Today on Blogcritics
Home » The Right to Health Care: Part One

The Right to Health Care: Part One

Please Share...Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

Who are we? What have we become?

In Michael Moore’s SiCKO, he asks those two questions of Americans.

I thought about this a long time. Most Americans aren’t bad people. Granted, the crowd I hang with is an educated, intellectually curious group of artists (hell, I work in theater and for NPR) and obviously don’t represent the mainstream American, but my father is an independent real estate broker in the heart of central Kansas, my mother works with him, my sister is a teacher in Kansas, and my in-laws are both a real estate broker and retired teacher in North Carolina. I know people on all sides of the political ideological divides, church goers and atheists, blue collar workers and professors, and I can state pretty assuredly that I don’t know any bad Americans.

On the other hand, according to recent polls, a full 40% of Americans still believe that Iraq was in league with al Queda in the 9/11 attacks, a myth that has been disproven over and over (even though Bill Kristol and Ann Coulter continue to openly lie about it when both know better). Americans complacently watch as our government stomps around on the sovereign rights of other countries, slowly leaking our corporatized lifestyle into the mix and all the while allowing millions of their fellow countrymen and women to starve, freeze, and waste away in the streets.

Our feigned ignorance is mystifying. The New Yorker reported in 2005 that the death rate in any given year for someone without health insurance is 25 percent higher than for someone with insurance. When you factor in the denied claims and unscrupulous practices exposed in SiCKO it’s amazing that our politicians seem to do nothing but gut funding to health care programs for the poor and the elderly on a fairly regular basis while likewise cutting taxes for the super wealthy and that we, the people most adversely affected by these policy changes, don’t start beheading the rat bastards selling us out.

A huge part of the problem we face is that our news organizations have become less and less upfront about telling us how things are and more and more about parroting the corporate line. The media selectively ignores the slow bleeding of our existing health care programs and spins the lies of the HMOs and insurance magnates and we (at least a solid percentage of us) believe the bullshit. As an example, we saw nearly 24-hour coverage of self-righteous assholes claiming to try and save the (non)life of Florida vegetable Terry Schiavo but heard virtually nothing about these same politicians attempting to shred funding to Medicare at the same time.

We are being conditioned to believe the party-line, as written and distributed by the wealthiest corporations on the planet Earth, that there is no health care crisis in America, that those who are uninsured “choose” to be that way, that private insurance is a superior method than universal healthcare, that healthcare costs so much because of frivolous lawsuits and malpractice claims, and that universal healthcare is a bad, expensive, socialist idea that would doom us to higher taxes, more bureaucracy and screw up the “finest health care system in the world.”

FACT: Approximately 85 million Americans were forced to go without any health care coverage sometime between 2003 and 2004.

FACT: Health Insurance Companies are making unbelievable amounts of dough. In 2004 alone the Big Four HMO’s reported $100 Billion in revenues. That’s $273 million a day, every day. According to the Fortune 500 listings, these companies increased their profits 33% in 2005 and an additional 46% by 2006.

The simplicity of it has been oft repeated – the United States is the wealthiest country on the planet and yet finds a host of nonsense reasons to deny millions of its citizens adequate healthcare options. The richest country in the world is ranked 37th out of 191 countries in terms of the quality of its healthcare system.

We can somehow justify billions of dollars of tax cuts in tandem with finding billions of dollars to fight wars but cannot find adequate funding for the free and universal health care of every single one of our citizens?

Americans are not stupid. Polls indicate that most Americans understand that healthcare in this country is in a major crisis and needs massive overhauling. Politicians (bought and paid for by the $300 million in campaign contributions, to members of both parties, by the health care corporations) only give lip service to the problems and spin corporate written horseshit the rest of the time.

NEXT UP: Part Two – No One Chooses to Be Without Healthcare

Powered by

About Angry White Guy in Chicago

  • http://www.elitebloggers.com Dave Nalle

    profit is evil! destoy all doctors! destroy all insurance companies!

    seriously. for there to be an absolute ‘right’ to healthcare you’re suggesting we have the right to force other people to pay for it and to force doctors and hospitals to operate at a loss and provide free services. what’s to stop them from exercising their right to be in a different business?

    wait, i know. we can select 12% of all college students who do well on their math SAT and then threaten to arrest them and kill their families if they don’t go to medschool and work for free for the new government health clinics.

    ever checked the data on how well socialized medicine is working in england?

    but seriously, i can’t wait until part 2. knowing people who choose not to have health insurance i’m eager to give them your explanation of why they don’t exist.

    btw, what’s wrong with just applying reasonable regulation to the healthcare industry?

    dave

  • Les Slater

    I am fortunate, I have BlueCross / BlueShield Network Blue. I still have to fight like hell sometimes, but it is still much better than many other (most?) private insurers.

    One company employed a Benifit Administrator type of outfit. Their main purpose was to discourage any payments for services rendered. They always had fax machines that conveniently and repeatedly, lost faxes. ‘Well never got it; could you send it again?’

    These shady, and should be criminal, practices are common. I would have no qualms, whatsoever, in destroying these fuck’n leaches of companies.

    Free comprehensive health care for all. And yes, if there were medical university programs that were free to qualified applicants, you would not need a gun to get them to enroll.

    Les

  • bliffle

    Strawman, Dave:

    “#1 — July 11, 2007 @ 11:39AM — Dave Nalle [URL]

    profit is evil! destoy all doctors! destroy all insurance companies! ”

    Some bad spelling, too.

    Stop the insanity!

  • bliffle

    I’ll argue that free universal healthcare in the USA would reduce total healthcare costs. How? Consider this: gross operating margins of for-profit health insurance cos. is about 40%. For gov medicare it’s about 3%. Therefore, there is a 37% premium margin to private ins. cos. About 40 million US citizens are uninsured, about 15% of the population. therefore the 37% of unnecessary premium can easily cover 15% more people, all things being equal, and still leave , say, 22%, which would result in a net reduction in healthcare costs to the US public.

    Therefore one can maintain that UHC would reduce net burden on US society. No healthcare rationing necessary.

    And this is borne out by reference to foreign UHC systems which always operate at lower cost while providing universal care.

  • Dr Dreadful

    ever checked the data on how well socialized medicine is working in england?

    At least it’s there, Dave. As one who’s experienced both systems (if you can call the American setup a system), let me tell you how nice it is to walk into and out of a doctor’s office without having to pay; without having to worry how desperately a major surgery or a lengthy hospitalization is going to financially cripple you.

    It’s not perfect by any means: many hospitals and other medical facilities are old and inadequate; a significant number of doctors and other healthcare professionals are incompetent; you do have to pay copays, at an ever-rising rate, for prescriptions; and waiting times for many major surgical procedures can be years. But it’s there.

    Those who can afford it do have the option of buying supplemental private health insurance. Many people do so, continuing to use their state health service for most medical needs – turning to their private care only when the NHS can’t cut the mustard.

    Furthermore, from what I’ve seen – especially with HMOs – the standard of care in America isn’t that much better.

  • Les Slater

    The Cuban healthcare system has a lot of shortcomings and the country is third world country that cannot afford a huge outlay in medical equipment and supplies. However their health statistics are very good, comparable to the wealthiest of countries.

    Their system trains all their medical professionals for no cost to them as students. In fact they are paid. They do not end up with ridiculous loans to justify exorbitant fees. There are no parasitic insurance companies. They also have a significant pharmaceutical industry that provides much of the medication and a significant hard currency income.

    Many people ask why a country like the U.S. can’t emulate such a system. The answer is that the U.S. medical system is not designed to serve people. It is designed, and needs, to make a profit.

    You can imagine the taxes people have to pay. Right? There are no payroll taxes in Cuba. Housing, although inadequate, is very inexpensive. Food lacks sufficient availability of variety but the caloric intake is quite adequate and the population is very healthy. There is no malnutrition.

  • Lumpy

    I’m looking forward to the 500 percent increase in prostate cancer deaths. We’ve got too damned many old men who like to drive really slowly on the highway anyway.

