In which John discusses the complicated reasons why the United States spends so much more on health care than any other country in the world, and along the way reveals some surprising information, including that Americans spend more of their tax dollars on public health care than people in Canada, the UK, or Australia. Who’s at fault? Insurance companies? Drug companies? Malpractice lawyers? Hospitals? Or is it more complicated than a simple blame game? (Hint: It’s that one.)
OTTAWA - Organ donation activist Helene Campbell is stepping up efforts to help people waiting for transplants.
Campbell has launched the Give2Live Campaign, which aims to use online crowdfunding to raise money for families struggling to pay for housing and medical equipment as their loved ones await transplants.
Out-of-pocket expenses for people waiting to receive a transplant can average about $10,000, especially when they are required to live within two hours of the hospital where they expect to receive an organ.
Campbell, who is a double-lung transplant recipient herself, is hoping to raise enough money to help 30 families.
I am a registered Republican, and never voted for a Democratic president. I am prepared to vote for President Obama for his reelection and here’s why. I’ll try to make it fast.
I was with Blue Cross and Blue Shield for the last two years, with insurance coverage for myself and my entire family. I was a good customer, never late on my premiums, relatively small health problems throughout my family. They made more than they lost with us, I guarantee that.
I have switched jobs, just before I switched jobs my wife went in for a checkup to have her thyroid looked at because she had a sensation she always had something stuck in her throat. They found cysts on her thyroid that may need to be removed.
We were told by Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) that since we were with them for so long before that if we just got a new policy with them that we would still be covered and no “pre-existing conditions” would apply. Today, we receive a letter stating that they would cover no expenses relating to the thyroid, even though all we are really doing is just changing policies. It is ridiculous!
I support Obama in his efforts to change this about our healthcare system. I have had insurance, I have not had a period of time over the last 10 years where I have not had insurance. I have been with BCBS for at least two years, and now they are writing down that they will not cover “any disease or disorder relating to a thyroid gland”.
Healthcare providers should not be allowed to do this.
“In August, the administrationannounced new rules requiring all new insurance plans to cover birth control and emergency contraception by 2013. At an early October fundraiser in St. Louis, President Obama himselfhailedthe rule. And when President Obama appeared before the U.N. in September, the administrationtouted the contraception rule as an example of America’s commitment to women. So when Carney says “this decision has not yet been made,” he’s wrong. It has been made—and by reopening it, President Obama is succumbing to pressure from anti-choice groups.
Even worse, Carney says President Obama is trying to “strike the right balance between expanding coverage of preventive services and respecting religious beliefs” without acknowledging the fact that the rules announced in Augustalready included an exemption for churches.”
First, let’s get some facts straight. The rule issued previously was an interim rule, effective August 1, 2011. Public comments on the interim rule were accepted through September 30, 2011. The whole point of issuing an interim rule with request for comment is that you read the comments, and consider whether or not to amend the rule. The real scandal would be if the Obama administration didn’t consider the comments it solicited.
Second, I think it’s misleading to suggest that an exemption for churches is enough to satisfy all concerns about religious beliefs. Religious organizations also operate hospitals, schools, universities, etc.. That’s what the Catholic church is concerned about..
The Catholic church opposes contraception in pretty much all cases. While I disagree with them on this—I can’t deny that they’re sincere about it. We have a history of protecting religious beliefs from undue governmental interference. It’s part of that separation of church and state thing enshrined in the first amendment. And that’s where the issue gets messy.
Co-pay free access to contraception is extremely important for a whole slew of important societal ends. (Because I’d be preaching to the choir on this one, I won’t reiterate all those reasons here.) On the other hand, forcing Catholic organizations to provide services they believe are religiously prohibited is a serious burden on religious liberty. It raises some serious constitutional concerns as well.
Like many things, I haven’t made up my mind on this one. Yes, I think employers and insurance companies should be required, in general, to provide access to birth control without a copay as part of a full health insurance plan. That’s good policy. And yes, I think that organizations should follow suit. But whether they should be required to provide insurance that provides access to birth control or sterilization even if it violates strongly held religious beliefs is a much tougher call. ↩
First there is no requirement that people use these services, but it is not appropriate to deny a woman healthcare because she works for a Catholic institution (and I am not too sure what that would include a church, a charity shop, a hospital?). Second part of the problem with our current system is that it is not a system there are dozens, hundreds of policies and variations and exclusions — everybody is paying and paying a lot get claims through the system. Some doctors even refuse to deal with insurance because it simply takes too much time. Some basic care needs to be included in all plans for the good of the patients and as a cost cutting measure.
