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Health Care

$35 MILLION A YEAR

Tsk. Tsk.  In the United States, we just keep right on throwing good money after bad, putting ourselves further and further into debt.  At this point in time, we owe the rest of the world more than $11.5 trillion.  That works out to $37,635.57 for every man, woman and child.

The United States military budget is a good case in point.  We keep on putting money into the machine so that the machine can keep on fighting.  Sadly, our efforts to police the world have had the unfortunate side effect of making us a hated target for terrorists.  According to the Council on Foreign Relations:

“Defense spending today comes to about 3.7 percent of GDP—and the combined total, even after including both war-spending supplements and “Global War on Terror” expenditures, comes to 6.2 percent of GDP.”

If you think that’s bad – we pay even more for health care.  And yet we have poor coverage compared to countries which pay half to a third as much as we do.

Connect the dots between the following news stories:

william mcguire
William McGuire - one good reason why many Americans cannot afford health insurance.

The questions our healthcare debate ignores – Salon.com
“Nations with comparable standards of living like France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, the United Kingdom, Canada, Norway, and Japan spend roughly between half and two-thirds per capita what we spend annually. They cover everyone and their results are measurably better.”

Medical Bills Cause Most Bankruptcies – American Journal of Medicine
“62.1% of all bankruptcies have a medical cause, according to the American Journal of Medicine’s study titled “Medical Bankruptcy in the United States, 2008: Results of a National Study”

Comment to the above: “The amount of misinformation being spread to the American people on health-care is staggering and there is little political will to do the right thing, thanks to the enormous amount of money being spent to lobby Congress. The public is being bombarded with the usual scare tactics about losing their freedom to choose doctors and to choose from among many plans. The Federal Government is portrayed as “big brother’ taking away your rights again. The insurance companies are making billions under the current system and will do anything to keep their 30% of the enormous pile of money.”

Ex-CEO Agrees To Give Back $620 Million – Wall Street Journal
To top it all off, former UnitedHealth Group Inc. Chief Executive William McGuire, one of the highest paid executives in the U.S at $35 million per year for 15 years (that’s $525 million) felt he needed to make even more money.  He played dirty with his company’s stock options, got caught and has agreed to $620 in stock options gains.

The Truth About the Insurance Industry – Washington Post
The issue isn’t that insurance companies are evil. It’s that they need to be profitable. They have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize profit for shareholders.  >snip<  The best way to drive down “medical-loss,” explains Potter, is to stop insuring unhealthy people.

Analysts say number of uninsured Americans to grow – Real Clear Markets
“This year, health spending is expected to reach $2.6 trillion and will account for about 18 percent of the nation’s economy. That spending comes to about $8,300 a person.

Without changes in federal policy, the number of Americans without health insurance will grow from about 45 million this year to about 54 million in 2019, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday.”

bandpile2So, that’s the big picture.  Here’s the more personal side. Bob and I have not been able to afford health insurance since leaving Hawaii five years ago, where our employers picked up the tab.  Count us among the forty-five million Americans without health insurance.  Add to that figure the fifty million under-insured Americans and one out of every three Americans do not have access to adequate health care.

Many of the uninsured Americans are in that situation because they have pre-existing conditions like my friend Nancy.  Nancy has a pace maker which has never once fired since she had it installed six years ago after a freak experience with some massage chairs.  She can’t prove it, but she thinks the forty-five minutes she spent testing chairs for her editors job at Family Circle caused her heart to stop three times during the next twelve hours.

There was only one company willing to insure Nancy after she retired and they set her premium at $1600 a month.  For those who aren’t good at head math, that’s nearly $20,000 a year.  So Nancy decided to cross her fingers and wait five years until she qualifies for Medicare.  But for the grace of God, there go all of us.

The truth is, health insurance once came with every job and the co-pays were ridiculously low.  I was quoted an $8 co-pay for a $4,000 tubal ligation on Oahu just 9 years ago.  That would probably fall under ‘elective surgery’ or a ‘pre-existing condition’ today.

Here’s what I’d like to to see happen.  Our policy makers put an end to endless war to feed the war industry and re-tool for peace.  We adopt a single-payer universal health care plan, ending astronomical health care costs to feed the bloated incomes of health care executives.  We use our savings to pay off our debts and invest in sustainable agriculture and energy.

Ask your representatives in congress to support HR676 which calls for a universal single-payer health care system.  Ask them not to support HR 3200 “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act” which promises more of the same, bloated overhead and profits under the current ‘for profit’ health care system.

Under the current system, one out of every three dollars goes to corporate profits, stock options, and executive salaries, advertising, etc – ten times the administrative costs of the single payer plan called for in HR676.

No one should make $35 million a year.  Everyone should have access to health care.  It’s a no brainer!

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

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