  • REMF

    Clavos;
    Please read #7 and then tell me you still feel sorry for Lumpy because of his (alledged) handicap.

  • Clavos

    Hell, I agree with him, and I’ve GOT prostate cancer!!

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Having lived in America with a BS/BC plan similar to that of Les Slater, and having lived in Israel with its universal health care, I honestly have to say that I prefer the system I live under now, in spite of many faults that it has.

    To be blunt, Americans are fools to get all bunched in the shorts about universal health care. Some systems are better than others, and there are always ways that hospitals can save on what are really peripheral expenses (like throw away everything instead of sterilization and having a good laundry system) and concentrate on patient care and research.

    Given that Michael Moore is a Jew-hating son of a bitch who is nothing more than a filthy fat slob who needs a serious operation to get his stomach smaller, I should condemn his movie. But if it takes a skunk to warn you that the dam upstream broke, it is best to ignore his stink and pay attention to his message

  • http://donhall.blogspot.com Don Hall

    “Michael Moore is a Jew-hating son of a bitch”

    Whah?!? While not having anything to do with the discussion of healthcare, I’d love for you to elaborate on where you get this…

  • sr

    Hey Don, Ruvy forgot to mention that Michael Moore also eats shit and smells like it.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Don,

    I’ll answer you off-line… The subject is not at all germane to health care.

  • Baronius

    This article fails to explain why health care should be considered a right. Rights are pretty serious things. Is health care a human right or a civil right? What level of health care do we have a right to? By what means to we recognize that right? No set of statistics or complaints about Ann Coulter automatically confers a right.

  • Alec

    Don – An interesting and provocative post that lays out some of the issues, well, but I must take issue with you on a few things.

    RE: FACT: Approximately 85 million Americans were forced to go without any health care coverage sometime between 2003 and 2004.

    FACT: Health Insurance Companies are making unbelievable amounts of dough. In 2004 alone the Big Four HMO’s reported $100 Billion in revenues. That’s $273 million a day, every day. According to the Fortune 500 listings, these companies increased their profits 33% in 2005 and an additional 46% by 2006.

    These facts may be true, but are not necessarily all that important. The bottom line is that many Americans go without health insurance because they don’t need it. They don’t have any significant health problems during the year or none that they cannot pay for out of pocket. Some people, especially those who are lucky enough to be young and healthy, choose to do other things with their money (and I realize that you will argue in an upcoming post that no one chooses to go without health coverage).

    Secondly, I recognize that there are some who think that profits, especially related to health care are bad. Strangely, many of these people would also not set aside any money for research and development or innovation. In their ideal health care system, all money is always allocated to current care. This, briefly, is nuts. Setting up a national health care system because you want to deny profits to investors and shareholders will not guarantee better health care outcomes. Revenues that would otherwise go to “evil” profits will just end up going to equally evil waste, corruption and mismanagement.

    There just is no such thing as free and universal health care. Somebody has to pay, and shortages inevitably occur when people can demand more services than they are actually paying for. Misallocations will occur when bureaucrats or activists make medical decisions, just as they do when insurance companies can overrule doctors. It’s just a choice of incompetents.

    Moore’s “Sicko” is so obviously a one-sided polemic that it is pointless to use it as a guide to anything. It is, in fact, a great example of the worst aspect of self-described progressives, namely an appeal to a kind of infantile solcialism, where every political decision is made on the basis of feelings and compassion, not effective public policy or economics (not even Eurpopean socialism along the Scandinavian model, for example).

    He doesn’t really add anything useful to the debate about health care, and his depictions of the French, Canadian and UK systems are patently phony. Just google, for example, “canadian health care supreme court,” and you get stories from June 9, 2005, when the Canadian Supreme Court struck down a Quebec private health care ban which forced all citizens into the state system, precisely because patients could not get timely access to health care and some died as a result. See, for example

    There is also something disgusting about Moore’s approval of the Cuban health care system, which depends on restricting the ability of doctors to leave the country or to make independent decisions about their own lives or medical practices (under the dubious rationale that since the revolution provided for their education they are obligated to “serve the people”). For political and economic reasons, Cuba has had to send large numbers of doctors to Venezuela (healthcare for oil), which reduces the number of doctors available to the Cuban people, and the use of “alternative” and herbal medicines in the Cuban health care system is little more than junk science.

    There are also problems with the UK and French systems. But the bottom line is that even if you think that health care is, or should be a right, the hard question becomes, “how much are you willing to spend for it, and what you will do when inevitable shortages and hard decisions come up.

  • Lumpy

    The reason why we don’t have universal healthcare now and may never is simple. Bad though the current system is, based on past experience we have zero faith in our government’s ability to better and know that with them involved thw cost will be outrageous.

    Right now we’re tilting on the brink of giving up. We’re overtaxed and overregulated right to the limits of what we’ll put up with. Another massive bureaucracy and the asociated cost will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

    The only way I can see people putting up with socialized medicine would be if a whole bunch of other gocernment excess was done away with. At a minimum we’d need a more equitable tax system and privatized social security.

    Otherwise I see revolution coming.

  • http://trinimansblog.blogspot.com/ Triniman

    What’s wrong with profit? Should all elementary and high school teachers be able to make a profit? If they are denied it, the fear is that the best of them will leave for greener pastures. Is that happening?

    What about for-profit police and judges? If we don’t have a for profit police system, the best of them will quit and go elsewhere where they can really make a handsome income.

    If the US decided to implement universal health care, it probably could not do so. There would be many frivolous lawsuits. The insurance industry lobbyists would crank up the heat and spread fear. Examples of the shortcomings of the systems in the UK, Canada, etc., will be trotted out, much like a Michael Moore film in reverse.

    Nope, there’s no way that the US could possibly ever hope to implement universal healthcare. And despite the imperfections, those who have universal healthcare in other countries won’t want to give it up.

    What we need are films that answer Michael Moore, to show that things are best left the way they are in the US. There’s a huge profit to be made for such filmmakers.

  • Les Slater

    Triniman,

    I liked your last paragraph best.

    Les

  • Doug Hunter

    “The richest country in the world is ranked 37th out of 191 countries in terms of the quality of its healthcare system.”

    That’s a totally bogus number put out by some leftist UN bureacrats. They’ve got plenty of mileage out of this propaganda though, the sheeple have been parroting this like mad.

    Why is it propaganda? It blends actual healthcare metrics with socialized medicine criteria (government run systems get major bonus points just for being socialized regardless of actual health outcome) The US low score doesn’t show we have poor healthcare it shows we don’t have socialized medicine.

  • Lumpy

    If you look at the relative death rates for the most common causes of nonviolent death the US looks a hell of a lot better than countries like germany where fast acting diseases kill you during the 6 months you wait for treatment.

  • bliffle

    Plenty of arm-waving and threats from the anti-UHC crowd, but nothing factual, nothing reasoned, nothing mathematical.

    What say you anti-UHC enthusiasts to my argument in #4?

  • Les Slater

    Alec,

    “I recognize that there are some who think that profits, especially related to health care are bad. Strangely, many of these people would also not set aside any money for research and development or innovation. In their ideal health care system, all money is always allocated to current care.”

    ‘Many’ of that ‘some’ is less than the original ‘some’. Who, what, are we talking about?

    The term ‘profit’ here is also mystified. At least when I talk about ‘profit’ I am referring to private ‘profit’. A medical system does not have to make any ‘profit’ in any sense, except if you consider the health and well being of a population profitable. This profitability, the well being of the population, considered in a social sense, is a necessity, especially to the working class.

    The cost of research, and the maintaining of the system itself, would come out of surplusses in other areas.

    Les

  • Clavos

    bliffle,

    After two years direct experience with Medicare, I find your figures regarding the savings inherent in government provided health care to be misleading, at best.

    Because of Medicare policies, my wife keeps getting booted out of hospitals before, even to my layman’s eyes, she is ready to go home. As a result, she’s home for a few weeks (a couple of times a few days) and then it’s back to the hospital, usually involving an even longer stay.

