Public Health Insurance Won’t Cost Us; It Will Save Us A Lot, Including Money

One of the most
shameful methods the far right has attempted use to scotch attempts at
meaningful health care reform is to cite the tremendous cost involved in
offering a public option, and to suggest that it's not possible to pay for it.  According to their  twisted "logic," such as it
is,  health care will balloon the
national debt and virtually bankrupt the country.


This is, of course,
absurd. The fact of the matter is, you're already paying a hell of a lot of
money for your health insurance, and it's actually a major contributing factor
to our economic downturn. Not only that, but it's about to get worse. Think about
this; of the people who are currently unemployed due to massive layoffs, how
many of them do you imagine will be able to go back to their old jobs within
the next year or two, and get their health insurance back intact? 


No, the fact is,
we're already paying for health care in this country. Nearly 80% of us have
insurance, but the cost is very high. The average family health insurance
premium is nearly $1,300 per month, or $15,000 per year. A huge number of
people get their insurance through their employer, and only pay about 20% of
the actual cost of that insurance. Therefore, many of those who pay the $250
per month or so for their insurance premiums think that's the total cost. They
give no thought to the reality; that their employer is paying another $1000 on
their behalf. And they don't do so because they don't see it.


But I wonder if they
wouldn't like the $500 per month raise their employer could give them, should
the cost of the health insurance benefit drop significantly over the next few
years? Instead of the standard 3% pay increase the employer gives, imagine if
they could give the best employees the 10% raise they so richly deserve?  And besides, the cost of your health
insurance premium isn't all you pay for health care, anyway. A portion of your
car insurance goes to pay the medical bills for those who are in car accidents.
Your homeowner's insurance bill includes 
coverage for medical bills, in case someone hurts himself on private
properthy. And every worker in the country — including those who are already
paying $15,000 a year for their family's health insurance — pays Medicare
insurance, which is currently 2.9% — you pay half and your employer pays half.


Think about that a
moment. You're paying $15,000 a year for your family health insurance plan. You
and your spouse both work, and make $100,000 between you; that's another
$2,900. And probably a third of your car insurance and 20% of your homeowners
insurance premium go to medical care. 
And if you go to the doctor, and have to buy prescriptions, you pay even
more, what with all of the co-pays and deductibles. How much is too much,
folks?  And don't get me started on
torts. Consider this; most lawsuits involving accident and injury have medical
costs as one of their main components. If everyone had insurance, the number of
necessary lawsuits would drop precipitously.


Right now, we spend
more than any other country in the world on health care, and yet people are
dying because they can't see a doctor, because they don't have any money in the
bank. Others are forced into financial ruin because they happen to become sick
or injured at a time when they have no money in the bank.  How is that possible, if our system is as
great as people say? How does a country spend more money than anyone else, and
end up with a worse result? And how can we brag about having the best health
care facilities in the world (we do have some of the best), and not hang our
heads in shame at the reality that we have pockets of poverty in inner cities
and rural areas where health statistics are comparable to sub-Saharan


It's because we
think capitalism can solve every problem, and it can't. Health care can be a
market-based activity, to a certain degree, but health insurance absolutely
cannot.  The problem with our health care
system has nothing to do with doctors and nurses and health care delivery
systems. It's all about the abject stupidity of having a health insurance
system in which profit is the main motive. Yeah, I know; the largest insurer in
the country is Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which is theoretically non-profit,
but have you seen how many executives they have, and the salaries and bonuses
they pay them? They're non-profit in name only, folks.


Our health care
delivery system makes money by providing the best health care available, and
curing people. The health insurance system, however, works at cross purposes
with the delivery system, because they make money by not paying for good outcomes. The only way for them to increase
profits is to not pay for health care. 


Yes, you read that
right; doctors make money by doing their jobs to the best of their ability.
They save lives, their reputation is sealed, and they can get top dollar for
being the best at what they do. Compare that with the insurance companies, who
make money by denying insurance to sick people and denying claims to the
insured. Why would anyone in his right mind imagine such a system would work?


The clashes  between the medical profession and the health
insurance profession are legendary. 
Those of you who are daft enough to think you're covered because you
have health insurance have obviously never had to actually use that insurance.
Wait until you're sick and injured, and the insurance company denies your
claim; you'll find you really don't have the coverage you think you do.


I hate to be the one
to break it to you, but most of the scary things the anti-reform slugs tell you
will happen if we adopt a national health care system are already happening in
spades, folks, and they all come courtesy of the private health insurance companies.
Take the dreaded "health care rationing," for example. It's already a
fact of life, as anyone who has ever been denied a claim for an
"expensive" procedure already knows. 
Insurance companies routinely deny claims above certain dollar amounts,
in the hopes that a certain number of people won't fight it. They invoke their
"pre-existing condition" clause every chance they get, in order to
get out of paying a claim, to the point that they pay investigators gobs of
money to investigate medical backgrounds and determine whether or not a
condition does "pre-exist." They already overrule medical decisions
made by doctors, and routinely demand that medical professionals use less
expensive treatments, even if said trained medical professional thinks the
"cheaper" treatment is ill-advised. 
That's the definition of "rationing," folks.


