“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
— George Orwell
By David Drum
For the sake of our health, America must do lots better when it comes to health care.
Consumers of medical services in the United States — and that’s all of us — as well as American businesses are being slowly squeezed to death by our privatized healthcare system which forces us who can pay to pay through the nose. Every other industrialized country in the world provides health care to all of its residents at about half what it costs here, and they provide medical care to everybody who needs it. Pharmacological drugs cost much less everywhere else. It’s time for a change.
All expectant mothers need prenatal care. All children and adults need vaccinations and regular medical checkups. All people with chronic illness need medical appointments, specialized care, and necessary medicines. We weaken the health of our entire society when we don’t provide medical care to everybody. The costs of short-changing some of our people and overcharging the rest of us results in a less resilient nation, more serious illness, and much unnecessary disease.
Americans who visit European countries are often amazed how little it costs to be treated by a doctor, and how easy and convenient it is to get help compared to our medical system at home.
The financial costs we pay are huge. Working families are plunged into bankruptcy every day by corporate greed, inflated fees, outrageously high hospital charges, unnecessary medical tests, greedy insurance companies, mercenary doctors, and rapacious pharmaceutical companies who laugh all the way to the bank when Americans gets sick.
The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world without universal health care, sometimes called socialized medicine, single payer, or Medicare for All. Government-sponsored healthcare doesn’t focus on jacking up corporate profits, it focuses on delivering healthcare to all people at a reasonable price. And while we’re at it, we need government-sponsored dental care, too.
According to a recent Federation of Health Plans report, healthcare costs in the US are far out of line when compared to all other first world countries. The average cost of having a baby with normal delivery here is $16,653, almost three times the average cost of having a baby in Australia, the next most expensive country surveyed. Bypass surgery here costs an average of $150,515, versus $43,230 in Australia. Americans spend an average of $12,537 per day for hospital care, versus $1,472 per day in second-place Australia. In a stressful work environment where wages are falling and American jobs are quickly going overseas, if you get sick in America, the next bankruptcy you see could be your own.
In the United States, more than 60% of all personal bankruptcy filings are related to healthcare bills, according to a Harvard University study. Believe it or not, an astounding 78% of Americans who filed for bankruptcy actually had private health insurance! More than 45,000 people die every year in the U.S. from lack of health insurance. What’s going on?
We have the most expensive healthcare in the world but not the best health. Americans pay more than twice as much per patient or more per year as Canadians and residents of other first-world countries, for worse results. In Canada, Canadians live an average of two years longer than Americans, and their infant mortality statistics and other measures of good health are far superior to ours. The same is true when America is compared with every other industrialized country in the world. The only way we lead the world is in the high cost of our healthcare which is the very highest in the civilized world.
Other first-world countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom, Sweden, France, Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, and Japan take care of all their people for about half what we spend per patient in the United States. Our privatized healthcare system takes good care of the medical/pharmaceutical complex and its obscenely overpaid corporate executives, but it’s woefully inadequate at delivering good, efficient, compassionate healthcare for all the people who live and work here.
Big Pharma makes a killing in America. A whopping $360 billion per year is spent on heavily-advertised pharmaceutical drugs. We spend approximately $1,000 per person per year on pharmaceutical drugs in the U.S., nearly twice what’s spent in other industrialized countries. The exact same pharmaceutical drugs cost an average of 35–45% less in Canada and other industrialized countries.
What’s going on? Big Pharma claims it needs its shockingly oversized profits to develop new drugs, but this is not true. Much of the basic research on drug development is done in universities, and financed by the federal government. Big Pharma spends way more money on television advertising than it spends on R&D — one study estimates a whopping 19 times as much!
The American healthcare system is riddled with waste. Spending on healthcare gobbles up almost 18% of America’s total gross domestic product, or one of every six dollars spent on anything in the United States.
A Price Waterhouse report estimates that as much as 53% of our healthcare expenditures are wasted. Price Waterhouse blames defensive medicine practiced by doctors, inefficient claims processing, and money spent on preventable conditions related to obesity as the main “wastebaskets” holding $1.2 trillion in wasteful expenditures — more than half the $2.2 trillion spent on healthcare in the U.S. every year.
In another highly critical report, the National Academy of Sciences estimates that we waste $750 billion every year on health care, or about 30% of every dollar we spend. According to the Academy of Sciences, approximately 17% of the waste comes from fraud and inadequate prevention, 28% from unnecessary medical services, 14% from unnecessarily high prices, 25% from excessive administrative costs, and 17% from inefficiently delivered services due to lack of coordination between doctors, hospitals and other providers.
The American medical system is not primarily designed to help people. It’s designed to help greedy corporations, for-profit hospitals, fat cat drug companies, and all their corporate accomplices rake in obscene profits year after year after year.
Healthcare corporations fund an army of lobbyists in Washington to make sure that their bottom line is protected, and your bottom is not. At last count, there were six healthcare lobbyists in Washington, DC, for every person actually serving in Congress. According to a recent Time magazine expose, the healthcare industry spends approximately four times as much as the defense industry on lobbying.
In the United States, we train many excellent, caring medical doctors, but our present healthcare system is driven by profit. Given the corrupting influence of corporate money on our politicians, Americans are doomed to pay more for less forever, unless we change our for-profit healthcare system in a way that makes it work for all of us. In 1995, Taiwan began a successful transition to national health insurance, and with responsive politicians, America could do the same thing here.
The pursuit of happiness is one of America’s founding principles. But with our pitifully inadequate and overpriced healthcare system, are we happy as a nation? No. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Map of Happiness, and the World Database of Happiness, tiny little Denmark is the happiest country on earth. People in Denmark do pay taxes, but they get an extraordinarily high quality of life and a comfortable middle-class lifestyle which includes modern, decent, inexpensive state-sanctioned medical care. Everyone in Denmark gets all the healthcare they need, when they need it! No wonder they’re happy!
We must support efforts to pull profit-obsessed corporations out of our sickrooms. Doctors under pressure to treat more people in less time need freedom to do their best work and keep people healthy at a reasonable cost.
If all health care was paid for and supervised by the American government, as is Medicare and the Veterans Administration, doctors wouldn’t have to pay outrageously expensive malpractice insurance premiums, and deal with a hundred different complicated health plans and each plan’s Byzantine pricing and approval processes for clinical services and drugs. If American business wasn’t compelled to ensure workers through rapacious private for-profit insurance plans, products manufactured by U.S. companies would be more cost-competitive with those made in the rest of the world. Unions could negotiate for better wages and working conditions instead spinning their wheels trying to force employers to keep pace with constantly rising healthcare costs.
Help move America forward. Support the groups listed below, or check them out to educate yourself. Going public with a positive progressive message on healthcare builds support from the grassroots up, and that’s what it takes for we the people to enact meaningful change.
Physicians for a National Health Program, CLICK HERE
Single Payer New York, CLICK HERE
Labor United for Universal Healthcare, CLICK HERE
Labor Campaign for Single Payer, CLICK HERE
Prescription Justice, CLICK HERE
Health over Profit, CLICK HERE
Single Payer Action, CLICK HERE
United for Single Payer, CLICK HERE
Socialized Medicine merchandise, CLICK HERE