    Consequently, over the past 22 months, she’s been in the hospital for 11 months, 2 weeks – more than half of the time. The cost to the taxpayers is approaching $500K, with no end in sight. The cost to her, in terms of lost quality of life, pain, etc., is immeasurable.

    During that time, I’ve discovered such cost overruns as:

    1. A wheelchair for which Medicare paid $4,500, and which I could have bought directly from the same mfr’s website for $2,100.

    2. A handicapped toilet seat which, because of Medicare policy, is rented, not purchased, from the provider, at $25/month. So far, the taxpayers have paid $550 for an item that retails at $150, and the clock is still ticking.

    3. A hospital bed which is also rented. I haven’t crunched the numbers on it yet.

    4. A walker (retail $75) literally forced on her because “Medicare requires you to have it” for a woman who is paraplegic and can’t walk.

    The list goes on, but you get the idea.

    bliffle, nothing the government does is less expensive than the private sector; have you forgotten the famous $600 hammers?

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    Clavos, the treatment your wife has received is undoubtedly shoddy but I don’t think that necessarily means state run medical programs are bad. The examples you cite are of a badly run and inefficient program but surely that only means it’s badly run, not that it has to be…

  • Les Slater

    Alec,

    “There is also something disgusting about Moore’s approval of the Cuban health care system, which depends on restricting the ability of doctors to leave the country…”

    And then “send[s]large numbers of doctors to Venezuela (healthc are for oil)…” and many other countries too, most without substantial, or any, payment. Cuba also trains people from other countries, including the U.S., to be doctors, for free. They also set up medical teaching facilities in other countries.

    “…which reduces the number of doctors available to the Cuban people…”. And there are still more doctors per capita than the U.S.

    “…the Cuban health care system, which depends on restricting the ability of doctors to leave the country…”

    First, the U.S. government restricts your right to travel freely. You can go anywhere you want as long as they say it’s ok. You are not allowed to go to Cuba for instance.

    “… or to make independent decisions about their own lives or medical practices”

    What do you mean? The right to set up medical practices? Usually when I have gotten a job in the U.S., I have had to sign documents saying I would not go to work for a competitor, and those bastards didn’t pay for my education either.

    Les

  • Clavos

    Agreed, Chris it doesn’t (and certainly shouldn’t) have to be.

    But it is. And my fear is that a UHC plan that is crafted in the good ole USA (/sarcasm) will be fraught with corruption, cronyism, and plain old theft, because our government is incapable of running anything properly, from war to the delivery of the mail.

  • Les Slater

    Chris,

    “The examples you cite are of a badly run and inefficient program but surely that only means it’s badly run, not that it has to be…”

    It’s more like that those that rake in the profits from the ripoffs would like to keep it that way, and do have a say in how things are run.

    Les

  • Les Slater

    Clavos,

    “…because our government is incapable of running anything properly, from war to the delivery of the mail.”

    So? We need a new government? Why defend a system that is run on the premise that the wealthy have to ripp us off?

    We need a new government run by those that have no interest in ripping our own selves off.

    Those in power now do not to worry about the same things we do. They have no material interest in making the system better. It would only make their lot worse off.

    Les

  • troll

    Clavos – who does your experience disgrace more…the government for paying irrational prices or the private sector for charging them in the name of maximized profit – ?

  • Clavos

    PS Chris,

    I’m not opposed to UHC. And, I think the government should be the single payer, but I think it should be set up to be overseen by a board of directors (haven’t figured out how they should be selected) who are NOT in the employ of the government.

    The providers should be private industry, and despite bliffle’s contentions regarding cost, I think that existing insurance companies (with proper oversight, as above) are best positioned to manage the plan, because of experience.

  • Clavos

    troll,

    Clearly, the government.

    If you try to rip me off, shame on you.

    If you succeed, shame on me.

  • Les Slater

    Clavos,

    “If you succeed, shame on me.”

    And how long have they been succeeding?

    No need for shame. Start looking for new ways to solve the problem.

    We need a new government, one that meets our needs. We need a new party to start getting there.

    Les

  • http://www.elitebloggers.com Dave Nalle

    And then “send[s]large numbers of doctors to Venezuela (healthc are for oil)…” and many other countries too, most without substantial, or any, payment. Cuba also trains people from other countries, including the U.S., to be doctors, for free. They also set up medical teaching facilities in other countries.

    And the first thing those doctors do when they get there is to try as hard as they can not to return to Cuba and find a way to defect to the US.

    First, the U.S. government restricts your right to travel freely. You can go anywhere you want as long as they say it’s ok. You are not allowed to go to Cuba for instance.

    Michael Moore went to Cuba and he doesn’t seem to be in jail.

    Dave

  • http://LesPaulisanexcellentguitarplayerwithanadmirablegraspofgoodjazz. bliffle

    “#14 — July 11, 2007 @ 17:15PM — Baronius

    This article fails to explain why health care should be considered a right. Rights are pretty serious things. Is health care a human right or a civil right? What level of health care do we have a right to? By what means to we recognize that right? ”

    Actually, you are exactly wrong. The question is, why should USA society pay a premium to deprive some people of medical care?

    In comment #4 I have clearly shown that total medical costs would be reduced by UHC. Therefore, we are paying a premium to deprive some people of medical care.

    Upon what criteria are you, oh Erroneous one, prepared to deprive people of care, to the point they may die of such deprivation? For surely it cannot be denied that care deprivation will result in some peoples deaths.

    Upon what basis, Mr. Erroneous, do you justify charging USA citizens billions of dollars every year to assure that those people are sentenced to death?

    Is it because they are poor? Do you conclude, like Bush, that poor people are lazy people, therefore they are eligible for the death penalty?

  • http://donhall.blogspot.com Don Hall

    Two quick additions to the debate.

    First, the article above is the first part of a seven part series of articles. The point of the series is to eventually explain why I believe each American citizen has a right to free and adequate healthcare.

    Second, the purpose of part one was to establish that, in spite of what the Corporate Face of American Health Insurance spins through bought politicians and an unresponsive media, there is a crisis in our current system.

    With all the sturm and drang in the comments to the article, my initial premise of this first part remains unchallenged. Whether you like Michael Moore or not, whether you think Cuba has a brilliant system or a crap system, whether you think Medicare is a successful system or a complete disaster, it stands without question – our current system of Healthcare for Profit is woefully inadequate and to ignore the problem in the wealthiest country on the planet is to be most stupid country as well.

  • Clavos

    “You are not allowed to go to Cuba for instance.”

    Not quite true, Les.

    I even operated regularly scheduled charter Boeing 727 service between Miami and various Cuban cities during the nineties with full approval of, and a license from, the US Treasury Department’s OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control)

    What you are NOT allowed to do is travel to Cuba and spend money there. Michael Moore (and just about any US lefty who wants to) can travel there with no problem as long as the Cuban government pays for (or gives them free) their stay and meals, etc., while there. Actually, American right wingers can do the same, in theory. The trick is in getting the Cubans to pay for it. For that, you have to be a lefty.

    All that notwithstanding, thousands of US citizens annually travel to Cuba with impunity by traveling first to Canada, Mexico, or the Bahamas, and then to Cuba. The Cuban government will even cooperate by not stamping their visa in your US passport.

    For the record, I am NOT advocating such travel, I am merely reporting that it does happen. Such travel IS illegal for US citizens.

  • Doug Hunter

    Bliffle,

    My costs would be much higher under UHC as I am a healthy and productive individual, just the type you wish to punish.

    UHC = murder as well. Many people will die waiting for limited resources. At least private systems allow you to earn a better outcome, with UHC it’s a crapshoot.

    People will die regardless of the amount or level of healthcare. Considering the obesity problem in the US we have pretty good outcomes and lifespans to start out with. Additionally, we are a leader in the healthcare and pharmaceutical research industries which have contributed much to the rest of the world’s health systems.

    Also, please enlighten me as to why you believe people are poor? I’m always interested to hear why people have zero control over their own outcomes and how they’re all victims of the environment.

