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Living in Absurdistan--the State of American Health Care

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“For that kind of money, you could buy a compact car every year,” said Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Foundation, a nonprofit group that produces the widely watched annual survey. He noted that health costs had increased 78 percent since 2001, more than four times as fast as prices and wages.

Interesting analogy about the compact car, because the overarching reason Ford, GM and Chrysler are on the brink of going under is their cumulative health-care obligation. Which they haven’t a prayer of paying off.

Same goes for the airlines, manufacturers in other industries, retailers and the service sector. Toss in the employees in the city where you live, all those teachers and garbage collectors, meter-readers and bus drivers.

On the way to trying to solve social security, health care costs are going to run us down like a rabbit on the highway. All because of a Republican bugaboo, all for a bogeyman called ‘socialized medicine.’

The government will not pay for socialized medicine. You pay for it through taxes, just like you pay for roads, bridges, Yellowstone Park, air traffic control and national defense.

What you do not pay for is the overhead and profit of an entire industry devoted to skinning you out of decent care. You will not continue to pay the highest pharmaceutical costs on the face of the earth, nor will you indirectly pay the tab for bribing your Senator or Representative to deny you health initiatives.

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You will not pay the uninsured costs of emergency care for the 47 million of your neighbors who do not currently have access to health care, nor will you pay the long-term costs of their illnesses within American society.

You will not spend half again as much as Switzerland, Germany, Canada or France, getting crap health-care as part of the bargain. Your premiums will not rise 87% in six years (as they have). We will not, as a nation, spend over four times as much on health care as we do on national defense (remembering that we already spend more on our military than the combined military budgets of all the nations of the world combined).

For our president to blithely deny us the health benefits enjoyed by the Swiss, Germans, French or our neighbors to the north, Canada, is incomprehensible. To deny us those benefits, which would cover all 300 million of us at a third less cost for twice the effective care, is unconscionable. To deny us those benefits and break the national bank, while destroying our remaining business base, is treasonable. To deny us those benefits in favor of a small and narrowly focused business base, is criminal.

President Bush denigrates the expansion of health care to uninsured kids as “a step down the path to government-run health care for every American.”

Universal single-payer health care is a step up the path we should have taken years ago, a path big business interests in the United States are beginning to demand. George Bush, who never experienced a personal obligation of any kind that was not paid by someone else, is not fit (nor has he ever been) to comment on what health care path this nation deserves or should pursue.
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Jim Freeman's op-ed pieces and commentaries have appeared in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, International Herald-Tribune, CNN, The New York Review, The Jon Stewart Daily Show and a number of magazines. His thirteen published books are (more...)

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