Health care reform has been in the news more than almost any other topic in the last few weeks. Here are a few notable reasons why (via National Coalition On Health Care, where you can find much more information on health care issues and reform):
- Health care spending is 4.3 times the amount spent on national defense.
- In 2008, the United States will spend 17 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health care. It is projected that the percentage will reach 20 percent by 2017.
- In contrast, health care spending accounted for 10.9 percent of the GDP in Switzerland, 10.7 percent in Germany, 9.7 percent in Canada and 9.5 percent in France, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
- Premiums for employer-based health insurance rose by 5.0 percent in 2008. In 2007, small employers saw their premiums, on average, increase 5.5 percent. Firms with less than 24 workers, experienced an increase of 6.8 percent.
- Since 1999, employment-based health insurance premiums have increased 120 percent, compared to cumulative inflation of 44 percent and cumulative wage growth of 29 percent during the same period.
- The average employee contribution to company-provided health insurance has increased more than 120 percent since 2000. Average out-of-pocket costs for deductibles, co-payments for medications, and co-insurance for physician and hospital visits rose 115 percent during the same period.
- Economists have found that rising health care costs correlate to drops in health insurance coverage.
- A recent study by Harvard University researchers found that the average out-of-pocket medical debt for those who filed for bankruptcy was $12,000. The study noted that 68 percent of those who filed for bankruptcy had health insurance. In addition, the study found that 50 percent of all bankruptcy filings were partly the result of medical expenses. Every 30 seconds in the United States someone files for bankruptcy in the aftermath of a serious health problem.
- According to a recent report, the United States has $480 billion in excess spending each year in comparison to Western European nations that have universal health insurance coverage. The costs are mainly associated with excess administrative costs and poorer quality of care. And, finally
- The United States spends six times more per capita on the administration of the health care system than its peer Western European nations.
The last two bullets points I quoted are particularly significant, because the thing that most Western European nations have in common is that they have a publicly financed and managed health care system; so, it would seem, that moving toward a "public health care option", i.e. one in which the government provides health care to those who elect it over private insurance, would be the way to go.
A public health care option, comparable to Medicaid and Medicare, would have the likely advantage of reducing costs, while at the same time preserving a system in which private insurance would still have a role to play for those free market idealists who are eager to keep paying rate increases of at least 5-6% each year, if not more, for the privilege of "sticking it" to their socialist-minded fellow countrymen. But that, for the neo-corps, is not acceptable. Never mind that the core idea of the free-market is that true, unfettered competition between providers of a service or manufacturers of a product ultimately leads to better products and services at more affordable prices. Health care made in America is proof that this is a myth.
Enter minority senate leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, whose quote below (from the AP) typifies the stance of the Republican party on all matters that have an impact on their idea of free market (one in which corporations are free to do as they please in pursuit of profits and where the public has to rescue corporations that have become "too big to fail" or that suffer because of their poor decisions and management choices):
The key to a bipartisan bill is to not have a government plan in the bill, no matter what it's called. When I say no government plan, I mean no government plan. Not something described some other way, not something that gets us to the same place by indirection [sic]. No government plan.
Here is a translation for the politically illiterate uninsured or under-insured person in the United States: "Screw you, you sickly, whiny fuck."
It's just grand how the Republicans' idea of bipartisanship, translated in plain English, is "we can all get along if you just do things our way, without concessions." Don't you love the way the neo-corps do their lobbies' dirty work? Well, thanks but no thanks, Sen. McConnell. We can do just fine without your sick idea of bipartisanship.