  • Clavos

    “In comment #4 I have clearly shown that total medical costs would be reduced by UHC.”

    As I point out in #23, your conclusion (that it would be less expensive) is incorrect because it fails to take into account the corruption and inefficiency of the government.

  • Les Slater

    #33 Dave,

    “And the first thing those doctors do when they get there is to try as hard as they can not to return to Cuba and find a way to defect to the US.”

    A small minority. This does not stop the Cuban government from sending them. The positive results far outweigh the negatives.

    “Michael Moore went to Cuba and he doesn’t seem to be in jail.”

    Even I have gone to Cuba, twice. The reality is that a lot fewer U.S. citizens are traveling there these days because of the threats of large fines. Many have paid the fines.

    #36 Clovos,

    “What you are NOT allowed to do is travel to Cuba and spend money there.”

    That’s what they claim but this is no longer true. The ‘fully hosted’ category of licensing is no longer available.

    This makes the whole claim that anyone can go there as long as they don’t spend any money completely false.

    Les

  • http://blog.speedymarie.net Stephanie

    I think the right to health care is covered under “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

    How can anyone sit here in the richest country on the planet, and say that we shouldn’t have a system in place to make sure that everyone is taken care of, at a basic level at least. There was a story a few months ago about a boy who died when an abscessed tooth spread infection to his brain, because family’s Medicaid had lapsed, and his mother couldn’t find a dentist to see him under their state plan.

    Why can’t we have some centralized system in place that makes sure that people are covered at a basic level, rather than the extremely fragemented system we have now that forces people to jump through so many hoops and join so many different plans?

    There’s a big difference between switching to completely universal health care, and setting up a system that gives everyone basic coverage (out of taxes), and then allows individuals to purchase additional insurance. We are one of the only countries that runs health care through employers, which means that changing employers means changing plans, or losing coverage if you lose your job. Why do we have these employer-based plans? Because group coverage is cheaper. Couldn’t those group plans be somehow switched from being based on your employer, to being groups that you join through the government and pay for with taxes, rather than through your employeers? Health care is a benefit that employeers pay – its part of your “salary” – instead, employeers pay you more $ directly, and that money would go either to taxes for health care, or into your pocket to pay premiums.

  • Doug Hunter

    “There’s a big difference between switching to completely universal health care, and setting up a system that gives everyone basic coverage (out of taxes), and then allows individuals to purchase additional insurance.”

    We already have that and the effiminate types are still bawling. Hospitals treat those poor pieces of shit who have never done anything for anyone else on a daily basis. We already give to the leeches, the bleeding hearts just never see when enough is enough.

  • Baronius

    Bliffle (#34) – I think you missed my point, so I’m going to make it in the most over-exaggerated way possible.

    The government can sit by and watch people die of easily-preventable diseases. It can kick up its heels and giggle while we die. Or, alternately, it can provide health care for us. The decision is up to us.

    There is no right to health care. There is no government mandate for it. It may be cheaper and more efficient if federally-run (I doubt both), but that doesn’t make it a right. That’s all I’m saying here. When you declare something a human right, you’d better have some philosophical reason for doing so. With a civil right, you should probably put something in the Constitution, but either way it’s a big deal.

    Stephanie (#40) gave the best argument for health care as a right: the Declaration of Independence. But the right to liberty isn’t universal – it’s limited by the other guy’s nose, for example. The right to life is limited by the draft and capital punishment. It seems a stretch to consider the right to life as including medical care. It certainly wasn’t in the Founding Fathers’ minds.

  • http://www.friendlymisanthropist.blogspot.com alessandro Nicolo

    “There just is no such thing as free and universal health care.”

    Give that man an award.

    And can we stop talking about Cuba? Man, Cuba and Michael Moore. This is who you people look to to solve problems?

    Save the Republic for real.

  • Clavos

    I stand (partially) corrected, Les.

    While the rules have been tightened considerably since I was directly involved in travel to Cuba back in the nineties, nonetheless there are still a number of ways “persons subject to US jurisdiction” (because the rules apply to resident non-citizens as well) can travel there legally.

    Below is the relevant part of 31CFR515.560, which outlines the classes of travelers who can currently travel there. As you can see, there are several very broad categories under which one can travel.

    I too, traveled there a number of times (during the nineties), while operating the charters. I also spent the better part of a year in Cuba in 1958, during the last months of Fidel’s revolution.

    A quick check of the Miami Yellow Pages reveals dozens of companies engaged in providing legal travel to the island.

    § 515.560 Travel-related transactions to, from, and within Cuba by persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction.
    (a) The travel-related transactions listed in paragraph (c) of this section may be authorized either by a general license or on a case-by-case basis by a specific license for travel related to the
    following activities (see the referenced sections for the applicable general and specific licensing criteria):
    (1) Visits to members of a person’s immediate family (specific licenses) (see § 515.561);
    (2) Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations (general license) (see § 515.562);
    (3) Journalistic activity (general and specific licenses) (see § 515.563);
    (4) Professional research (general and specific licenses) (see § 515.564);
    (5) Educational activities (specific licenses) (see § 515.565);
    (6) Religious activities (specific licenses) (see § 515.566);
    (7) Public performances, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions (specific licenses) (see § 515.567);
    (8) Support for the Cuban people (specific licenses) (see § 515.574);
    (9) Humanitarian projects (specific licenses) (see § 515.575);
    (10) Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes (specific licenses) (see § 515.576);
    (11) Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials (specific licenses) (see § 515.545); and
    (12) Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing Department of Commerce regulations and guidelines with respect to Cuba or engaged in by U.S.- owned or controlled foreign firms (specific licenses) (see §§ 515.533 and 515.559).
    (b) Effective October 28, 2000, no specific licenses will be issued authorizing the travel-related transactions in paragraph (c) of this section in connection with activities other than those referenced
    in paragraph (a) of this section.

    The REAL question is why would anyone without family there would WANT to. Talk about tropical shitholes!

  • Baronius

    Bliffle and Stephanie, I should add that maybe future articles will explain why health care should be viewed as a right. At this point, the argument hasn’t been made.

  • http://LesPaulisanexcellentguitarplayerwithanadmirablegraspofgoodjazz. bliffle

    Lumpy, as usual, makes etravagant assertions without ANY evidence.

    cf.: #20 — July 11, 2007 @ 22:46PM — Lumpy [URL]

  • moonraven

    Of course health care should be a right.

    You don’t have the right to be healthy?

    What kind of society are you promoting?

    That was a rhetorical question–I know the answer to be SOCIAL DARWINISM, based on one’s income!

  • http://www.elitebloggers.com Dave Nalle

    “And the first thing those doctors do when they get there is to try as hard as they can not to return to Cuba and find a way to defect to the US.”

    A small minority. This does not stop the Cuban government from sending them. The positive results far outweigh the negatives.

    A small minority? Last I heard there were more than 10,000 in Columbia and Bolivia looking for asylum somewhere and Castro’s government was fairly pissed about it. That’s not a small number by any definition.

    You should try to put your loyalty to your comrades in Havana aside and do a web search for ‘cuban doctors asylum’. You’ll find stories from scores of countries of hundreds of Cuban doctors applying for asylum, mostly trying to get to the US.

    Dave

  • Les Slater

    Dave,

    I did a Google, below is one article:

    From the NewsMax.com Staff
    For the story behind the story…
    Monday, March 12, 2007 3:12 p.m. EDT
    Cuban Doctors in Limbo Seek Asylum in U.S.

    “Last summer the Bush administration announced that any Cuban medical professional sent abroad by the communist regime was eligible for political asylum in the United States.

    “As a result, dozens of Cuban healthcare workers sent to Venezuela sneaked across the border into Colombia, hoping to start a new life in America.

    “But six months later, they are still in Colombia, unable to work, waiting for U.S. authorities to decide whether to accept them as political refugees, according to the Los Angeles Times.”

    This is more like what I understand. The claims that you make sound like you read too much fiction.

