Does Anyone Healthcare?
by Jeff Siddiqui
Nothing great is ever achieved by taking shy, hesitant steps…backwards.
Like so many visionary leaders in the past, President Obama also started with a great idea, but he allowed politicians to lead. First the Democrats made their sausage, making sure their patrons and paymasters, the healthcare industry is well-protected. Then the Republicans came in saw there there may be a few small, leftover sacred cows still unprotected and they stuck their daggers in the body of whatever healthcare plan had been cobbled together by the Democrats.
The Democrats’ plan now is to pass something, ANYTHING, under the “Healthcare” title so the public can be told they are indeed, being looked after. The Republicans’ plan is to make sure the public knows there really is no healthcare plan because they are against even the tiny concern shown to the public in the tatters of the original healthcare plan.
It is seldom that Congress will do anything to take care of the public if that should be at the cost of the industry…the paymasters to Congress.
In a period when Americans are facing record unemployment and the economy is falling to lower and lower levels, health insurance companies are seeing higher and higher profits, along with the health-provider industry which includes doctors, hospitals and Pharmaceutical companies. In 2008, Ron Williams of Aetna Insurance, made over $24 million and H. Edward Hanway of CIGNA made a measly $12 million while Obama noted in a speech (without naming him) that:
“One insurance company CEO received a $125 million salary that same year, and has been given stock options worth over $1 billion. As an added perk, he and his wife get free private health care for as long as they live”.
The United States is the ONLY developed country that has no national healthcare system. In terms of healthcare, the US provides less than Cuba…a country that has been strangled by the US since it overthrew the despotic and corrupt, pro-US Batista regime, back in 1959. World Health Organization’s 2000 report ranking healthcare across the world, placed the United States at #37…BELOW countries like Morocco, Chile, Dominica and Costa Rica…and only better than Cuba (#39) by two ranks.
Life-expectancies in the US is behind the average life-expectancies in most European countries while the cost of health insurance exceeds most people’s home-mortgages…and rising! Most people breathe a sigh of relief if their health insurance rises by “only” 15% in a given year.
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation report for the year 2009, while inflation FELL by .7%, the average healthcare premiums ROSE by 5.5%, taking the average employer-sponsored family costs to $13,375.00; I can tell you personally, the private premiums (for those of us who are self-employed) rose by more than TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT in 2009. In 2007, Regence Blue Shield of Washington State, hiked its private insurance charges by more than FORTY percent.
A Kaiser Family Foundation report compared the percentage change over time, in some selected countries….and the US won!
Yet, a Harvard School of Public Health survey showed that 60% of the Republicans believe the US has the best healthcare in the world while at the same time, about 38% of Democrats shared the same opinion.
We have all heard the MANY loud and “authoritative” voices, blame litigation for the rising healthcare costs but we know this is not true, not only from our own national figures, but from international comparisons as well.
Another commonly cited contention is that medical malpractice litigation is driving up U.S. health spending. The authors in a Commonwealth Fund report, compared malpractice claims data from the U.S., Australia, Canada, and the U.K., using information from national reports and databases. While the U.S. had 50 percent more malpractice claims filed per 1,000 population than the U.K. and Australia, and 350 percent more than Canada, payments were lower, on average, than those in Canada and the U.K. More important, average payments per capita were only $16 in the U.S. in 2001, compared with $12 in the U.K., $10 in Australia, and $4 in Canada. Including awards, legal fees, and underwriting costs, the total amount spent defending U.S. malpractice claims was an estimated $6.5 billion in 2001, or 0.46 percent of total health spending.
In a New Yorker article, physician Atul Gwande compared hospitals in McAllen, Texas with hospitals nationwide; McAllen has the lowest national household income yet, it has one of the most expensive healthcare markets. He also cites the Mayo Clinic system as providing one of the finest healthcare to patients…at one of the lowest costs in the nation.
The state of Texas, limited medical malpractice liability back in 2003, yet, a 2009 report showed Texas health insurance costs to have risen SEVEN TIMES faster than incomes in Texas.
While we can try to reduce healthcare costs by improving efficiencies, our real problem-areas are in uncontrolled drug costs and in the multiple healthcare delivery systems the plague the nation; we have a Veterans Administration healthcare system, hospitals run by states, counties and cities; we have Medicare and Medicaid systems as well as healthcare agencies run by local governments and to top it all off, our Congress has made it impossible for our largest healthcare purchasers (VA, Medicare and Medicaid) to negotiate lower prices from the pharmaceutical manufacturers and other delivery sources.
What to do?
It looks like we are about to get a healthcare plan, but it also looks like the party being taken care of is the healthcare industry…again! Whether they are Democrats or Republicans, the one thing certain is that the Healthcare industry will not suffer from any “reforms” instituted by our Congress’; as Nancy Pelosi said at the outset of the healthcare debate, “Public option is not on the table”.
I am not certain what exactly is going on in the behind-the-scenes discussions, but I am fairly sure there are rivers of palm-grease flowing through the halls of Congress…on both sides of the aisle. Were it not for the selfish concerns of Congress, we could have one of the finest reforms in the world, in a very short time.
As an example, may I present highlights from the Siddiqui Healthcare plan? Admittedly, I am not looking for re-election (or even election!) and I don’t care if I am more popular or more reviled by the “leaking” of this plan, but this plan should take care of the American people while not destroying the healthcare industry…but forcing them to go on a healthy diet and exercise plan…to WORK for our money!
Highlights of the Siddiqui Healthcare Plan:
There shall be a National Healthcare System which will immediately incorporate all facilities belonging to Healthcare-related services (hospitals, clinics etc) of local and state agencies, Medicare, Medicaid and VA.
New hospitals will be constructed such that there is at least on hospital for every population area of 100,000 people and in rural areas such that they are not too far away yet maximize the number of people served.
Procurement of Drugs, medical supplies and equipment will be on an international bidding basis, from providers who have been screened for quality of production.
Every person will receive basic healthcare which will include drugs and all services necessary for healthy living including dental, optical and mental healthcare.
Hospitalization and prostheses will also be covered under the national plan although prostheses will only be provided at a reasonable level above which, costs will have to be paid by the recipient.
Every person will pay a flat medical fee of $75 per month as health insurance, except that people who are below poverty income, will also receive insurance coupons which will relieve them of this expense. People nominally above the poverty level will receive coupons on a sliding scale, to offset some of their premiums.
People who need certain procedures not deemed as immediate need, may have to wait until there are facilities available to take care of their needs.
People who wish to have services deemed to be unnecessary to their health, will not receive such procedures unless they go to private services and pay for them personally.
People who want immediate services but have to wait, may seek private treatment in which case the National Healthcare Service will pay a portion of the costs and the patient will have to pay the balance personally.
I am sure there are better ideas out there, but the point is that it can be done, all we need are a few political leaders willing to stand for what is best for the American people, rather than what is best for their own re-election prospects.