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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 6/28/17

The Deadly Price of Healthcare in America

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I think you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn't at least sense the unapologetic greed behind America's healthcare system. True, under Obamacare there was a sense things were getting better, but it still rankled, and not for the reasons commonly touted by Republicans as justification for getting rid of it.

For one, in his article on what repealing Obamacare will do, former health insurance CEO J.B. Silvers points out something not many people realize: Congress "reneged" on a key tenet of Obamacare. The plan was to provide insurers with risk-reduction funds to make up for the requirement that they can't raise rates on, or refuse to cover, people with pre-existing conditions. But congress only paid 12 percent of the risk reduction money they owed to insurers. This is part of the reason why many insurers started to pull out of Obamacare. Businesses don't want to operate in markets where there's too much risk.

A Republican-dominated congress made sure there was too much risk so that insurers would pull out. They undermined Obamacare for political reasons (read: power)--not because Obamacare wouldn't have worked.

Additionally, many red states (19, to be exact) chose not to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. They turned down money that would have helped heal the poor and would have helped incentivize insurers to remain in Obamacare. Basically, states that rejected Medicaid funds have more sick, high-risk people participating in the Obamacare insurance exchange. This puts more weight on insurers who are in the exchange and makes them more likely to operate at a loss. Without the risk reduction funds coming from Congress, these insurers don't have any reason to remain in Obamacare.

Here again, there was more risk for insurers to remain in Obamacare because of Republican obstructionism.

What's wrong with this picture? The big problem isn't obstructionism, nor is it Obamacare; it's the capitalist system that spawns the type of "repeal and replace" legislation Republicans are trying to push through the Senate right now. This is the selfsame system that prompts insurance companies to scuttle from risk. The problem is the system that creates risk. It prompts consumers onto a tightrope at the same time as it incentivizes insurers to cut the safety net.

Let's start with one of the biggest causes of death in America today: heart disease. It's important to think of heart disease in the context of risk or lack thereof, because we could prevent around 200,000 deaths related to heart disease, including heart attacks. In other words, heart disease doesn't have to be that risky or costly because it's a preventable disease. Presumably, a system that minimizes risk would take that into account and do its best to prevent heart disease.

Quite the opposite. A condition like heart disease starts with an unhealthy lifestyle at a young age. Not long after Trump took office, his agriculture secretary announced school cafeterias will be able to serve kids high-sodium foods and processed breads that aren't whole grain. Trump is opposed to the nutrition standards championed by Michelle Obama and enacted by the Obama administration. Furthermore, fast food restaurants and other retailers won't have to display calorie counts, which can deter people from buying high calorie foods that are bad for their heart. Trump is championing deregulation and favoring companies that make unhealthy foods.

Unhealthy processed foods high in sodium are bad for your heart and help contribute to heart disease. Yet America's capitalist system doesn't obviate the risk posed by such foods--it exacerbates it.

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