America's Scam Health Insurance

Given the boondoggle of K-12 public education and the unbridled government waste in America at all levels—Federal, state, and municipal—one is justified in doubting the effectiveness of a government-run health care system. On the other hand, the private insurance system in place for the past 70 years obviously is not working, and the reason it’s not working, and can never work, is that the competitive, free-market model of insurance companies consists of cutting costs and making money for its investors, not on how well they serve the sick. That kind of competitiveness no doubt works well with producers of material products like home appliances and automobiles, where success can be clearly measured in dollars and cents on a quarterly basis, but not with providers of services like health care where success is long-range and qualitative. Entrusting health care to private for-profit corporations is no less absurd than proposing the same for the Armed Forces, the FBI or our national parks.

Consider the spiraling costs. When a patient sues a doctor for malpractice, he doesn’t sue the doctor, for the patient’s lawyer knows that the doctor, however well remunerated, doesn’t earn enough to make the legal expenses and risk of losing the lawsuit worthwhile. Whom the lawyer sues, to the hilt, is the doctor’s insurance company, the party with the deep pockets. This, then, forces the insurance company to raise malpractice premiums, which doctors, in turn, passes on to his patients’ employers by raising fees, and employers, in turn, pass down the cost to their employees by paying them less. If employers do not provide health insurance, then the employees, being at the lowest rung of the pecking order, cannot pass down the cost down any further and have no choice but to cover the costs out of pocket, which can, and often does, push an average household to the brink of bankruptcy. And if someone in the household happens to have a pre-existing condition, or has the misfortune of becoming one of the 9.6% working-age Americans unemployed (some say the actual figure is twice that), health insurance of any sort is out of the question.

Then there are the added costs, in billions of dollars, in paper work and red tape. A sizable part of a business, hospital or doctor’s clerical staff is devoted exclusively to dealing with convoluted insurance forms, further complicated by the fact that every insurance company has its own set of forms and requirements. And if a doctor doesn’t accept a patient’s insurance policy, which is becoming increasingly the case, then the patient has to spend hours filling the forms to get benefit he is entitle to, or get stuck with the bill.

Free-market-cures-all pundits in the U.S. persist in telling insist that the for-profit American health care system is the best in the world, and, as proof, cite cases of foreign citizens who opt to come to the United States for medical treatment rather than rely on their nations’ state-run “socialist” system. But they neglect to mention that those foreign citizens are well-to-do individuals for whom cost is not a problem. For ordinary foreign wage earners the cost of medical treatment in the U.S. would be prohibitive. The free-market pundits may be right. Maybe American health care is the best in the world. But if so, why is it that no other country in the world would consider adopting it? Why is it that American health insurance companies—Blue Cross, Humana, Aetna, et.al.—aren’t going global, like McDonald’s and Caterpillar, and earning yet more billions for their investors?

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