Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Health Care, Shmealth Care, what’s all the fuss about?

with 16 comments


Health Care. OK, this seems to be a touchy topic, so what the hell, I’ll wade right in. My last basically throwaway post sure got a lot of comments, I’ll see what we can generate this time. For today’s post, I’m going to proceed from the general to the specific. IE I will make some general observations about health care in the USA, then discuss the Obama plan. And this will definitely be generalized and only scratch the surface. I’d say you could write a book about the Obama plan alone, but that would be an understatement since the plan itself is a book, over 1000 pages long.

My first point is that there is a fabulous amount of misinformation being bandied about regarding the topic of health care. As far as I can tell, most Americans are pretty much unaware of how our own system works, and completely utterly misinformed about how health care works in other countries. It’s not that they don’t know about other countries, it’s that they are firmly convinced of things about them that just aren’t so. As a Canadian, it’s shocking to me how badly the Canadian system is misrepresented in the USA. I’ve only ever known one Canadian who complained about the Canadian system, and she was someone who could charitably be described as a filthy rich snob. Average Canadians for the most part are perfectly happy with a system, sure, there’s some kvetching, there’s always kvetching anywhere.

The second point is that most Americans seem to be under the impression that our health care system works. And is some ways it does, it’s certainly better than the health care system in virtually all the non-industrialized world. Which isn’t saying much, nu? There are some major problems, problems that need to be addressed. For one thing we spend a huge amount of money on health care, and the costs have been rising faster than inflation for decades. We spend more money per capita than any other country on health care, that alone is shocking, especially considering that millions of people have little access to care. And as much of a third of that money is wasted, all sorts of extra tests and necessary medications are administered because doctors are afraid of malpractice. just for starters. Medical bills are the number one cause of bankruptcy in the USA, that alone is a national disgrace. And yeah, for those who say that the uninsured can just “go to county hospitals.” Yes, in fact they can go to any ER and get treatment. Of course having people go to an emergency room for treatment is the most fabulously expensive way to provide people with health care, another reason our health care costs are astronomical. Then there’s the problem that the average American spends more money on health care in the last year of their life than in their entire previous life. And while this makes sense in some cases, a huge chunk of this is dying senior citizens having their life extended for a few months by heroic care … often against their express wishes! Sigh. I could go on, but this article seems to cover many of the problems with the US system in a reasonably neutral way.

Point three. We would all benefit from cradle to grave health care. I know that sounds simple, but again and again I hear Calvinist arguments that “people should just buy their own health insurance, if they don’t, tough. ” The problem with this argument is that while it may have a certain “holier than thou” appeal, in practise it means that the uninsured cost the taxpayer far more money for health care than if we simply insured them. First off, the direct cost of having people wait till they are sick enough for a visit to the ER. And a second cost because of all the productivity lost (let alone lives lost) because of the unavailability of health care. When workers don’t show up at work because they are sick, that increases costs to business … that are simply passed on to us. Lastly, and one would think obviously, do people want the person who sat down at that table in MacDonald’s before them and their family to be treated for their communicable illnesses or not? Apparently with some people the answer is no, we want our families to be exposed to sick people in the streets.

In any event, we come to the Obama system. First off, as a commenter helpfully showed yesterday, there’s a fabulous amount of lies and dis-information being spread about Obama’s plan. Some of it makes my jaw drop, there’s people with a straight face claiming this bill will result in seniors being “euthanized” as the government decides what care they should get. Right. More than 22,000 people die every single year in the USA for lack of health coverage, a problem the Obama mitigates, but people would rather let these people die because some spam email told them the plan was going to kill people? I don’t think I can even debate with people so partisan that anything Obama proposes must be opposed, because that’s where a lot of this”outrage” appears to be coming from.

