 percent or so of those polled actively supporting his reform plan.

4) Another problem is that he doesn't have the full support of his own party: nimrods like Max Baucus seem obsessed with the idea of bipartisanship by dealing with a Republican Party that's gonna want health care reform nuked now and forever. Instead of legislation covering things the people want, Baucus' committee is trying to offer this up. Also consider Baucus receives HOW MUCH?! in campaign funding from the Health Care industry and you have a hypocrite reeking of Quid Pro Quo. I will always think of campaign funding as legalized bribery and it sickens me we can't do anything to stop it ('cause the bastards who profit from it are the damn politicians who like it this way and won't vote away their deep-pocket advantages).

5) This reminds me, I gotta see about my COBRA coverage payments. I think I gotta start paying them again this August. Maybe September, I hope.

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