By Ken Alltucker The Arizona Republic, November 3, 2011
Health Net of Arizona is teaming with Banner Health to offer a new health-maintenance-organization insurance plan that allows businesses and their workers access to discounted care if they agree to limit their network of health providers.
The Health Net ExcelCare HMO plan offers customers a network exclusively made up of Banner Health Network medical providers and Banner Health hospitals.
Although it’s Health Net’s initial foray into “narrow networks” in Arizona, the health insurer said that it has had success enticing both large and small employers in California to choose similar plans with slimmed-down networks.
Wasn’t choice supposed to be the great benefit of our failed no-system healthcare?
Occupy San Francisco protester Miran Istina stands outside the US Bank building on Market Street, San Francisco. Photograph: Martin Lacey
As Miran Istina puts it, she has been living on borrowed time since she was 14. Diagnosed with cancer, she was given just months to live after her health insurer refused to provide her with life-saving surgery.
Now 18, Istina, from the city of Sisters in Oregon, has spent the past three weeks living in a tent at the Occupy San Francisco protest and says she will stay there indefinitely, despite her illness.
She was inspired to take part in the protest by the refusal of her insurance company to pay for treatment for her chronic myelogenous leukaemia.
She said: “They denied me on the terms of a pre-existing condition. Seeing as I had only had that insurance for a few months, and I was in early stage two which meant I had to have had it for at least a year, they determined it was a pre-existing condition and denied me healthcare.”
Treatment would require a bone marrow transplant and extensive radiation therapy and chemotherapy, at a cost of several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Coming from an ordinary middle-class background, her family has no way of paying for the surgery that would save her life.
Following her insurer’s refusal, she spent three years travelling the US looking for a healthcare provider who would give her a chance at life.
Istina said: “I went all over the place, looking for someone to give a damn, really, someone to care enough to treat me. Because we were middle class, we couldn’t afford to treat my disease. We’d be in debt for the rest of our family life.”
After repeated refusals to offer her treatment, she said: “I decided I was going to spend the rest of my life doing whatever my heart wants.”
The Occupy movement attracted Istina as she ties the corporate influence on American politics to the decision that has sentenced her to death.
She said: “The corporate influence on politics influences just about anything that happens, seeing as politicians write the plans that healthcare has to follow. It directly links the fact that insurers only pick and choose those who are actually worth it [financially]. I just happen to not be one of the ones they wanted to be around much longer.
“The decision was absolutely influenced by some corporation or some bank saying, ‘we can’t afford her. She’s not worth our money.’ In end terms, corporate greed is going to cost me my life.
“I used to be really upset about it. I’m not as much any more. I’m angry, for sure, but I think me being here might help it never happen again. That’s why I’m here. It’s that there are other people this is going to happen to if this movement doesn’t succeed and that’s not healthy. I’m done being the victim. However long I have left is dedicated heart and soul to this movement, no matter what it takes.”
She has immersed herself in the movement, becoming the chief media relations officer for Occupy SF and organising fundraising events around the city. On Thursday afternoon she led a CNN television crew on a walk through the camp, to show how they were living, explain their motives and refute claims that the living conditions are unsanitary.
She said of her new life: “My heart is finally satisfied.”
The Occupy San Francisco movement has seen up to 300 protesters take over the Justin Herman Plaza, at the Embarcadero in the downtown district since October 5.
The occupiers are given food by local restaurants and have received donations from supporters to provide supplies.
Health professionals from the San Francisco General Hospital are providing round-the-clock care for Istina, who needs strong pain killers and constant monitoring of her condition. Earlier in the month she suffered a kidney malfunction which required urgent hospital treatment.
Throughout the afternoon four police officers kept a watchful eye over the groups of tents and makeshift shelters but the atmosphere was relaxed. When the officers staged a walk-through some of the occupiers shared jokes with them. One said: “Please leave the automatic weapons outside the camp. This is a peaceful protest.”
Another said: “We’re not doing any harm. We’re just a bunch of peace-loving hippies.”
But a raid on the camp is possible at any time. San Francisco mayor Ed Lee has repeatedly insisted that the camp is illegal and all tents should be removed but so far little has been done to enforce the law.
He has threatened a raid and on Wednesday night occupiers expected police to move in, sparking a larger than normal demonstration. Two candidates for the upcoming mayoral election joined with the protesters but despite the presence nearby of riot police, the raid did not go ahead.
I want to ask the Free-market healthcare advocates out there: what is your answer for this girl? What is she supposed to do? The Libertarian response to her situation seems to be that she should just do her best to seek the charity of others in an attempt to garner the money necessary for treatment. Yet she claims that she’s done that: she traveled across the entire country, for years, looking for an institution that would help pay for her illness. Not a single one would help her.
