Saturday, November 20, 2010

Health Care May Get Worse Before It Gets Better

I see where our beloved health care industry, the world's best most profitable, gave $86 million to the US Chamber of Commerce trying to defeat last year's health care legislation. I guess they have to protect that gravy train.

Meanwhile, yet another study has been released which lays bare our deficient health care. Reuters reports that a study by the Commonwealth Fund shows ..."that while Americans pay far more per capita for healthcare, they are unhappier with the results and less healthy than people in other rich countries."

The Fund's data also revealed that 20% of adults in America had significant problems paying medical bills. Only 2% in Britain and 9% in France reported similar problems.

The single biggest difference, it strikes me, between health care in the US and elsewhere in the OECD is that in the United States, health care is compelled by conservative economic doctrine to be a profit center. And if doctrine is not enough, what with all those pesky socialists, powerful interests, with their lobbyists and paid-for politicians, will work to make it happen, on their terms. Elsewhere in the OECD, the focus is on low cost health care for all, not profits. Yes, I know; it drives conservatives wild--it can't work if someone isn't making money off of it.

Thus, the primary purpose of the health insurance industry is to turn a profit, not to care for the sick. Only this would explain why a nation can so ineffectively care for millions, especially the poor and others who cannot get insurance.  What we have had are highly profitable insurance companies that were able to cherry pick their customers, and ignore or abandon those who threaten profits.

Health care reform was supposed to address at least some of the most egregious aspects, all of which the health care industry fought like crazy to protect. Current legislation is deeply flawed, but hey, it was a start. The egregious, and some might say inevitable flaw, is that taxpayers will now pay for those previously rejected, which is ok, but without cost controls on the insurers, which is not. Lots of new customers and no one saying you can't raise your premiums. That single condition explains why the health care bill ultimately passed.

And with Republicans, fortified with a gaggle of ignorant and strident teabaggers, about to take back control of the House, I am not expecting any progress.

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