    Just read that first paragraph. Can you support such an appeal? It is the lowest among lowlife that tries to rob a country of its health care system. Do you trip old ladies too?

    Les

  • Dr Dreadful

    #44: Good grief, Clavos. First of all, if it’s such a shithole, why does it have a thriving tourist industry (and I’m not talking about expats from Miami)?

    Even more significantly, why exactly can’t the US government just get the hell over itself and lift its goddamn sanctions on the place?

  • Mike

    There’s a big difference between switching to completely universal health care, and setting up a system that gives everyone basic coverage (out of taxes), and then allows individuals to purchase additional insurance. We are one of the only countries that runs health care through employers, which means that changing employers means changing plans, or losing coverage if you lose your job. Why do we have these employer-based plans? Because group coverage is cheaper. Couldn’t those group plans be somehow switched from being based on your employer, to being groups that you join through the government and pay for with taxes, rather than through your employeers? Health care is a benefit that employeers pay – its part of your “salary” – instead, employeers pay you more $ directly, and that money would go either to taxes for health care, or into your pocket to pay premiums.

    Very enlightening, thanks. I never realized that the system was so complicated (me being in Canada). I’m sure as well that the economy is tied in with this; employers in the U.S. have this burden to carry? Maybe they look elsewhere because of this?

  • moonraven

    Hear, hear!

    And notice how Nalle spins DOZENS into 10,000.

    And he had them sneaking into a country that doesn’t even exist: ColUmbia.

    [Edited]

  • http://www.elitebloggers.com Dave Nalle

    MR according to the state department several hundred have already been given asylum in the US. That’s hardly dozens. And they’re only a fraction of the ones who are seeking asylum.

    Dave

  • http://LesPaulisanexcellentguitarplayerwithanadmirablegraspofgoodjazz. bliffle

    Wrong again, Senor Erroneous.

    “#38 — July 12, 2007 @ 12:07PM — Clavos

    “In comment #4 I have clearly shown that total medical costs would be reduced by UHC.”

    As I point out in #23, your conclusion (that it would be less expensive) is incorrect because it fails to take into account the corruption and inefficiency of the government.”

    I quoted the readily available figure of 3% as the gov cost, which includes admin and corruption. Compared to the 40% figure for private health ins. cos.

    I suspect that you know very little about how these matters work at the macroscopic level, so I’ll explain it to you in simple terms.

    Every state in the USA that files medicaid/medicare claims to the US federal government is required by congressional law to employ some type of ‘certified’ or federally accepted form of software analysis (usually a pre-certified private enterprise proprietary program operated by a for-profit business) to analyse the databases accumulated and maintained by the states (these are necessarily in rather standardized form to accomodate industry standards for electronic billing).

    I’ve worked on a couple of those software programs and they work very well. One salesperson I knew would regularly give sales seminars in which Live Data (!) would be used to uncover actual doctors and/or patients who were at that very moment CHEATING the system!

    In one such software analysis we implemented an analysis and report product that revealed that the HEAD of the system in a prominent southern state was actively cheating the system in cooperation with some doctors. They are all in prison now. We knew that person as a cooperative and enthusiastic supporter of our analysis system. Imagine our surprise when she was revealed as a perpetrator!

    Don’t try to cheat the system. They will find you.

    Consequently, we KNOW the depth of corruption in those systems that are open to software analysis as dictated by federal law. That’s all public systems and most private systems (those that interact with medicare/medicaid). Some PRIVATE systems can escape that scrutiny, and thus have even higher levels of corruption.

    The cost of corruption is borne by some kind of slushfund that is simply incorporated into overhead. We know that overhead for medicare is 3%. we know the overhead for private ins. cos. is about 40%.

    The citizens of the USA are not benefited the cost savings of private enterprise because they are operated as oligopolies, with markets divided up among competitors by mutual (illegal, mostly) agreements, usually reached in secret (illegal) meetings.

    Consequently, every year US citizens are ripped off for many billions of dollars by unscrupulous ins. cos. Although they are regularly fined 100s of million for their sins they are not sentenced to prison, and the fines are an excellent ROI.

  • Les Slater

    Again,

    “Last summer the Bush administration announced that any Cuban medical professional sent abroad by the communist regime was eligible for political asylum in the United States.”

    This is the kind of scum fuck government that some people try to defend.

    Les

  • moonraven

    Where’s the beef, Nalle?

    You just made up that State Department bullshit. Any old piece of pasta willdo for you–you sling it at the wall and hope it will stick.

    Only one problem: You seem to have confused me with someone who thinks you know what you are talking about.

  • http://www.elitebloggers.com Dave Nalle

    This is the kind of scum fuck government that some people try to defend.

    Les, i’m not really clear on how our government’s willingness to welcome people who escape from one of the most oppressive regimes on the planet is a bad thing? were we ‘scum fucks’ for welcoming jews who fled nazi germany too?

    dave

  • Les Slater

    Dave,

    “were we ‘scum fucks’ for welcoming jews who fled nazi germany too?”

    The problem was that the U.S. DID NOT WELCOME Jews fleeing nazi Germany.

    Les

  • moonraven

    Right!

    The Ship of the Damned–wasn’t it?

    And there are millions who do not consider Cuba to be repressive.

    I consider The Decider and his henchmen to bemore repressive than Fidel–and WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY more stupid.

  • Clavos

    @#50, Dr. D:

    Compared to a Mexico (3.5M tourists per quarter), or virtually any Caribbean nation except Haiti, tourism isn’t really “thriving” in Cuba (2M per year), Doc, and it consists mostly of Canadians who would go to hell for a holiday…:>)

    Here in Florida, we say that the Canadians arrive in the fall to stay the winter with a brand new shirt and a brand new $100 dollar bill, and they don’t change either one all winter.

    Years ago, tourists never saw the shithole part of Cuba, which is all of it except for the resorts. They were kept in their beautiful (Spanish and Canadian owned and operated, for the most part) resorts, from which, except for carefully vetted workers, Cuban citizens were barred.

    In other words, Potemkin villages, Doc

    The rules have relaxed somewhat in recent years, but the island’s chief attraction then, as now, is that it’s one of the least expensive destinations in the world (hence the Canadians).

    Physically, the island is beautiful, no question. But, the tourists mostly only see what Fidel wants ‘em to.

    Remember, I’ve been there. I HAVE seen the non tourist parts. It’s pretty sad and pathetic, really.

    But it DOES have the world’s largest collection of classic 50s American cars…

  • Clavos

    “And there are millions who do not consider Cuba to be repressive.”

    And yet fidel’s subjects keep coming on a daily basis, taking enormous physical risks crossing the Straits of Florida to get away from it.

    Wonder why??

  • moonraven

    The reason why the Cubans keep going to the US is because the US government PAYS them to do so–they are immediately given green cards and that means access to legal employment at wages far higher than in ANY country in Latin America.

  • moonraven

    This poster goes to the Middle east once a year for consulting gigs because she is paid big bucks to do so–not because she cannot tolerate the “repressive government in Mexico.

    Get real.

  • http://www.friendlymisanthropist.blogspot.com alessandro Nicolo

    Dr. D – This is just my observations free of political theorizing. It may not be a “shithole” but close to it. What they did to Havana is a shame. It’s a beautiful island with wonderful people (man, can those cats play music and play ball) but a relative and repulsive shithole thanks to that guy and his repugnant revolution.

    I’ve always used a simple barometer in life. If you love a place so much would you live there? I know I wouldn’t spend more than a week in Cuba. Let’s put it another way, would we all welcome a Castro-type in our lives?

    As for the sanctions, I’m no expert but the EU and Canada have been trading and investing in/with Cooba and send millions of tourists every year. So someone – I don’t know who – is carpet bagging the island. Maybe the Americans should lift sanctions but to say they are the ones keeping the island poor seems a tad off to me. It’s after all A COMMUNIST REGIME.

    Les, if Bush and his admin. is scum what would that make Castro?

  • Les Slater

    “…if Bush and his admin. is scum what would that make Castro?”

