Friday, March 10, 2017

Leave No One Behind . . . (UHC)

Obviously it’s been the goal of too few Americans since the “Teddy” Roosevelt era to craft a universal healthcare (UHC) system that will guarantee health care for all US citizens. The failed argument that “every other major industrialized nation on earth has already done so” has yet to prove effective. 

During the Progressive Era (1890 to 1920), Republican President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was in the White House (1901 — 1909); as the 26th President he supported health insurance; quite simply, he reasoned that no country could be strong whose people were sick and poor and few will argue that he envisioned a weak America. Still, it’s needless to say, that his many accomplishments while President, did not include universal health care, yet America, perhaps by virtue of her many natural resources, continues to remain strong. 

America turns 241 years old come July 4, 2017 but the rest of the world rightfully view us as being arrogant, greedy, violent, and intolerant — little wonder universal health care  has failed to date — while simultaneously, folks from afar think Americans have a strong work ethic and harbor a good bit of optimism.

So why do you suppose UHC for every American continues to be a major road block?  Americans may project the image of being optimistic but considering the massive US Military Budget, it’s easy to understand why a violent persona is among the leading descriptive terms used by others to describe us.    Throw in arrogance and greed of the typical health insurance carrier and or any given pharmaceutical company and you have the perfect formula for obstructing universal health care!

For the American that cannot seek simple preventative health care because it’s well beyond his or her financial reach or for the American who realizes his or her health coverage premium is ridiculously or unreasonably high, you are reminded that as for Discretionary Spending the US Government in 2015 spent a whopping 5% on Health Care, yet we paid enough taxes to somehow justify the government’s spending of 54% of the Discretionary Budget (1.11 Trillion Dollars) on the US Military.  Yet, the US does not make it onto the world's “10 safest countries list”, published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2016, hell; we don’t even make the top 20!

To no ones surprise , 2017 is worse: 


Oh, in case you’re wondering, the top 5 “Big Military Spenders” in 2016 was the United States at $597.5 Billion; #2.  China at $145.8 Billion; #3. Saudi Arabia at $81.9 Billion; #4.  Russia at $65.6 Billion and #5. The United Kingdom at $56.2 Billion.  And guess what, not even one of them is on this list:

It’s a well-known fact that the US routinely spends at least four times as much on Defense as any other country on earth, while continuing to make-believe all is well with America’s Health Care System . . . little wonder we’re not also described as the Great Pretenders” in conjunction with arrogant, greedy, violent, and intolerant.  Sorry, “Hard Working” and “Optimistic” hardly outweighs the former negative connotations.

Hopefully, a little Basic Math may prevent you from viewing the Defense Spending Outline displayed below with latent complacency:  Thousand: 1,000 (3 zeros) . . . Ten thousand 10,000 (4 zeros) . . . Hundred thousand 100,000 (5 zeros) . . . Million 1,000,000 (6 zeros) . . . Billion 1,000,000,000 (9 zeros) . . . Trillion 1,000,000,000,000 (12 zeros):

The Affordable Care Act (aka Obama Care) is, or was, an important step toward Universal Health Care . . . dose it meet all of our health care goals?  Not even close, not by a long shot, not by any stretch of the imagination, or a long held favorite: Hell, no!

For Americans, because we’re greedy, among other things, the biggest hold-up to UHC is “cost” so one of the other descriptive adjectives folks from afar often use — “intolerant” — can come-in pretty handy while striving to gain universal health care . . . a large dose of intolerance will need to be applied first to the 35 or so health insurance providers in the US because your health care is far too important to be burdened with “middle-man” mark-ups. 

Second, outlandish Pharmaceutical profits must be reined in, even if an “act of Congress” is required; after all, Americans pay anywhere from 2 to 6 times more than the rest of the world for brand name prescription medications.  In truth, most Americans already feel that drug companies are putting profits ahead of everything else. Imagine that!  This fact, unchecked, may eventually invoke another classic American trait: “Violence”!

Actually it may not require an act of Congress . . . In countries that have Universal Health Care it’s a lot simpler: Not as many organizations buy medications, so those “groups” enjoy “bulk” purchasing power, thus lowering costs. For example, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, purchases medications for the entire country’s supply, known as a formulary — in other words, buying in bulk, lowers prices. But in the United States, we have hospitals, insurance groups, and other entities that buy for their individual consumers. Such groups negotiate their own prices with the pharmaceuticals, resulting in an unregulated variety of high costs.

