Chris Tann (ctann) wrote,
Chris Tann
ctann

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Parasites in the system

You have probably heard about the big debates over US healthcare that are going on, and for those of you outside the US, you may be wondering what the fuss is all about. The US is currently trapped in a vicious circle of spiraling health costs (note, I didn't say health *care* costs), and the bottom line is that a large number of people in the US have no health insurance - which means basically, no health care, aside from emergency treatment (for which they will still be billed exorbitant amounts).

But why is it that the US suffers so greatly from this problem, where as other countries seem to keep it maneagable. Yes, each country's system has its own inherent problems, but none seem to go through quite the issues that the US is facing.

My analysis - parasites in the system.

It is no secret the the US economy functions on a real Capitalist basis. That is, bottom-line is the driving factor. That has become so deeply ingrained in the US culture, that often the quest to make a profit (and a short-term profit, at that), generates sacrifices in many other areas, such as job security, job creation, etc. The problem is when this Capitalist bias runs into something that requires a Socialist basis - i.e. anything where we cannot let money be the driving force. For all the materialistic things, fine, but when it comes to health, doesn't everyone deserve good treatement, irrespective of net worth? Not necessarily equal treatment, I have no problems with the well-off paying more for "better" (usually, more personalised) treatment. But at the end of the day, you have no choice (OK, lets not get into the grey area of health-effecting lifestyle choices) about whether you get sick or not, and it should be a goal of a supposedly fair and equal society to ensure that all its citizens have access to health care, without having to mortgage the rest of their lives.

I had a medical recently, which required a few extra tests. Now I have the cheapest health insurance plan possible, and so a large deductible - which means that most of cost comes out of my own pocket. I received a bill for the tests - $495. That is a heft chunk of change. However, my insurance company apparently "negotiates" with providers, and procured me a discount of $352.51 - leaving me a balance to pay of about $140.

Lets be clear, that $352 was not money the insurance company paid out. So what was the "real" cost of the tests? $500, or $140? Now I have no idea how all of this works under the hood (as Scott Adams would say, it is a "Confuseopolis", designed specifically to hide its own workings from the consumer so the consumer doesn't know when he is being screwed...). So, it seems that someone without medical insurance would have been billed $500, where as someone with medical insurance is billed only $140. Does that make *any* sense what so ever? The medical provider is trying o make a fat profit, off the group of people who probably can't even afford the health insurance in the first place. I'm sure the $500 is what is reported to the government, and used for their "cost of healthcare".

Another interesting number is what I pay for health insurance. There is a big scare over the price of health insurance, but when I was self employed, I paid only $150/month to cover myself and Jenny. Yes, that was a "High Deductible" plan, which means I could have to pay thousands in a year before the insurance kicks in, but as a healthy couple with no kids, that is usually not a problem (and the savings in premiums over a lower deductible plan would just about cover any deductible I would have to pay). Now I am an employee, and my employer pays part of my health insurance - and for the same plan, they pay 3-4 times as much. So what is the "cost" of insuring me? Again, you can be sure that the numbers are extremely complex, but if a health insurance company can sell me a plan direct for $150, and sell it through a third party to my company for $500 - well, again someone is getting royally screwed.

I don't have the answers to America's healthcare problems - heck, I know that I have no chance of even figuring out what the problem is from where I stand, and I consider myself far more informed than the majority of healthcare consumers. But I'll tell you this - if a commission was formed to route out the parasites, profiteers, and money-drains from the healthcare industry (and by that, let me be clear that I am talking about companies and individuals that have nothing to do with sick people - to these parasites, sick people only exist on statistical charts), we would be one step closer to getting the problem under control, so that true change can then occur.
Tags: capitalism, health insurance, healthcare, obama, socialism
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