    I have a great respect for Castro. He certainly has much, much, much more respect in the world than Bush. I do not agree with him on all matters but he’s much more honest and forthright than any U.S president in my lifetime.

    I do not think Bush is stupid but I certainly would not trust him with ANYTHING.

  • Clavos

    Les,

    “Last summer the Bush administration announced that any Cuban medical professional sent abroad by the communist regime was eligible for political asylum in the United States.”

    This is the kind of scum fuck government that some people try to defend.”

    I don’t see anything wrong with that, especially in view of the fact that virtually ANY Cuban has been eligible for asylum since 1960.

  • Clavos

    “The reason why the Cubans keep going to the US is because the US government PAYS them to do so–they are immediately given green cards and that means access to legal employment at wages far higher than in ANY country in Latin America.”

    Yep, that’s what they all say as soon as they get here, alright.

    What horseshit you write, mr.

  • Baronius

    Moonraven, are you being facetious?

    There can be no right to “be healthy”, because we’re mortal. No one is healthy for more than 75 years or so. A right is an inherent thing. The right to practice religion recognizes something about human nature; the right to “be healthy” stands at odds with human nature.

    I’m not a social Darwinian for recognizing that humans get sick and die. I’m not advocating a society where the sick are killed. I’m saying that health care isn’t a right.

    As for the comment about Castro… words fail me. I can only assume that you’re trying to shock us.

  • Les Slater

    Clavos,

    “I don’t see anything wrong with that, especially in view of the fact that virtually ANY Cuban has been eligible for asylum since 1960″

    I think probably any country’s citizens are eligible for asylum. It is the U.S. that refuses to give most Cubans any sort of visa to come to the U.S. There is a large backlog of applications at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

    The U.S. uses radio and television broadcasts to encourage Cubans to come to the U.S. but does not let them come here legally for the most part.

    Since 1966, the ‘Cuban Adjustment Act’ encourages Cubans to come here by illegal means. The history has been that even if they hijack a plane and kill the pilot or other crew, they are welcomed here and not charged. The equipment that they stole is not returned to Cuba. There is no other similar act that applies to any other country.

    Les

  • Les Slater

    Baronius,

    “A right is an inherent thing”

    Like the right for workers to form unions and strike? Like the right of women to vote?

    Inherent maybe, but not usually recognized as such before a struggle to gain such.

    Les

  • Lumpy

    Les the laws of an oppressive government to control the movement of their population really don’t need to be honored by other nations which value freedom.

  • Les Slater

    Lumpy,

    Are you referring to my #69 above? If so I do not see how your #71 is any answer to it.

    We are not talking about laws of other nations here. Do you think Cuba or any other nation has a right to send people to countries that require a visa but have not issued one? Cuba is respecting the U.S.’s sovereignty by refusing to allow their citizens to come to the U.S. without proper documentation.

    It is the U.S. that is encouraging Cubans to take a dangerous journey to get to the U.S. dry land. Many have died in the attempt. It is criminal to encourage such. It is part of makes the U.S. government scum fuckers.

    Les

  • http://www.elitebloggers.com Dave Nalle

    Like the right for workers to form unions and strike?

    So Les. If I agree that the right to form unions is a natural extension of the right to assemble freely, will you agree that workers have an absolute right not to be required to join a union to hold a specific job, and that when they are in a union they have the right not to let their dues be used for political purposes without their consent?

    dave

  • Les Slater

    Dave,

    “…will you agree that workers have an absolute right not to be required to join a union to hold a specific job…”

    No, I said FORM unions, not JOIN unions. Unions are a class entity, not just an ad hoc collection of individuals.

    Les

  • Clavos

    Les #72,

    Why is it that the Cubans who undertake that perilous voyage never mention that? And even if the US IS denying them visas why in hell are they so anxious to come here? They live in paradise, don’t they?

    They’ve got free health care which is much superior to US health care, they are taken care of from cradle to grave by their government, they are allowed to say and do what they want, travel anywhere they want, live anywhere. They are provided with free schooling all the way through college, etc., etc.

    Is there a reason to come here when where you live is so much a better place than US?

    Les, I’m not trying to insult your intelligence, I have too much respect for your sincerity to do that, and I know you know I don’t believe all of the malarkey in the above paragraphs, but I’ve seen that and more espoused by (mostly left leaning) Americans on this blog as well as those, like Michael Moore, with a much larger pulpit.

    If all of that were true, common sense tells me that the traffic would all be in the opposite direction, but we all know it’s not. People don’t risk their lives to escape a place that is a good home, even if the US is denying them visas.

    And mr’s claim that they’re coming here to work, like the Mexicans, is so much bullshit; the Mexicans risk practically nothing (with some occasional exceptions, mostly at the hands of coyotes) to come here, not even deportation, most of them.

    Algo no cuadra, Les.

  • Les Slater

    Clavos,

    Note that I did not say that healthcare in Cuba is better than U.S. It is much more broadly available though. The healthcare indicators for Cuba and the U.S. are roughly the same. Since they are roughly equal, and Cuba’s is more broadly distgributed, it points to huge inequalities in the U.S. The wealthy of this country would never think of going to Cuba for healthcare.

    Why do Cubans come here? Even risking their lives. It is clear that the U.S. is always looking for an oportunity to overthrow the Cuban revolution, it creates much stress. The population has to be diciplined to survive. It takes a toll. Cuban TV showing much wealth and pushing material things.

    I met a well dressed Cuban family in a working class neighborhood in Havana. There were three generations in what I considered a very nice apartment, better than many I have lived in the U.S. A woman of the youngest generation, who spoke English, told me she had no shoes. I looked at her feet and it seemed she had on a good pair of shoes. I asked her what she meant. It turned out she had a keen desire to have a pair of Nike’s.

    Some come to the U.S. to live the good life. Some in the U.S. will kill for the same reasons.

    Les

  • http://www.elitebloggers.com Dave Nalle

    No, I said FORM unions, not JOIN unions. Unions are a class entity, not just an ad hoc collection of individuals.

    that’s not what i asked. i asked whether you believe workers should have a right to work without joining a union and whether union members should have a right not to have their dues spent on political campaigns they oppose.

    dave

  • Les Slater

    Dave,

    “i asked whether you believe workers should have a right to work without joining a union”

    No, that is not what you asked. The answere to above question is yes. The question that you asked before was about an absolute right. I said no.

    I think unions should be stronger. They won’t get stronger with the leadership that they now have. If they get stronger they should go after the ‘right to work’ laws and force them to be repealed.

    One of the reasons unions afre not strong is the lack of democracy within them. They generally do not work in the interests of their worker members.

    I do not agree with how the unions are using their dues collection for funding political hacks. I would not, however, suggest taking the right to do that from the unions. Again, this is a question of union democracy.

    Les

  • Clavos

    “If they get stronger they should go after the ‘right to work’ laws and force them to be repealed.”

    You’ll never get my vote for that idea. I’m opposed to forcing anyone to join a union to get or keep a job.

    When I first went to work in the airline industry, I had to join the union to get the job.

    Although Florida is a Right To Work state, the airline industry is interstate commerce, and is governed by the Railway Labor Act, which makes closed shops legal. Among the union’s rules was promotion by seniority (a common union contract clause), which held me back from advancing while I waited for what I felt were less qualified people to get promoted first. And, of course, my dues were being used to support political candidates who I didn’t support.

    I understand the philosophical underpinnings of collectivism, but I’d rather take my chances fending for myself, as I did a few years ago by opting to become an independent contractor (in another industry), even though it meant giving up company paid benefits and job security.

    I like it a lot better on my own.

    “I do not agree with how the unions are using their dues collection for funding political hacks. I would not, however, suggest taking the right to do that from the unions.”

    As long as individual union members have the right to say to the union, “No, I don’t support that candidate, give my portion of the political money from dues to this other one.

    In the long run, that would not only be a more “free” idea, it would be better for the country too, for union money to be more evenly spread around than it is now.

  • Les Slater

    Clavos,

    “You’ll never get my vote for that idea.”

