US Health Care Mystery
January 14, 2016
Written for Canadian Community News by Mike Sterling
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While the US Trump-dominated Congress about to dismantle the Affordable Health Care Act, Canadians are able to bask in their good fortune to live in a country that has a single payer health care system.
The Trump Republicans are united in wanting to eliminate what has become known as Obama Care. Their timetable is within the first 100 days of Trump's reign as president. They claim they will replace it with something that is more in tune with market forces. What does that mean?
Nobody as yet has a clue. After vilifying Obama Care for years, they still have no replacement plan. Why? They don't want government supported health care in any form, but are squirming in the morass of details that they must somehow patch over in order to be elected again.
To set the stage, most Americans receive their health care through their employer and their own contributions. It's expensive. Those who are poor or have pre-existing conditions have to be either uninsured and ill or throw themselves at the mercy of emergency room visits and charity. The eventual costs go up with this approach.
The Affordable Care Act tried to insure those who had no insurance with what became known as Obama Care. Those joining Obama Care had to pay premiums. Its features are:
Young people are encouraged to join, otherwise the pool of the insured and their health would not match the services required at a reasonable cost. Any plan needs young people in it, if it is covered by insurance. What is really needed is universal health care like most western nations have.
This coverage by insurance companies was a poor system by comparison with Canada or other western nations. President Obama wanted a single payer system originally, but could not get it past Congress.
The real solution is universal health care with everyone covered. The costs have to come out of the tax system. This would of course toss out the the insurance companies. This was resisted by the Republican Party and all the insurance providers.
It was also impossible to raise the funds by increased taxes because the Republican Party has vowed "No New Taxes!" Lobbyists, who abound in Washington DC, oppose anything that takes money away from Insurance Companies. They sell this to the public by having them imagine crippling taxes to support the poor in their need for care. They also make up lies about Canada's system and western democracies' health care too.
The insurance companies are a tremendous lobby in the United States. They block out the truth and decry systems in other countries like Canada, UK, France and Germany.
To give you an idea about the resolve of the Insurance Companies, let's examine one of the many. Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) is a non-profit company in Michigan insuring about 6.1 million people. There are other Blue Cross affiliate companies like Blue Cross of California and Florida Blue. We are concentrating on BCBS of Michigan.
I don't have the 2016 numbers as they are not available, but in 2015 the Chief Executive Officer of BCBS of Michigan received about $9 million in compensation in a year that the company reported a loss. To 'square' the books, they raised the premium rates for their customers for 2016.
Now keep in mind, BCBS is a non-profit company of about 8100 employees with a very well paid executive team.
Isn't it amazing that this company really exists for its executives? It's like a Church with tax-free status status.
An affiliate company Blue Shield of California lost its non-profit status. Its tax-exempt status was stripped.
"In a June 2014 letter to the company, tax board officials wrote that “Blue Shield is not operating exclusively for the promotion of civic betterment or social welfare,” according to the (Los Angelus) Times. These so-called non-profits abound across the US.
Trump extols the virtues of the FREE MARKET system. By this they mean the antithesis of social nets that include health care supplied by the government for those who need it. So the insured person or family is at the mercy of companies like BCBS.
They believe that nobody should be forced to pay health care premiums or pay taxes that support health care at the patient level. Let the 'free market' work!
Should all $$$ flow to the many huge insurance companies? (The Free Market again) That is, privatize everything and toss out any government supported programs. Should citizens accept vouchers and be their own insurance agent?
At present all the current insurance companies have rate schedules that look like the cost of gas at a four corner stop.... it's all the same within a few dollars. They are selling the same product and they get more customers by gobbling up smaller companies and spending huge sums on advertising. Money pours in and the executives one by one become rich and move on to other green pastures. The for-profit insurance companies look much the same as the non-profits.
Poor regulation allows a small minority to run the Health Care system in the United States.
It's a terrible scandal! Let's see what Donald Trump makes out of this witches brew. At present in January 2017, he appears to know nothing about the problem.
Take a look at a comparison of Health care costs in the US vs. Canada that I did a couple of years ago Click Here
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Monday, January 16, 2017