I saw something today that left me absolutely depressed. While heading to work, I saw about 20 people protesting on the sidewalk. They were shouting and raising their signs at cars passing by on Washington Ave.– one of the busiest streets in Minneapolis.
Their signs read, “Hands Out of Healthcare!”
Now, I’m all about peaceful protest, but I equate this display to walking around with signs that read, “Save Enron!” Hey, guess what? Enron lied. Enron cheated. Enron screwed over a whole lot of people. And yeah, so does our healthcare system.
I thought to myself, “You have no idea what it feels like to be uninsured.” For many years, Charlie (my husband) and I couldn’t afford the $300 minimum it would cost to access health insurance. Every morning, I would pray that we wouldn’t step on a nail, trip on a curb or run into any other bad luck that might send us to the hospital. During these years, I was in graduate school and working at least two part-time jobs. Hubby was also in school, working full-time for a small business and serving the community as a volunteer fireman. Unfortunately, nothing offered us insurance.
Now that we make a little more money, we have been able to access something called, “Short Term Major Medical.” This means that our $3,000 deductible plan covers nothing up to that point. So, there are no visits to the dentist, no check-ups or physicals with a GP and no chance of financial help for any kind of long-term care. Our plan lasts three months– if we get sick during that time, we get help for what’s left of the three months and then after that, we’re on our own.
What blows my mind is that my husband and I are extremely lucky. Many of my friends have absolute horror stories about bankruptcies after a cancer diagnosis, denied insurance claims, endless fights with insurance companies over pre-existing conditions, medical mistakes, etc. Literally, our very own hands have been taken out of healthcare. Our health is now controlled by for-profit businesses.
Really, Enron looks like a saint next to the insurance companies.
Check out this video from Bill Moyers Journal. The segment shares some interesting facts:
- H. Edward Hanway, Chairman and CEO of Cigna, made $11.4 million in 2008.
- Ronald A. Williams, Chairman and CEO of Aetna, made $17.4 million in 2008.
- John H. Hammergren, Chairmen, President and CEO of McKesson, made $29.7 million in 2008.
Hanway, Williams and Hammergren could insure 24,000 people for a full year with just their paychecks. Of course, no business owner would do that. And healthcare isn’t about you or me; it’s really all about the mon-ey.
And here’s what ticks me off even more; the quality of healthcare in the U.S. sucks. It’s as if we pay for freshly caught, wild blue lobster but get served an excessive amount of expired imitation crab meat. The World Health Organization (WHO) ranked the U.S. healthcare system 37th out of 191 countries analyzed. That’s pretty bad placement considering we lead the world in healthcare spending. The U.S. spends 16% of its GNP on healthcare. France and Germany, countries that provide universal care, spend less than 12%. What’s more, the healthcare system in France was rated #1 in that same WHO report…
Ironically, for those who are insured in the U.S., life is no better. Even if you have insurance, it’s likely that you’re still UNDERinsured.
I’ve been hearing this lately from some opponents of healthcare reform: “It’s all a bunch of media bias.” The belief is that media is pushing for universal health care and spinning all reports to achieve that goal. Well, that’s just not the case:
It’s becoming more obvious that many politicians, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and the media want to keep things as-is. And, why not, when the current healthcare system makes them rich? Wendell Potter, a former senior executive for Cigna, provides some insider information:
“It is a system that is rigged against the policyholder,” Potter said. The congressional probe found that just three firms had rescinded more than 20,000 policyholders between 2003 and 2007, saving hundreds of millions. “That’s a lot of money that will now go towards their profits,” Potter said.
A lot of that money also goes into contributions to politicians of both parties – $372m in the past nine years – and in lobbying groups to run TV ads slamming Obama’s plans. Many of these ads deploy naked scare tactics. One report said that the industry was spending $1.4m a day on its campaign.
Read more about Potter in an article from the Guardian. If you don’t trust Potter, then perhaps direct quotes from confidential documents drafted by America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) to combat Michael Moore’s documentary, SICKO, would be more convincing:
Review: 5 Strategies We Reached Consensus On
Debate the System not the Anecdotes: Set record straight then get off Moore’s turf and on to ours.
Reframe the Debate: Mount Campaign against a Government-run Health Care System.
Define the Health Insurance Industry as Part of the Solution.
Caution Democrats with Aligning with Moore’s Extremist Agenda.
Game Plan for Various Potential Scenarios
Review: Our Target Audiences
Federal and state policymakers
National media and media in key markets
Political and health policy influencers
“Highlight horror stories of government-run systems.”
“Bring victims of single-payer systems to the US for a media tour.”
“Encourage Democratic pundits to speak to media, candidates, congressional leaders, etc. about the potential harms of being linked to Moore.”
“Encourage Republican media strategists to cut an ad that shows the way for Republicans to attack Democrats who are too close to Moore.”
“Research and message development for an aggressive national paid and earned media campaign to disqualify government-run health care as a politically viable solution.”
Read more from the confidential documents here and here.
On a recent episode of Bill Moyers Journal, Dr. Marcia Angell (first female editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and author of the fantastic book, The Truth About the Drug Companies), said, “I think we have to start all over on this … I think we have to go for a single payer system … It would give the private insurance industry a chance to go into hurricanes, earthquakes or something. To get out of the health business.” Click here to watch the full episode.
I believe it’s time we wake up as a community. We need to come together and create a system that supports EVERYONE. Healthcare should not be a luxury– it should be a right. And really, how can we expect to have a healthy, thriving country if we’re not willing to support the most basic needs of our people?
Think about it; what if you were born into poverty? What if you didn’t have daddy’s bank account or connections? What if you were born into a minority group and had to deal with health disparities? What if your career dreams led you to work for a small business that couldn’t pay as much or offer insurance? If this was your situation, would you want access to healthcare? Or would you want to just ‘tough it out?’
What’s so flippin’ crazy to me about this whole debate is that a universal system doesn’t have to cost more money. We could provide better care to everyone (even those insured) for less money. Doesn’t it just make sense in every logical way? We can keep the amazing practitioners that we have and get rid of the corrupt system that stifles and marginalizes their work. It’s time that we honored the health of our country enough to make ethical, informed and creative changes.
It’s time we put OUR hands back in healthcare.