Health care is a
right, folks. If you show up in the emergency room or urgent care, at the very
least doctors are required to diagnose you, and treat you if you need it,
regardless of your ability to pay. But our health care financing system isn't
built that way.  As I said, the insurance
companies don't cover anyone who might actually have to use the system, but
that doesn't keep them out of the hospital. In fact, it gives the insurance
company cover to raise premiums ever higher for those who have insurance.


See, this is how it


The insurance
company refuses to cover Joe Blow because of his liver condition. His condition
deteriorates, because he can't actually afford to see a doctor, until he's near
death. His liver shuts down, and he's rushed to the hospital in an expensive
ambulance, where he receives lots of expensive treatment in order to keep him
alive, or at least comfortable. He dies in the hospital, and the hospital has
$100,000 worth of expenses they'll never be paid for. There are a lot of such
cases out there. Tons of people are effectively forbidden
from paying into the insurance system, and then end up incurring more expense
as a result of not having access to treatment until their life is threatened.
Is that a smart system? We allow sick or injured people to stay sick or injured
for a long, long time, and then we end up paying more for them in the end. This
is not only immoral, but fiscally irresponsible.


But it's good for
the insurance companies. You see, they do their damnedest to only take premiums
from healthy people. Sure, the hospitals have to raise their prices, but for
every dollar they increase their procedures, the insurance can increase premiums
by a dollar and a half. Why do they care, since they won't have to pay for very
many of those procedures, anyway, right? They'll lop off a few thousand more
sick people to decrease their risk, and make even more money.  And why don't more healthy people feel like
suckers? $15,000 a year for health insurance, when you and the wife and the
kiddies go to the doctor once a year each, and one kid has a little accident
every year. Where does the other $14,000 go, do you think? It goes to pay
higher prices, because your insurance company refuses to cover the sick people,
and allow them to pay some of their own bills.


Everything that's
happening right now is good for lining the pockets of the insurance companies ,
and does no good for anyone else. It will eventually be bad for the insurance
companies, as well, but they're typically American corporations, who can't think
beyond the current quarter.  They
couldn't care less about what might happen ten years from now


We do have an
excellent health care system, when it comes to actual medicine. We have some of
the best medical professionals in the world, and because of government
investment, we also have some of the greatest medical technologies in the
world. But if upwards of 50 million people have no access to medical care until
they're deathly ill, what's the point? And if it can be fixed by changing the
insurance system — and it can — then what are we waiting for? At the very
least, covering everyone will stop the incredible inflation in the health care
system, because it will mean that everyone is paying into the system and has
coverage. That means medical companies will no longer have to write off unpaid
bills.  But it will also mean that people
will be able to get treatment before a condition becomes chronic. It will mean
no one will have to go into bankruptcy court or lose everything they've worked
for because they became ill or injured at an inopportune time.  It will mean the end of health care
rationing, the end of bureaucrats coming between doctors and their patients,
and it will mean predictability for health care costs going forward.


And to the
naysayers, don’t tell me we can't do this; 
we're already paying for everything now; we're just doing it in a stupid
way. And don't brag about our great system until we have the  numbers to prove it. We're 37th in the world
with regard to major health statistics, and we're the only country in the
"civilized" world in which someone living near a hospital can die
because of a lack of medical treatment. We're the only country in the
"civilized" world in which someone can work for 30 years, build a
life for themselves and their family, and lose everything because they fall
ill. And we're the only country in the "civilized" world in which the
amount of money you have determines whether or not you get treatment.


All of the countries
we trade with on the world stage have at the very least a "public
option" for their people, even if they don't have a full-on socialized
medical system. We can't compete with that. And I don't see any of those
countries giving up their system. I mean, if these systems are so bad, and cost
so much to administer, then why haven't these countries dropped them, and taken
up a market-based insurance system like ours?


By the way, do you
know the one demographic group in our country that is competitive with other
countries? It's those over 65. Do you think that's coincidence? They're the
only demographic guaranteed basic health insurance coverage.


Any health insurance
reform proposal that doesn't cover everyone with basic health insurance and
access to basic health care is not only immoral, but it's stupid. Don't let
Congress get away with any reform plan that doesn't include a public option, at
a rate that everyone can afford. Eighty percent of Americans are already being
taxed for health care; it's just that, currently, the taxes are lining the
pockets of insurance companies.

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Copyright 2009 The PCTC Blog

One comment

  1. Excellent article on the true financial picture under Public Health Care.
    This is a great site to find info to use in the watercooler wars when we are trying to debunk right wing talking points.
    I am sending this website link to everyone I know!
    I am bewildered by corporate America in keeping out of the fray. GM, Ford and many other multinational corporations claim they are forced to move jobs overseas because of the prohibitive costs of providing health insurance to workers. GM specifically claims those costs add so much to the cost of it’s cars that they can’t compete. Why then, would they not be totally on board with a public health ins program. It would immediately help them be competitive by lowering the cost of building cars in the US. We have heard nothing from these companies … what’s up with that? Either the health care costs claim is a lie and they just want to move the jobs anyway, or it is just an “honor among thieves” thing. Giant multinational companies just don’t tread on each other as they all scramble to get our last dime!

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