    The party that I am trying to get off the ground will be a workers party with a single issue platform.

    That platform will be the defense of undocumented workers.

    “You’ll never get my vote for that idea.”

    I wouldn’t be too sure.

    Les

  • Clavos

    I see your point, Les.

    You certainly got my attention with that comment!

    BUT, you left out the next sentence in my point:

    “I’m opposed to forcing anyone to join a union to get or keep a job.” (emphasis added)

  • http://www.elitebloggers.com Dave Nalle

    that single issue isn’t going to get you too far, les, especially in your neck of the woods, but it’s more sensible than some issues you could have picked.

    dave

  • Les Slater

    Dave,

    The working class is taking a beating right now. It does not have voice of its own so is susceptible to all sorts of reactionary propaganda.

    I know this is a very unpopular position with most of the working class, I don’t know if especially, but certainly, here in Detroit.

    The problem is that many sectors of the working class are blaming other sectors of the working class. There needs to be unity if we are going to make any progress.

    When I talk to workers it is not too hard to get them to see the dangers in their anti-immigrant position. The government is using the most thuggish actions to attack the immigrant community. If they get away with it there we will be next. Detroit is almost all black, mostly working class. They can relate to police thuggery.

    What needs to happen is to get this issue out in the open for workers to debate amongst themselves. We need to develop our own voice. I think the attitudes will change for the better.

    Les

  • http://LesPaulisanexcellentguitarplayerwithanadmirablegraspofgoodjazz. bliffle

    I wait patiently for someone to justify USA society to spend billions every year for the joy of depriving the unworthy of medical care, as I demonstrated in #4. And possibly killing them.

    But there is no answer.

  • Les Slater

    bliffle,

    I did somewhere in this thread. Basically there are lots of folk who are raking in lots of money off this racket. Of course providing quality care would leave the trough with fewer spoils.

    Les

  • Clavos

    bliffle,

    in response to your question:

    I think the figures you first mention in #4 and again later in #54 are completely underestimating the amount of fraud in the Medicare/Medicaid programs.

    One small example, from the NYT:

    “James Mehmet, who retired in 2001 as chief state investigator of Medicaid fraud and abuse in New York City, said he and his colleagues believed that at least 10 percent of state Medicaid dollars were spent on fraudulent claims, while 20 or 30 percent more were siphoned off by what they termed abuse, meaning unnecessary spending that might not be criminal. “So we’re talking about 40 percent of all claims are questionable,” Mr. Mehmet said – an amount that would approach $18 billion a year.”

    And that’s just Medicaid in New York state in just one year

    And here’s another report , more recent (April 2007) right here in Florida:

    ” Florida has more Medicare and Medicaid fraud than anywhere else because of the high proportion of recipients and the government’s inability to keep up with the fluid “bill mills” that keep popping up, said Patrick Burns, spokesman for Washington, D.C.-based Taxpayers Against Fraud.

    “These fly-by-night clinics may end up making millions of dollars for themselves,” he said. “They just need to print out a letterhead and get a physician’s [government billing] number and starting billing. By the time Medicare figures out you’re billing for services no one showed up for, you’ve already got your money and wired it to a bank in the Cayman Islands.”

    The cost to taxpayers reaches into the hundreds of millions of dollars, experts say.

    Billing fraud adds at least 5 percent to the cost of health care in Miami-Dade County, said George Foyo, South Florida market president for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida. The cost of combating and absorbing fraud-related losses inflates the price of health insurance for everyone.”

    As I said before, the government never does anything, from making war to healing people, inexpensively and efficiently.

  • http://www.elitebloggers.com Dave Nalle

    Execute a few overcharing doctors and replace them with cubans and that’ll take care of the medicaid/medicare fraud problem.

    dave

  • STM

    We have a wonderful universal free healthcare system in Australia that is both so good and so popular, that no government of any persuasion will now risk tinkering too much with it lest they get punted.

    No it’s not perfect, and yes, we pay a bit extra in tax (on a sliding scale) and it may seem like an impost if you’re not used to such a thing, but it’s hardly noticeable really.

    When people are talking about rights, I say the right to get sick and to be given good medical care (after paying taxes to the federal and state governments all these years) without going bankrupt is a basic right. I mean, I like to ask myself: do I pay taxes just to fund the growing military in this country, or do I pay them so that the govt can do some beneficial stuff as well? The answer here, happily, is that the government recognises good-quality free health care is a right every citizen of this country is entitled to, whilst also understanding that private industry needs to make a buck as well.

    It’s been done with an increase in jobs in both the government and private sectors, so there’s no reality to the argument that jobs go, etc. Health funds have simply upped the ante and offer more services, which means all round you get more bang for your buck.

    Example: my wife had a skin cancer removed this week. She paid her doctor almost $300 for the procedure, then took off to the Medicare office on the way home and got the whole lot back.

    Should she require further treatment in a worst-case scenario, we won’t be a cent out of pocket. She also gets the doctor of her choice, because we’ve topped up a bit with a private fund.

    Anything’s possible, even in America, if you’re willing to think outside the envelope.

  • Clavos

    “Execute a few overcharing doctors and replace them with cubans and that’ll take care of the medicaid/medicare fraud problem.”

    LOL!

    That might work, but then all the monolingual gringos would have to learn Spanish.

    Seriously, the reports I’ve read indicate the bulk of the Medicare/aid fraud is perpetrated by suppliers other than physicians, especially durable equipment suppliers, which dovetails well with the direct experience I’ve had while managing my wife’s case.

  • http://LesPaulisanexcellentguitarplayerwithanadmirablegraspofgoodjazz. bliffle

    Apparently, Les and Clavos believe that corruption only exists in public agencies and not in private companies. And ‘lots’ must be a new mathematical quantity.

  • Les Slater

    bliffle,

    “And ‘lots’ must be a new mathematical quantity.”

    I think it’s a real estate term.

    “Apparently, Les and Clavos believe that corruption only exists in public agencies and not in private companies.”

    As a matter of fact I think the government is run by those who own those corrupt private companies, therefore it would be natural to expect corruption in the government and its agencies.

    Les

  • Clavos

    “As a matter of fact I think the government is run by those who own those corrupt private companies, therefore it would be natural to expect corruption in the government and its agencies.”

    And, since oversight is a concept almost totally foreign to government managers, due in part to their limited ability to fire people, the level of corruption there likely greatly exceeds that of the private sector.

    I’ve never heard of a corporation buying $600 hammers.

  • Les Slater

    “I’ve never heard of a corporation buying $600 hammers.”

    But they do sell things whose only value is a product of Madison Avenue. Which is a bigger rip-off?

  • Clavos

    The government is, simply because I (and all of us) HAVE to pay our taxes and support it.

    Nobody HAS to buy Madison Avenue’s advertised products, with the exception of shelter, food (1% margin industrywide), and clothing.

  • http://benefitofthedoubt.miksimum.com/ Jesse

    Hmm… justifying a right. If we’re talking philosophy, we’re talking hypothetical situations, and we’re allowing for ideals that may never quite hold in the real world. So when we talk about rights, we grant the premise that human beings, just by being human, deserve certain allowances provided them by the community of which they’re apart. The whole community of human beings dictates the highest, most abstract level of rights (i.e. human rights), and the rights of any specific community (i.e. civil rights) are derived from this top level, implemented in the best form deemed possible by that community.

    Basic welfare is a human right. You can pull that from the basic idea of a community, which attempts to guard the welfare of its members, or you can pull it from “nature,” wherein the most intelligent animals (elephants, dolphins, etc) act communally to defend the well-being of its constituent individuals. Welfare of individuals is something that no self-sustaining group can afford to ignore.

    As Dave and others have said, any right ends when it impinges upon other rights, or upon the rights of other members of the group. So welfare of one member of the group is no longer valid when protecting it impinges on the safety or sovereignty of the rest of the individuals.

    This country has the means to provide for the basic welfare of the entire population. We don’t have to strip away the right to free-market competition, which represents the integrity of the individual, in order to provide a universal level of essential services, which represent the responsibility of the collective.

