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Living in Absurdistan--the State of American Health Care

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President Bush not only denounced, but threatened to veto a congressional plan to insure kids who have no health insurance, calling it a step “down the path to government-run health care for every American.” I wonder if he realizes how stunningly oxymoronic that sounds, as costs among private insurers rose over 6% this year, following a rise of near 8% last year.

America has become the Absurdistan of health care;

  • Spending more, both as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) and on a per-capita basis, than any other nation in the world.
  • Currently Americans spend 15% of GDP (the world's highest) and rate 37th down the list of effective programs, according to the World Health Organization.
  • Costs are predicted to reach 20 percent of GDP in nine years.
  • 48 million of us don’t have any health insurance at all (which puts an interesting slant on what ‘per capita costs’ actually mean—we are all included, insured or not).
  • Medical bills are overwhelmingly the largest cause of American bankruptcies.
  • Meanwhile, the state of our health for all this dough rates an embarrassing 72nd of 191 countries compared.
  • 60% of us get our health care through an employer
  • Which means most of us who have a dependent with serious health issues cannot change jobs because of the pre-existing condition clause in most health insurance policies.

Government-run (paid and administered) health care for every American should be a goal rather than a scorned ‘down the path’ destination by an elitist president. This president (and his Republican party) smear single-payer health insurance as ‘socialized medicine,’ a derogatory term worthy of Joe McCarthy’s ‘fellow-traveler’ or ‘card-carrying member of the ACLU,’--terms that were equally meaningless and inflammatory.

The 36 nations that spend less and the 72 whose citizens enjoy a better standard of health are almost uniformly ‘socialized’ in that they provide single-payer systems.

Here is my proposition to you as a fellow citizen:

I’m going to sell you an insurance policy to cover the health of you and your family. Pay attention now, because if you think your employer is currently picking up that cost, you are sadly (and badly) mistaken. You are paying the premiums, either directly or as a deduction to what your salary would be were those costs not taken out.

Employers do not pay for health insurance. They administer the costs, just as government does not pay in a national program (where you pay the costs through taxes). Now that we have that squared away, let’s talk about coverage.

I’m proud to say that my company, the Freeman Health Care Scam (FHCS) is a leader in holding down premium costs. We do that by denying claims. In fact, we are currently denying 21% of policyholder claims, up from a healthy (no pun intended) 18% last year. It is our hope and expectation to deny even more claims as we bring new computer  models online, keeping premiums low with the best claim-denial software in the industry.

Got a child with spina bifida of a wife fighting breast cancer? Sorry--pre-existing condition--just another small battle won on your behalf in the greater war against premium surge.

Why, you might ask, would a serious-minded and intelligent consumer want to

  • pay an insurer to deny him coverage,
  • argue over what is and is not covered,
  • pay higher and higher co-payments,
  • not be allowed to switch jobs without loss of coverage, all the while
  • paying increasing premiums at four times the cost of living index?

Good question. Which the real world fails to answer.

(NYTimes) The cost of employer-sponsored health insurance premiums has increased 6.1 percent this year, well ahead of wage trends and consumer price inflation, but below the 7.7 percent increase in 2006, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported today.

Somehow the Times makes 6.1% sound like a victory.

Because doctor and hospital costs continue to rise at an even faster rate, the modest slowdown in insurance inflation mainly reflects cutbacks in coverage by many health plans, which have found ways to make employees pay more for their care. Industry experts said that without those measures, premium costs would have risen by 9 percent or more.

We actually slowed inflation by cutting your benefits. Without that, you’d really have been in deep sh*t.

The total average annual cost for family coverage premiums rose to $12,106.

That’s 28% of median family income, friends. Damned near a third (and will be soon).

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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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