Meanwhile, if she had gotten cancer in France, she’d have been able to start treatment within days of her diagnosis, and paid nothing:
In France, the sicker you get, the less you pay. Chronic diseases, such as diabetes, and critical surgeries, such as a coronary bypass, are reimbursed at 100%. Cancer patients are treated free of charge. Patients suffering from colon cancer, for instance, can receive Genentech Inc.’s (DNA ) Avastin without charge. In the U.S., a patient may pay $48,000 a year.
But wait, you might say: France has (partially) socialized medicine, so obviously the downside must be that she’d have to wait YEARS to receive her care, right?
Wrong. France has very few waiting lists for serious illness, and its medical system out-performs America’s like a boss:
In a  World Health Organization health-care ranking, France came in first, while the U.S. scored 37th, slightly better than Cuba and one notch above Slovenia. France’s infant death rate is 3.9 per 1,000 live births, compared with 7 in the U.S., and average life expectancy is 79.4 years, two years more than in the U.S. The country has far more hospital beds and doctors per capita than America, and far lower rates of death from diabetes and heart disease. The difference in deaths from respiratory disease, an often preventable form of mortality, is particularly striking: 31.2 per 100,000 people in France, vs. 61.5 per 100,000 in the U.S.
Now I know America doesn’t literally have a free market in healthcare. But distinctions between corporatism and capitalism aren’t going to help someone who has cancer today. And I think most free market advocates would still argue that, within the American system as it stands now, she still has a duty to seek charity first rather than seek healthcare reforms that would lead to even more coercion (as I’m sure she is, given her seeming opposition to America’s for-profit system).
Now would her healthcare literally be “free” in France? Of course not. All french citizens are paying it forward through the tax system. But by doing so, they end up a) paying less per capita than we do now., and b) when you get sick and can’t afford payment, everybody else’s tax dollars pay for your treatment. This allows you to spend more time working and being productive rather, than say, wandering around the country for years begging other people and/or institutions to treat you so you can, you know, live.
Is this fair to the taxpayers of France? Free market advocates would argue no. In fact, they would argue this even if it was clear that socialized medicine, with all the coercion inherent to it, resulted in more people getting access to healthcare, increased life expectancy, and lowered per capita costs; because under Libertarian ideology, it is axiomatic that freedom always trumps physical utility. So even though a system based on coercion could at least conceivably increase human flourishing (and thus increase real freedom for a great many people by giving them to choice to receive care, which they are still free to deny in a socalized healthcare system), a lover of Liberty and Freedom must still reject it, because paying taxes is a form of tyranny worse than not being able to afford to pay for your cancer treatments, and certainly worse than the humiliation of being forced to beg for charity from other people.
[T]here is some reason to believe that with the increase in general wealth and of the density of population, the share of all needs that can be satisfied only by collective action will continue to grow…
Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance, where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks, the case for the state helping to organise a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong.
At the end of the day, this teenager’s situation boiled down to a matter of luck. If her parents had been lucky enough to have a job that included her on their health insurance, she wouldn’t be in this position. If she had been lucky enough to get cancer after her parent’s insurance kicked in, she wouldn’t be in this position. The insurance company would be paying for her treatment. Why should she be denied care simply because her parents couldn’t find a job with health insurance in time? Why should she be denied care because she can’t predict when she’s going to get stricken with cancer? Her situation is a function of temporal and biological fortune. I don’t think we should structure society in a way that penalizes her for that when it doesn’t have to be that way.
I guess at the end of the day, it really does boil down to a fundamental disagreement at the ethical level, as Kohenari pointed out to me recently I believe freedom is a means of achieving utility, not an end in itself. Libertarians, while generally believing that liberty inherently increases utility, nonetheless concede that in the hard/coneptual case where it doesn’t, they would still choose liberty over physical utility. I can’t do that. I think it is fundamental moral error to do so. I think it is fundamental moral error to tell this girl, or any similarly situated individual, to beg for charity or consign herself to death, while the girl who got diagnosed with cancer down the street gets treatment and lives, because dad was lucky enough not to get a pink slip in 2008.
Schweitzer points out the similar demographics between his state and the province to the north: Montana has a population of about 190,000, while Saskatchewan’s is just over 1 million; the average age is just two months different; the ethnic make-up is about the same; and the economies of both are centered around farming, mining, logging, and energy production. Yet with the universal health care system in place, Saskatchewans live two years longer on average and have a lower infant mortality rate than in Montana.
