The Nitty Gritty: Why Our Health Care System Is Such a Mess
Our health care system is a disaster. You won’t find much disagreement with that statement — maybe just fingers pointing in different directions as to why.
We’ve had endless debates on health care, and various presidents have tried to expand coverage only to be challenged by the powerful insurance and health care industry.
President Obama signed the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare) into law. It was a negotiated, watered down version of his attempt to get universal coverage, and it has been under attack ever since it passed.
Frankly, it was better for some people and worse for others. Costs continued to rise, and people lost coverage.
The Republicans have wanted to repeal and replace Obamacare since it was passed. So far, however, they have not come up with a better plan.
Health insurance became more common after WWII when, because of a wage freeze, employers offered better health benefits as a way to attract good employees. By the 1960s, about 70% of people were covered by private insurance.
Attempts to implement universal care were heavily campaigned against by the insurance industries because they stood to lose a lot of money. Scare tactics and linking health care to “communism” seemed to work.
President Nixon and President Clinton tried to institute universal health care, but could never get any legislation passed.
Insurance companies make money off our health care, and they are in charge of it. “Managed care” was a nice way for them to control what services we could and could not have. It was also a way to raise copays and premiums, so more money went into their pockets.
Health care costs are out of control. Even people with health care coverage often can’t get the services they need because they cannot afford the copays for their medications.
The United States spends more money for health care than any other country. In fact, the U.S. spends more than the next ten highest spending countries combined.
With all of that money spent, you’d think we have the best health care, right? We don’t. The U.S. actually ranks last in health and mortality when compared with 17 other modern, industrialized nations.
We are overcharged for services, medications, and supplies. Thirty-five percent of Americans have trouble paying their bills, and health care costs account for two-thirds of all bankruptcies. Here are just a few examples of this abuse:
- The average cost for a hospital stay is $18,000 in the United States, compared to $6,200 in other countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
- You will be charged $546 for a one liter bag of saline in an American hospital. This bag of saline costs somewhere between 40 cents and one dollar to produce.
- There is no standard for charges for various procedures. A hip replacement in Ada, Oklahoma will cost just over $5,000. In Monterrey Park, California, expect to pay over $200,000.
Nothing is being done about this abuse, and we are all paying for it.
One of the other reasons our health care is so expensive is the system is rampant with fraud, waste, and abuse.
It’s become so bad and unfortunately so common that, when the Department of Health & Human Services released its budget for fiscal year 2015, it listed fraud prevention and the reduction of improper payments as “top priorities” for the administration.
Doctors and hospitals are billing Medicaid and Medicare for services that are not needed, and services that were never performed. Doctors are ordering tests and medical procedures for patients who do not need them.
Sometimes, having these tests and procedures actually cause harm to the patient. We’re paying to be subjected to abuse and potential harm. It’s estimated that 30 cents on every dollar spent on health care goes to waste, which adds up to about $750 billion each year.
Pharmaceutical fraud and abuse cost us billions of dollars. Pharmaceutical companies advertise on primetime television, encouraging patients to ask their doctors for whatever popular drug is marketed.
Doctors over-prescribe drugs, and pharmaceutical companies inflate the prices. Recently, the CEO of a drug company raised the price of a drug used to treat people suffering from AIDS from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill.
As a nation, we have allowed the insurance industries to control our health care. There is a lot of money to be made, and they won’t be voluntarily giving it up — ever.
They raise prices of drugs and medical-related services. They increase our copays, and they make health care barely affordable. We fight with each other and blame each other for the current state of our health care system.
But the fact is we have decided to let health care be a business in this country, not a service. Business is about making money, first and foremost. Health care should be about taking care of people first. Everything costs money, but someone dying of cancer shouldn’t be a big payday for an insurance company.
We as a nation apparently are not willing to do what it takes to get universal health care. Until we unite and elect officials who are willing to stand up to the deep pockets of the insurance industry, we will be no better off.
Critics who opposed Obamacare from the start have had seven or more years to present the American people with a better alternative. So far it has been more of the same, with every part of the proposal rooted in business and money.
Our health care system will be a disaster until care becomes a higher priority than making money.