Healthcare in America

I need to start this post the way that all employees start posts when they are talking about a job they work in. I work for EDS which is contracted out by Wisconsin as well as many other states to handle Medicaid. My comments here are not representative of EDS, HP (who owns EDS), the state of Wisconsin or anyone else who is somehow affiliated with the health care industry. What I am is an American Citizen whom is disabled with Hemophilia. As such, my life is very much centered around health care, and getting it.

For those that don’t know about Hemophilia, let me share a brief background on it. The disease is categorized by pain, something that you learn to live with and personally tend to lose empathy for others when they receive it. It is a bleeding disorder where the body fails to clot when it is damaged. In particular it affects joints, likely just because of the movement that needs constant healing. No this does not mean that I will bleed to death if you cut me, it will just likely take longer to stop the blood from flowing. More common issue is that I get internal bleeding episodes which are characterized by bruising, swelling, and lots and lots of pain. Personally, I have a case of severe Hemophilia which is characterized by more than one bleed every two or three months. I have on average one internal bleed every week. This qualifies me to be disabled so yes I have a disabled license plate, gee I’m lucky.

The other fun factoid about Hemophilia is that it is expensive. Very expensive. I down well over $100,000 of medications a month, and that is just medication. That is not including ancillary costs like the supplies needed in order to infuse the medications, any sort of hospital stays and surgeries that I need, physical therapies, doctors appointments, even secondary medications like meds to stop nose bleeds, etc. This is just the cost of the base medication. In researching a little bit this post I wanted to find a list of most expensive diseases and they only give totals of all America which is Heart Ailments. Which is funny they have over 40 million Americans in this category and they had to combine several to get it. I have a feeling Hemophilia may rank as the most expensive disease to have, at least top 5 but it is never listed on these lists because there aren’t many of us.

So now lets get to the point of an American Health care system shall we? I mean it seems prudent. Everyone in politics is talking about it, and more than most of these people I believe that I deserve a say. All these pundits and politicians and rednecks say that we don’t need a health care system. Of course these people likely don’t need it, they are all rich and have far better health coverage than 90% of Americans do (well outside of rednecks those people are just masochists and have their own issues). But the reality is that this country has serious problems with health care, and it isn’t the fault of the government run medicare and medicaid options. It almost wholly has to do with the insurance companies and medical facilities.

The first argument that you tend to hear against health care is that it will cost more than private insurance. This is just the most ridiculous argument one can make. First you can start with data. I personally like to just compare what we pay per person and what other countries pay per person. Here is a good resource of such data by Reuters, in it, you can find the costs of Fourteen of some of the most powerful countries in the world. For the USA we have a per capita cost of $6,657. The next country in line is the often loved country of France with $3,807 per capita. Now I may not be a math wiz but this seems to be almost double the cost than the most socialist free country in the world (we spend about 1.75 times the amount of France per person to be more exact). The other way we know that health insurance wouldn’t cost more is just common sense and I think the above stat proves common sense theory as well. Private companies are for profit businesses. As such they will go out of their way to make a profit, meaning that they will charge you the consumer more for your care than you might otherwise have to pay. You don’t quite see it the same way but say the actual need of a non-profit insurance company would be $40 that would just cover the cost to operate and fun people’s insurance, a for profit company would guarantee a charge of $80 per month onto you the consumer, and they would do their best to raise it to $81. So the fact that in reality it proves true that nationally funded health coverage costs half as much as private shouldn’t surprise anyone who sat and thought about it just a little.

Now if you use this argument, the next argument that tends to come about is that this fee in the United States is mostly incurred by companies that you are employed at and thus you as a citizen do not usually have to pay it. Thus, if health care is nationalized and taxes are handed out to individuals you will all of a sudden be paying for coverage that you are currently not paying for. Again this is completely false. Remember your employer is paying for you still that money would go away and you’d generally get that money back in one of several ways. One, they could just pay you more upfront, or the cost of production will go down so that you end up with less to pay for quality goods. You would also see cost of producing goods in the United States go down so that a company may be less likely to actually ship jobs oversees to countries that actually have a national health care system.

All these arguments failed the person you talk to would likely next go to an argument I actually have heard a chiropractor say. If we get universal health care here, the best doctors in the country will leave the country for other places. To this I say, where? Most first world countries in the world already have a national health care system. I don’t believe most doctors are this stupid to think that there is another place for this. The remaining countries are places like Brazil which I admit many top doctors have already gone there due to President Bush’s regulations on stem cell research. But alas, the truth is there isn’t really a great place for doctors to go if we lower the amounts we pay out to providers. We are the last great cash sink for them.

At any rate, this is kind of redundant anyway. Studies have consistently shown that the quality of health care in the United States ranks among the worst of modern civilizations. So the theory that we even have the best doctors now isn’t exactly sound. Truth be told, we are now paying the most for the worst and this just flat out needs to change.

Last but not least is the argument that you don’t want your health care decisions made by a bureaucrat do you? Well preferably not but I don’t think there is much hope. I mean who do you think runs the insurance companies anyway? A bunch of doctors? Not in the least. Rather, they are business men and women whose only concern is making money, even if it is at the expense of their customers. At least with politicians we get people who might possibly have our best interest in mind from time to time (though I admit with rampant bribery this isn’t entirely realistic but you have a better chance).

The one concern there truly is with the lower prices paid to doctors (though I don’t think a lot of the doctors will see a huge reduction in salaries) would be that they have no route to pay back extremely expensive college loans. This is a true issue but is actually a Red Herring. This is a problem with the education system which I agree needs to get fixed as well. However, let’s fix one problem at a time. And truthfully, I don’t think salary would go down drastically, I think a large portion of savings would come from cutting out the middle man, ironically you would also see savings in that HE would not have to pay as much for health coverage either both while employed and while in school.

This brings me to Barack Obama’s plan. Personally, I don’t like it. I want to see an actual national health plan that all Americans have with only their tax dollars to foot the bill. I think that what Obama has put forward is a start, but a very small one. And even the small step that it is, it is only a step if the plan includes a national health plan option that people can buy into. This at least gives a competing option to the insurance industry that hopefully can lower costs a bit and at the same time bring more trust to the government to be able to provide patients with competent coverage.

http://www.commonwealthfund.org/Content/Publications/Fund-Reports/2007/May/Mirror–Mirror-on-the-Wall–An-International-Update-on-the-Comparative-Performance-of-American-Healt.aspx