In any event, the main criticism of the Obama plan is how much it will cost. I’ve seen estimates as high as one and a half trillion over the next decade. That is a lot of money, no doubt about it. And while the plan does propose to rein in rising health care costs by addressing some (but not all) of the problems in the current system, no one thinks it will add up to a trillion and a half dollars in savings. Two points here. I can see an easy way to save that much or more over the next decade. Let’s pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq tomorrow. That will save far more than a trillion and a half dollars, both in direct savings, and in indirect savings because Americans won’t be getting maimed and psychologically scarred in foreign wars. And in any event, we’ve given trillions of dollars to the banks just this past year, apparently to save executive bonuses. What the hell is wrong with spending a trillion and a half dollars over ten years if it provides millions of American with health care? I mean if it’s the government’s job to protect Americans, health care is the front line since disease and injury kills more Americans ever year than all the wars and terrorist attacks in US history combined.

But of course the US government, both factions of it, don’t give a rat’s ass about saving American lives. It’s about saving corporate profits (and subsequent campaign financing,) and foreign wars and sick Americans are a source of almost mind-numbing profit. So sadly, I fully expect Obama’s plan will be shot down, or so gutted as to be simply yet another layer of bureaucracy designed to make Americans think we are being cared for … when in fact they government is just performing yet another wallet drain and moneyectomy on lower and middle class Americans.

(The above image is public domain under US copyright law as it was created around 1528. Credit: Gersdorff p21v.jpg Hans von Gersdorff. Der verwundete Mann. Feldtbůch der Wundartzney (Strasburg, 1528). Field book of surgery. The wounded man. Yes, I would definitely say he has been seriously wounded. Of course he should have waited until his suit of armour came back from the cleaners before running around a battlefield.)


Written by unitedcats

August 13, 2009 at 9:02 am

16 Responses

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  1. Good post, but I don’t agree with your pessimistic conclusion. The time for a public option is ripe, the American people voted for it in the last election, as health care was certainly a major issue in the campaign. A bunch of screaming ninnies won’t derail it, and if they did, the political price would destroy the Democratic party — not the Republicans, who would count it as a victory to deprive Americans of health care for the sake of corporate profit.

    Mike Goldman

    August 13, 2009 at 9:45 am

  2. Great post Doug, and the linked article on US health care is very informative, if a little long winded.

    Mike, I sincerly hope you are correct, but I too am pesimistic. Thier is a lot of money at stake (the private health care industry is BIG $$$), and historically in the modern USofA when its BIG corporate $$$ VS public welfare, public welfare looses.

    Josh V.

    August 13, 2009 at 10:17 am

  3. Last paragraph was right on the money…no pun intended….

    This quote seems appropriate

    “The word “We” is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes all beneath it, and that which is white and that which is black are lost equally in the grey of it. It is the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sages.”
    Anthem-Ayn Rand



    August 13, 2009 at 10:37 am

  4. OK, here is one to chew on:

    Savings can only occur by withholding care.
    And when has ANY government program ‘saved money’ ?

    There certainly are many ways to offset the cost of a healthcare program, like for the US to stop being the world’s cop. Why in god’s name are we still in Germany?, etc. Bases in 170+ countries?
    Ron Paul (a republican BTW) endorses this view, but his party tried very hard to keep him in the basement.


    August 13, 2009 at 11:26 am

  5. Pyrodin, do you disbelieve in anyone other than yourself?

    Mike Goldman

    August 13, 2009 at 11:44 am

  6. ET, savings can be achieved by delivering preventive care rather than waiting until people are so sick they have to go to the emergency room.

    Mike Goldman

    August 13, 2009 at 11:45 am

  7. Obama said himself just two days ago when promoting his plan:

    “If you think about it, UPS and Fed-Ex are doing just fine. It’s the Post Office that’s always having problems…. ”

    He just makes the point for those who do not want his plan.


    August 13, 2009 at 12:02 pm

  8. “Savings can only occur by withholding care.”

    BS, as even a cursory look at some of the problems with our health care “system” show. Other countries negotiate with the pharmaceutical industry, saves piles of money. Other countries have eliminated medical lawsuits on a contingency basis, saves a pile of money. There’s tons of ways the US health care system could be streamlined without cutting anyone’s care.

    “And when has ANY government program ’saved money’ ?”

    Well, since the governments of the rest of the industrialized world manage to provide cradle-to-grave care at less cost than the US “system,” prima facie it can most definitely be done.

