Taking The Profits Out Of Health Care.

In the US, health care organizations were once required to be nonprofit. Then President Nixon signed into law the Health Maintenance Organization Act of 1973, which permitted medical insurance companies, hospitals, clinics and doctors to begin functioning as for-profit business entities.

The inevitable consequence of that act was to dramatically increase the cost of health care, making it unaffordable for an ever-growing number of Americans. And though the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) has helped, the cost of health care rose from an average of $355 per person in 1970 to $11,172 in 2019. Accounting for inflation, that’s an increase of roughly 6-fold!

Indeed, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), US spending on health care reached $3.6 trillion in 2018 (the most recent year for which data is available) 17.7 percent of our GDP. And the earnings of health insurance companies exceeded $236 billion in 2018.

Perhaps the biggest winner in the health care industry is big Pharma. According to Statista, Americans spent $360.3 billion on pharmaceuticals in 2019 – up $15.8 billion from the previous year. And up a whopping $239.3 billion from 2000. That increase is reflected in the cost of most medications. A case in point: For asthma patients like me (of which there are nearly 20 million in the US), the annual cost of preventative medication is roughly $2,500 per year – almost double what it cost less than 10 years ago. Has the drug changed or improved over that period? No, only the price has changed. And, of course, the profits for the manufacturer and their distributors.

The increase in the cost of many other pharmaceuticals is even more dramatic.

Pharmaceutical companies justify the increases by claiming that the money is needed for research and development. Yet, you, the taxpayer, contribute roughly 30 percent of the cost of development of pharmaceuticals. Despite the increased costs and your contributions, there has been little increase in FDA approvals for drugs in recent years. That’s mostly due to the companies’ focus on acquisition and mergers. In other words, the companies are investing their profits in stock buyouts rather than research and development.

Since 1996, there have been 46 mergers and acquisitions of the world’s pharmaceutical giants. Over that same period, big Pharma has spent billions to lobby the US government. According to Statista, the industry spent $281.4 billion to lobby our government in 2019. And big Pharma is not alone. Organizations representing doctors, nurses, hospitals, clinics, medical equipment manufacturers and health insurers all spent billions on lobbying.

In total, the health care industry spent $711.3 billion on lobbying for 2019.

Is it any wonder then that our health care costs keep rising at rates far greater than inflation? Is it any wonder that we pay 4 times more per person for health care in the US than any other country in the world while experiencing steadily declining results?

Far too much of your health care expenditures are going to support the multi-million dollar salaries of executives, lobbyists and the profits of shareholders.

So, when political candidates are asked how they expect to pay for the cost of single-payer health care such as Medicare For All, the answer is simple. You’re already paying for it. But, instead of the money being used for medical care and the development of new technologies and treatments. It’s being used to line the pockets of executives and investors.

By moving to a single-payer health care system like most of the world’s advanced nations, you will pay more in taxes. Nevertheless, your savings should be significant. You and your employer will no longer have to pay for health insurance, deductibles, and co-pays. You will not be billed for seeing your doctor, for laboratory tests, for visiting the Emergency Room, for treatments or for needed stays in a hospital. As the single-payer, the government will also be able to negotiate the cost of pharmaceuticals saving you even more money. So your savings will continue to add up over your lifetime.

And no American will ever be denied health care again.

There’s yet another benefit that’s seldom mentioned: By removing the responsibility for providing health insurance from employers, there will be less incentive for employers to move jobs offshore. (Currently, the cost of an employee’s benefits is roughly equal to the cost of an employee’s salary.) Indeed, employers could use the savings to increase salaries and pay a more livable wage. That would not only provide a substantial boost to our economy. It would result in greater tax revenue that could be used to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and create even more high-paying jobs.

Exactly What Are Teapublicans Trying To Protect Us From?

In shutting down the federal government, GOP congressional leaders said they wanted to save us from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, (aka “Obamacare”). In other words, they want to save Americans from an idea that they, themselves, proposed in 1996 and successfully implemented in Massachusetts as an alternative to universal health care.

So what great evils are they trying to keep at bay on our behalf?

They are trying to block our access to online marketplaces that will allow hundreds of thousands of Americans to choose more affordable options for health insurance. (Yes, HealthCare.gov will soon be fixed and, if the experience of Massachusetts is any indication, customers will wait until the last few weeks to sign up.) They are trying to overturn a new government rule that prevents insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. They are trying to overturn a new rule that prevents insurance companies from terminating policies rather than pay the costs of medical treatments. They are trying to save us from the tax credits we’ll receive for purchasing health insurance.

The GOP and their wealthy contributors are trying to save up to 50 million Americans from being able to afford private health insurance for the first time. They are trying to keep parents from adding adult children up to age 26 to their own insurance policies. They are trying to save us from subsidized preventative care that will help identify medical conditions before they become more serious (and expensive) diseases.

They are trying to make sure that those who already have health insurance will continue to bear the costs of the uninsured who use the Emergency Room for routine health care visits. They are trying to preserve Washington’s largest group of lobbyists. Teapublicans are trying to ensure that the cost of health care benefits continue to encourage large corporations to ship middle class jobs overseas. Finally, they are trying to ensure that increases in health care costs continue to outpace inflation and that the cost of prescriptions will continue to skyrocket.

It’s obvious we need someone to rescue us for these self-proclaimed rescuers!

How Would You Pay For Uninsured Healthcare?

Conservatives in Arizona and other states are mouth-frothing mad over the expansion of Medicaid for those who can’t afford health insurance. They claim that it’s a matter of personal responsibility; that the current system is fine; that people should simply go without healthcare if they can’t afford it.

Hmmm…

The people saying that consist mostly of the Bible-thumping, church-going crowd. You know, the good “Christians” who claim to follow the guy who once said something like, “What you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.”

What these people don’t understand, in addition to the Bible they claim to study, is that even people without money deserve healthcare. In fact, our federal government came to that realization years ago. That’s why hospitals are mandated to treat those in need, even if they can’t afford to pay for the treatment. As a result, most of the working poor (people below or near the poverty line are already eligible for Medicaid) delay medical care as long as possible. When their conditions have reached a point where they are more difficult to treat, they go to the Emergency Room where treatment costs many times more than care at a doctor’s office.

Who pays for their treatment? The very people who are whining and bitching about expanding Medicaid to cover more of the working poor. As a result, the whiners pay considerably more than they would if everyone had health insurance…even government-paid health insurance.

So the question is this: How would you like to pay for your brothers’ and sisters’ healthcare? Through the efficiently-run Medicaid system? Or through the many times more expensive E.R.?