And after working through the numbers to compare health care systems with Brad Wall, the conservative premier of Saskatchewan, Schweitzer discovered the province spends about $4,000 per person per year to provide care to all citizens—that’s half what Montana currently spends per person to provide care to only a portion of the population.
I was about 17 when the NHS was founded, and I remember life in Britain before it. I came from a large family. We weren’t well off but we weren’t impoverished either, though being a large family meant we had to stretch our money a long way. Money was always an issue when it came to seeing the doctor. Half a crown was the amount I always remember, and when you’re only earning shillings, that can be a lot of money. Quite a lot of people simply couldn’t afford healthcare.
The second world war crystallised the need for good healthcare. There became a realisation that health shouldn’t come down for money. Before the war hundreds of thousands of people were just too poor to see a doctor, so the National Health Service was born in response. We wanted a world that was better after the war than before.
Politicians talk a lot about being progressive, about modernisation. And that’s what the NHS is. It is the jewel in the crown; an object of admiration and envy around the world. It’s what allows us to call ourselves civilised – because one of the benchmarks of a civilised society is that we care for each other. We’ve already tried a healthcare system based on money, and it failed.
The health and social care bill is based on three big lies. First, the government argues, increased competition and privatisation will improve choice. If you want to know whether that’s true, just look across the water to the US, and the fact that Barack Obama tried to move away from the very system we are hurtling towards. It should ring alarm bells that some GP practices are already beginning to charge patients for some procedures. Second, the government tells us it has a mandate to make these changes, but it doesn’t. The “reforms” weren’t in any manifesto, nobody voted for them and they’re desperately unpopular. David Cameron even promised no “top-down reorganisations” of the NHS in 2006. Finally, the government insists that “doing nothing is not an option”. This lie is particularly pernicious because the idea of doing nothing hasn’t been suggested: those who value the NHS always want the government to look at ways to improve it. But by phrasing the bill in those terms, the government is suggesting that we either have to ignore the imperfections of the NHS or accept these changes. It’s simply not true.
The people of Britain have been seriously let down by political parties and the TUC in recent years. There just aren’t any leaders for working people any more. This has instilled in the public an apathy that the government is relying upon to push these reforms through. They know that people will be unwilling or unable to fathom its complexity. When I tell people what the health and social care bill means, they always say “they can’t do that can they?” because they simply haven’t realised the seriousness of the proposed changes.
I’m joining UK Uncut’s action to Block the Bridge, Block the Bill on Sunday 9 October because it’s absolutely the right thing to do. We know now that we can’t rely on leaders, so we must take matters into our own hands. Across the world, it’s become clear that more and more people are starting to feel the same way. We’ve seen ordinary people protest in Wall Street about decisions being made about their lives but without their consent, and we must do the same here. We will act nonviolently and we will be clear with our message: the government simply cannot be allowed to do this. I’m not nervous about the protest: I’m ready to take a stand. I hope you’ll join me.
NHS cuts protesters occupy Westminster Bridge - in pictures
More than 2,000 protesters blocked Westminster Bridge in London to protest against the government’s planned shakeup of the NHS
You know, if socialized medicine is really as bad as critics claim it is, why would anyone, much less thousands of people, actively protest against cutting it? The horror stories that folks on the Right tell about Britain’s NHS make it seem completely indefensible. Yet here are thousands of people who live under it and are actively campaigning to defend it.
You have the worst quality of life in the developed world – by a wide margin.
If you had any idea of how people really lived in Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and many parts of Asia, you’d be rioting in the streets calling for a better life. In fact, the average Australian or Singaporean taxi driver has a much better standard of living than the typical American white-collar worker.
I know this because I am an American, and I escaped from the prison you call home.
I have lived all around the world, in wealthy countries and poor ones, and there is only one country I would never consider living in again: The United States of America. The mere thought of it fills me with dread.
Consider this: you are the only people in the developed world without a single-payer health system. Everyone in Western Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand has a single-payer system. If they get sick, they can devote all their energies to getting well. If you get sick, you have to battle two things at once: your illness and the fear of financial ruin. Millions of Americans go bankrupt every year due to medical bills, and tens of thousands die each year because they have no insurance or insufficient insurance. And don’t believe for a second that rot about America having the world’s best medical care or the shortest waiting lists: I’ve been to hospitals in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Singapore, and Thailand, and every one was better than the “good” hospital I used to go to back home. The waits were shorter, the facilities more comfortable, and the doctors just as good.
This is ironic, because you need a good health system more than anyone else in the world. Why? Because your lifestyle is almost designed to make you sick.