Third, the high cost of medical procedures must be addressed  . . .  For example, when comparing the price for a standard MRI scan, the average cost in the U.S. is $1,119; compared to $811 in New Zealand, $215 in Australia and $181 in Spain.  Worse, the 95th percentile (reminder—the average is the 50th percentile: the point in the data where 50% of the data falls below that point, and 50% fall above it) price of this procedure in the U.S. is $3,031, meaning some Americans pay nearly $3,000 more for a standard MRI scan than the average person in Australia and Spain.

Want another example? Compare the procedure of a standard hip-replacement. The average cost in the U.S. is $29,067.00 . . . that’s $10,000 more than the next highest “cost country”, Australia. Plus, data shows that the 95th percentile cost in the U.S. surpasses $57,000.00.  In other words, your neighbor might pay as little as $19,000 for a hip-replacement at Hospital X but your uncle Bob paid over $57,000.00 for the same operation or procedure at Hospital Y.

The bottom line: There is no justifiable reason why identical procedures and products should fluctuate in price so dramatically from one country to another and for costs to vary so radically from hospital to hospital within the United States is ludicrous.   This assuredly illustrates the damning effects of a poorly regulated healthcare system in America.

The issue of Universal Health Care was brought to the forefront with Senator Bernie Sanders’ unsuccessful bid for the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination.  According to the “Sanders Plan” cost projections of Single-payer UHC would not exceed 1.4 Trillion Dollars, but did you realize that Federal and State Governments already spend in the neighborhood of 1.3 Trillion Dollars on healthcare coverage for “select” Americans —including but not limited to Medicare, Medicate, Military Veteran’s health care, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and supplementary costs associated with “Obama Care” / the Affordable Care Act.

Assume for a brief moment that the 2014 US Congress & President Obama went “wild” and enacted the equivalent of the Sanders version of Universal Health Care — effective date: Jan. 1, 2015 and amazingly cost settled at 1.4 Trillion Dollars . . . Assume both Federal and State Governments combined (in 2015) had planned to earmarked a minimum of 1.3 Trillion Dollars for healthcare for 2015 and for years to-come . . .

. . . Rudimentary arithmetic dictates that a 100 Billion Dollar deficiency would have resulted by 2015 year’s end and said deficiency in all likelihood would have held true each year thereafter. Now, keep in mind that because Americans are not just arrogant, greedy, intolerant, optimistic, violent, and work hard; we’re also just plain stingy, especially so, with our tax Dollars!

Now have another “look-see” at the Outline for Defense Spending visual aide displayed above and take note that in 2015, 49.60 Billion Dollars was spent on Foreign Aide and a colossal 589 Billion Dollars was spent on Defense.

Now for the rest of the imaginary story: The 2014 US Congress, led by KY’s Junior Senator, Rand Paul slashed Foreign Aide by 100% and narrowly convinced, a reluctant Republican Congressional majority, to cut Defense spending by 8.56% . . . Result — no new taxes!

There is a never-ending list describing how Americans would benefit from Universal Healthcare . . . here’s but a few:

         Security comes with separating health insurance from employment; such freedom would not only help the American people to live happier, healthier and have more fulfilling lives, but it would also promote a revolution in entrepreneurship in every segment of the economy.  Further, Americans would be able to develop new businesses, leave jobs they dislike knowing that they would still have health care coverage for their families and themselves or even stay home with their children.

            Employers could focus on running their business in the stead of spending hours and hours trying to figure out how to provide health insurance to their employees.

        Working Americans wouldn’t have to choose between negotiating for higher wages or health insurance coverage.

        Parents wouldn’t have to worry about how to provide health care for their children.

         Americans wouldn’t fear losing their health insurance if they lost their job, changed employment, or decided “going part-time” better fit their situation.

          Anyone with serious or chronic illnesses could afford the medications required to keep them healthy without fear of financial devastation.

           Millions of people would not have to continuing to choose between good health care and other little necessities like food, clothing, and adequate shelter.

           Americans would have access to basic things, like preventive health care, dental care, eye care, or long-term care.

Universal Health Care coverage naturally should have limits, for example countries seldom pay 100% of medical costs, in large part because governments don’t usually pay for things like plastic surgery or other “elective” medical procedures that are not considered as being necessary or life threatening.

It’s long past time for the US Congress & the 45th President to fulfill the legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson and yes, even Teddy, among other great Americans, by drafting a Universal Health Care plan that will finally level the health care playing field for all Americans, even the working middle class.