Friday, July 10, 2009

Blue Dogs, Big Money and Healthcare: Not Healthy for Americans

So, The Hubby was at the doctor's office today and had some routine tests done. Naturally, being the fabulously supportive spouse that I am, I paid off the children to behave (not draw blood or kill each other for two hours) and accompanied The Hubby to the appointment. It gave me some time to think about the state of healthcare in our country and give it its own "check-up." (Do your own check-up and fact-check here.) I know we all hate it when the doctor tells you to lose a few pounds, maybe exercise more...But frankly, folks, our system is waaaaay over its healthy BMI, and bloated beyond belief! It needs to be exorcised, and we need to exercise some serious oversight. (All right, all right, no more bad puns...) Without further ado, here are my

Top Ten Reasons Our Health Care System Isn't Healthy:

1. Insurance billing is so complex, and claims are so often denied or slow-paid, that medical offices have to spend a fortune on billing departments just to recoup payment for care.
2. Doctors don't get to practice medicine, spending time with each patient as needed to assess the person's overall health; if they do, HMOs consider them to be ineffective physicians.
3. Doctors don't get to select treatment options unless they fit the insurance companies' protocols. "Expensive? Sorry, not a necessary procedure, or it's experimental. Feel free to appeal. We'll be happy to deny your claim."
4. Appropriate drugs cannot be prescribed unless they are carried on the insurance companies' formularies. "Expensive? Sorry, not an appropriate drug. Try the cheap one."
5. Drug prices have gone through the roof. Pharmaceutical companies blame the high costs of research and development, while, in reality, the bulk of research is done by the National Institute of Health (NIH). Our current system does not allow for any negotiation of price, or importation of drugs from other countries with reasonable prices.
6. Those who work on the front lines, with patients, are spread so thin it's a wonder that they continue in the field. (I know of whence I speak, as I come from a family of nurses, the hardest working, unsung heroes of healthcare, by the way. Nurses ROCK!)
7. HMOs, touted as a boon to everyday Americans, turned out to be a great way for corporate entities to save money (read: run exhorbitant profits) by denying essential services when needed. In other words, HMOs are a terrific deal until you're sick. (Kaiser was first begun in the Nixon era, with HMOs actually discussed in his office, as a boon to big business. Just some health care trivia for ya...)
8. Not everyone is covered by insurance and the cost of those emergency room visits for those without coverage is astronomical, as uninsured Americans are forced to delay care until their illnesses are advanced significantly. Guess who pays for that? You guessed it: you and me.
9. Real reform is never made because the Healthcare lobby is so virulently strong that no one, and I mean, no one, has the cash to compete.
10. Our Dear Legislators, with their government-sponsored healthcare, take far too much cash from the insurance industry's lobbyists to ever give that up. "What? Turn away contributions and fix the system? What's to fix? We're fully covered."
Speaking of which, the Conservative Dems, the so-called Blue Dogs, have now stated that they will not support a single-payer system. Let's be clear: there were 40-46 of these Dems In Name Only (DINOs) who signed a letter to Nancy Pelosi, refusing to support this extremely important piece of legislation. I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get specific names, wanting to exclude those who did not sign off on this missive. (I left off those I could actually document did not sign; my apologies to the rest, and I politely suggest that they be more vocal and speak out against the others!) I did find a list at of all the campaign contributions given to Congress, by healthcare category, and the official list of Blue Dogs from their website, so I cross-referenced them both and came up with this little beauty:
(Sorry, Gang, I couldn't figure out how to bring the table in from Excel - best I could do on such short notice! Link is slow, please be patient...)
What I couldn't get over was the tremendous amount of cash that's going toward keeping the status quo: making sure the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and that the middle class foot the bill for everyone. $38,175,443 is a whole lot of cash, Ladies and Gentlemen. And those millions are just a drop in the bucket, just the money we know about. Not the trips, the dinners, the sports tickets...Even so, it's all chump change to the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries:

Kaiser Permanente, one of the oldest and largest HMOs, reported net income forlast
year increased by 59% to $1.6 billion on revenues of $28 billion.

Yep, billions. By the way, Kaiser calls itself a "non-profit." Yeah, there's an oxymoron. Actually, just morons, no oxy. (They also took over outlocal clinics and ruined them, so I thought I'd highlight them here to return the favor.)
That's the profits of only one company out of tens of thousands. Health care costs are rising four times faster than income. Businesses are being bankrupted by healthcare costs for their employees. We cannot move fast enough; our economy will never recover if we don't deflate the bloating private healthcare system. And if that makes me a Socialist, I guess the 40 million plus seniors on MediCare are socialists, too, right? Uh…hey! Wait just a doggone minute here...doesn't that make our Senators and Representatives Socialists, too? With a capital S???
What is the resistance to government-sponsored healthcare like the rest of the industrialized world? Why not have a system in which even a visitor can be given necessary care? If Cuba can pull it off convincingly, well, hey, we may as well give it a shot! There are already Americans who, every day, cross the border to Canada to receive care and get prescriptions refilled. If the Congress wants to check it out, Ed Schultz isready to take legislators on a field trip to see firsthand what Canadian healthcare looks like, on his dime! Dinner included! (Any takers yet??? No Blue Dogs, you can bet!)
And why no takers on Mr. Schultz' generous offer? The answer is clear and simple: Greed and cowardice - Legislators won't give up the money, and the Blue Dogs are too scared to standup in their primarily conservative districts for what is right. Both reasons are shameful, and it's about time we told them so. Take the time to email, write or call your representatives on the list above(see link), and tell them you've had enough. Tell 'em to grow a pair. Tell them we'll never solve our economic woes until we rein in the big business of healthcare and provide care for all Americans. And, since they don't seem to know or care, tell them that taking care of others when they are ill is just plain the right thing to do. If our people don't have the same healthcare security as our elected officials, in the greatest nation on earth, then there's something terribly wrong, and Congress needs to fix it. Let them know, in no uncertain terms, that it's their job to make it happen.
'Nuff said. As always, I'd love to hear your take on this. Are the American people so fed up finally that the pressure is on? Will we get real change that is so overdue? Or has the insurance industry got an iron grip on us all? Thanks for taking the time to read my rant, and feel free to rant along right here!
P.S. Thought you'd like to know: Children alive, no blood. Actually playing together! (I know!) Best 20 bucks I've spent in a looooooong time. Now, come on, If that can happen, universal, single-payer healthcare can, too!