health insurance

US Sickies More Profitable than Brits


I’m happy to be upright and writing this because yesterday I wasn’t sure I had a future. I was on the fifth day of bedridden fever after suddenly being set upon by coughing fits. I’d met the virulent virus the flu vaccine didn’t touch.  For the first time, I believed the scare stories my doctor always told me about influenza: it kills. This year, the CDC reports 88 kids have died and flu season’s not over yet.  

So while I was sick I heard the President had tweeted about England’s protests he claimed were about the National Health Service going broke. He praised our wonderful healthcare system, apparently forgetting he’s tried to destroy it.

The NHS, begun in 1948, is as close as England has ever gotten to socialism. It turns out the NHS is not going broke, and the people marching weren’t protesting the NHS, much beloved and rated highly around the world. Its workers were demanding more pay.

Here’s how NHS works, according to Jim Edwards, a Business Insider writer with dual citizenship, who has lived in both the US and England for years, and used both systems. In England, you call the doctor, they make your appointment, you come in and the doctor sees you, right on schedule.  There’s little paperwork and you pay: zero.

Well, actually you pay, he says, but through your taxes. The tax rates in England are similar to the US—but in England you get free healthcare in return, whereas in the US you pay taxes PLUS you then have to buy private health insurance, which may or may not pay for what you need. There’s maddening paperwork, impossible to understand. Uncovered medical costs remain the leading reason for US bankruptcy.

One other detail?  According to the World Health Organization, the average cost per Brit patient is $3480. Here in the US, our cost per patient is $8362.  Is that because of substandard care? No, it turns out the Brits live longer than we do—maybe because they’ve decided they’re better off united, especially when sick.

A postscript:  in 2009, when Obama was trying to pass the Affordable Care Act, Rick Scott, a multimillionaire hospital-chain CEO who’d made a fortune by defrauding Medicare and Medicaid, sponsored an ad campaign to convince Americans the Brits were dying because of their horrible socialized medicine. He then ran for governor of Florida as a “healthcare reformer,” steadfast against Medicaid expansion—the nasty public insurance that had caught him stealing red-handed.

—Rickey Gard Diamond 

Mortality is Universal but Health Care is Not—So Who Dies? When?

photo by John Dominis

photo by John Dominis

Health Care is the issue that Americans keep naming as their top worry for pollsters. The latest survey found 48 percent saying so to the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. We ranked it above taxes, the environment, and immigration, the other biggest priorities named. A US News & World Report article said the reason some people gave: costs are not getting any more manageable.

You think?

Despite Trump’s campaign promises of making health care “much less expensive and much better,” Trump’s cabinet and staff never proposed anything but repealing ObamaCare. Their “replace” part, half-baked in secret meetings of Republicans, ultimately resulted in a failed vote. But that didn’t stop Trump and his allies. The new tax bill scraps a mandate that makes the insurance pool more affordable and less sick—which he and syncophant Republican leaders count a victory thanks to his “exquisite leadership.”

Meanwhile, the Childrens Health Insurance Program has not been renewed and the White House canceled ACA insurer subsidies, creating market mayhem and premium jumps. Our progress in reducing the numbers of uninsured is over; their numbers and expensive emergency room medicine will only increase with a mandate repealed.

Apparently Congress failed to notice what its own government reported in early December. How long can we generally expect to live?  For the first time since 1993, when AIDs was a new plague, overall US life expectancy fell, particularly among people younger than 65! The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) tracks these numbers, the latest data from 2015. In the context of other developed nations that continue to see longevity increase, US health declines are very troubling.

Investment in prevention could reduce our costs. In early November NCHS reported on the second year of increase in gun deaths, our gun-toting ethos now even tolerating Trump’s “fire and fury” and threats of nuclear war. Did I mention our mental health?? The American Public Health Association lists as our top five health threats, climate change, environmental health, health equity, gun violence, and health reform. More than 40 people a day die of opioid overdoses, and it is not as if any of this despair and pain has a place to go without our uniting to care for all of us, come hell or high water.