    If someone wants to argue that the US will never make the needed savings and reforms because our government is almost totally corrupt and wholly controlled by entrenched corporate interests, no problem. But saying “governments can’t fix this sort of problem,” when other governments are doing just that, is absurd. In fact it’s corporate propaganda 101.


    August 13, 2009 at 5:08 pm

  9. “If someone wants to argue that the US will never make the needed savings and reforms because our government is almost totally corrupt and wholly controlled by entrenched corporate interests, no problem.”

    It is only the US I am talking about. Corrupt to it’s ultimate collapse. Goldman Sachs,AIG, etc. now has all of the money that could have been put into health care.

    But apparently it is all about bailing out private bankers (overt theft in broad daylight) that got priority, and we are left to argue over crumbs… it is disgusting.


    August 13, 2009 at 9:05 pm

  10. “Pyrodin, do you disbelieve in anyone other than yourself?”
    I believe in those that believe in me.
    I don’t believe the fast should be forced to carry the lame or the strong to sacrifice themselves to defend the weak, you have the right to choose your burdens, you have the right to not defend the weak and carry the lame….you should read the book I quoted from, Anthem….
    You can get it and several others here-

    I read a thing about how Goldman Sachs, AIG, and Bear Sterns are buying water rights, worth taking a look at as it may be the hot commodity before to long.


    August 14, 2009 at 7:46 am

  11. Despite all the noise, there are some very positive aspects to the various plans being touted, aspects the Insurance industry hates with an undying passion, which is why they are pulling out all the stops to get it killed. It may not be perfect, but there is hope that some improvements will be made:

    Ten Good Things

    As for the Post Office vs. Fedex etc, if the private firms had to operate under the mid 20th century “business model” that the Post Office is saddled with by special interests in Congress, they would be out of business in no time. IE six day a week a mandatory delivery to each and every home and business in America whether they have mail or not. So it’s simply not possible to compare them to each other.

    (And frankly it is kind of nice having a president who isn’t afraid to answer questions and speak his mind, even if he does occasionally demonstrate that he is indeed human and says things he should have thought about a little more carefully.)


    August 14, 2009 at 8:40 am

  12. I will support any government healthcare bill, provided that Congress get the EXACT same plan.

    They exempt themselves in the current Bill… but if we were all in the SAME boat with them I suspect it would be better looked after/funded/etc.


    August 15, 2009 at 9:52 am

  13. ET, they exempt all private plans that meet minimum standards, including those receiving VA care, those with adequate private coverage, etc. There is not one single plan they are forcing on people. That’s the whole point of not going with single payer. If they did that, then it would be necessary and appropriate that Congress receive identical care to everyone else, but when there isn’t such an “identical plan” created, all that is required is for them to have qualified coverage.

    Mike Goldman

    August 15, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    • Meant to say they exempt all plans that meet minimum standards, not only private plans but public plans, thus those receiving Medicare still receive Medicare because Medicare meets those minimum standards.

      Mike Goldman

      August 15, 2009 at 7:01 pm

  14. Sorry if I touched a nerve on my last comment. I didn’t copy all of the email but the ones I checked and that is why I also included the link to the government printing office to check the facts. President Obama’s bill doesn’t deal with what causing medical bills and insurance to be so expensive. Here is part of what I wrote my congressman:

    “Insurance is suppose to protect from risk and not pay for every little doctor visit or prescription drug. What I would like to see is tax credits to help families pay for catastrophic health insurance and a medical savings account like an IRA. I don’t want to see another Medicare or Medicaid plan which collects taxes and spends them twice as fast. Real insurance plans have a pool of money and only a small part of the premium goes for administration.”

    I think a future post maybe you should look into the huge government debt. We are in for some hard times when interest rates go up if they don’t get a handle on spending. Have you ever calculated the interest on 14 trillion dollars? At some point it takes all of the taxes just to pay the interest. I hope you can convince me otherwise.


    August 17, 2009 at 3:33 pm

  15. government jobs are still the best when it comes to job security “-;

    Vitamin Water :

    October 28, 2010 at 3:50 pm

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