    Is all healthcare a right? Is plastic surgery a right? Is free abortion a right? Not really. But do people with non-preventable diseases, human beings who are struggling to maintain their health, have a right to whatever services we, as a community, are able to provide? Absolutely.

    For instance, I feel I have a right to procure insulin, and training in how to use it, and follow-ups to consult on my general health. I think I have this right even when I’m between jobs. I think the homeless guy playing a paint can in the subway has the right to insulin, as well. It’s something that we, as a society, are capable of providing to everybody, because of the vast resources we’ve amassed as a successful capitalist nation.

  • moonraven

    I have never seen such outrageously wrongheaded posts as I have on this thread. Almost uncountable, in fact.

    1. To the meanspirited nitwit who says we have no right to be healthy: Great! You are now not allowed to see a doctor, buy so much as an aspirin, receive acupuncture–NADA. You are on your own with you mechanical model body and when you get the flu and are on the verge of death, do not whine about it. Die like a man, you twit.

    How’s that?

    2. Clavos fell into his own manure pile with the Cuban asylum issue: What about the more than 500,000 Mexicans that go to the US every year with NO green card guarantee and have to run the gauntlet of redneck savages with shotguns? By his logic, Mexico is many times the repressive “shithole” that Cuba is. Yet, mysteriously, he brags that he has a Mexican passport. Something smells here, and I fear the wind is blowing from South Florida.

    3. Medicare and Medicaid fraud is committed all the way along the line. One of my clients for accounting services many years ago was the largest nonprofit umbrella group in the state of New Mexico (the one with 5 electoral votes so nobody gives a fuck what happens there). The president of the organization and one of the two VPs REGULARLY had the payroll clerk write them checks for 50,000 dollars outside of the computerized payroll system. When the bank statements came, they removed the checks and the clerks never could reconcile the account. They bought condos in Santa Fe and Lexus vehicles with YOUR tax dollars. When the VP who was not on the take went to the paper where I was film critic and spilled the beans, and the paper wanted to do an expose, I advised them not to bother.

    Why? Because the federal government is mandated to deliver Medicare services, and because they have no intention of doing so they contract with non-profits to do it. An expose would have just pissed everybody off, and the feds would have had to contract with another–probably even more corrupt– non-profit to deliver the services.

    That’s just the fraud at the top of the delivery chain. The clinics and nursing homes under the aegis of that non-profit also padded bills, and the providers of stuff like Depends and wheelchairs and meds and sheets and equipment and so forth ALL did the same thing. Again, YOUR tax dollars at work.

    None of this means that we do NOT have the right to be healthy and receive services to that end. It just means that somebody needs to pull the plug on the pork!

    That person could be YOU, but you don’t feel entitled to anything, so it won’t be.

  • moonraven

    Thanks for disappearing my posts!

    1. If the poster who inists we have no right to health wants to die in the street without care from a nail in his foot, more power to him. The rest of us DO have the right to health care!

    2. Clavos tells us Cubans are only going to the US because their country is a shithole caused by Fidel Castro. Right.

    And those 600,000 Mexicans that go to the US every year WITHOUT right to green cards and who run the gauntlet of shotguns and inhospitable deserts? I guess Clavos is proud of his Mexican passport because Castro is the president of Mexico?

    3. I wrote a long example of ALL the different levels of rip offs in the provision of medicare and Medicaid services–based on my own experience auditing a large provider–but I am not going to write it again and have it disappear into the sewers of blogcritics.

  • Les Slater

    Madison Avenue of course is just a euphemism for the pervasive marketing of products and ideas that has so invaded our psyches that we have a hard time thinking for ourselves.

    This sort of thing even affects our ability to think scientifically. From “As Seen on TV” to the wholesale acceptance of authority is constantly drummed into us.

    Most of our information on which we make most of our decisions and form opinions comes from the thought apparatus of a giant thought conformity machine.

    Like I said earlier, it even distorts our scientific understanding of our world. Check out the discussion on thermodynamics in ‘Christianity and Atheism’ in the ‘BC Culture Forum’.

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    moonraven, nobody “disappeared” your comment, it was snagged by the automatic anti-spam software and, as you can see, I have now released it.

    Although, I have of course deleted the extra two copies of your subsequent comment. As you have been told before, the only time comments are edited or deleted is when the commenter goes too far.

  • moonraven

    If you fixed the posting mechanism, maybe–JUST MAYBE–there would not be duplicate posts.

    Just a gentle suggestion.

    I am not the only luddite around here. apparently.

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    moonraven, once again your conceit leads you to talk, well, nonsense really. It’s simply not possible for a comment to post multiple times if you click the publish button just the once.

    Thanks for confessing to being a luddite though, I for one was convinced you were absolutely perfect but now I know you’re only human!

  • moonraven

    Anything is possible, Chris.

    Especially here in the land of Magical Realism.

    Don’t be such a fuddy duddy. It’s bad form at your tender age.

  • http://www.friendlymisanthropist.blogspot.com alessandro Nicolo

    Well said, Jesse.

    STM, you know I never thought of it but it’s nice to hear that Australia’s system works fine. Man, I’ve been through the Canadian system and it can be a nightmare. I have no problems with the quality of care (depending on services) but there’s such a stressed atmosphere in our hospitals and poor management it’s forcing people to seek private services.

    In fact, Canada is the U.S. in reverse. While the U.S. may need to consider universal care, Canada is witnessing a private health care revolution.

    And don’t be swayed by leftists or lame-o’s like Michael “I love Canada” Moore – as if he’d wait in the Canadian system with his fat wallet. Anyway, things aren’t going well here and the introduction of regulated private services can exist side by side the public system (which should be preserved). Right now, we are not getting bang for our buck.

    If we truly are an enlightened and progressive system we can come up with proper solutions.

  • http://www.friendlymisanthropist.blogspot.com alessandro Nicolo

    …and I hope your wife is alright (STM).

  • Baronius

    Moon, please read Jesse’s comment #95. Even though he and I disagree, I really like the way he explains rights. In the exchange between you and me, I don’t think we’re speaking the same language. Sure it’d be nice if everyone were healthy all the time. But there’s a difference between something being nice and something being a right. There are a lot of good things that aren’t rights.

    When we declare something to be a right, we’re giving it authority. We’re making it universal (human rights) or widespread (civil rights). And I think it’s premature to call health care a right. There isn’t a near-complete agreement, a historical tradition, or a national founding principle.

    I’m worried that we’re getting ahead of ourselves. As I said earlier, maybe Don’s articles will get us to a common understanding an agreement. Until that point, I’ll be wary. I don’t want to be railroaded into a bad policy by the invocation of the word “right”.

    Again, Moon, it’s possible to disagree with you without being a fool or evil.

  • moonraven

    If you are a fool or evil I am not responsible for either.

    If you do not believe in the human right to be healthy, I can understand full well why you are cheering as folks die from starvation in Africa.

    But I think you should be sapped silly for doing so.

  • moonraven

    SLAPPED.

    But sapped is appropriate, too.

  • Baronius

    Moon, let’s start with something easy. Do you see a distinction between health and health care?

  • http://LesPaulisanexcellentguitarplayerwithanadmirablegraspofgoodjazz. bliffle

    “I’ve never heard of a corporation buying $600 hammers.”

    I’ve seen a company financially destroyed by a pirate CEO who called in all his old cronies, college pals and relatives and issue sweetheart contracts, stock options and high salaries that they all collected on before the company collapsed.

    Why would they care? They got their money before the collapse. And then got lucrative “retainment bonuses” so the poor dears wouldn’t leave while the company went thru bankruptcy.

    You could buy a lot of gold-plated hammers at $600 each for the money lost.

  • Les Slater

    I don’t know how many $600 hammers the government bought but paying corporate executives more than $200,000 per year is much more of a waste than the extra $590 paid for each of those hammers.

  • Clavos

    “I don’t know how many $600 hammers the government bought but paying corporate executives more than $200,000 per year is much more of a waste than the extra $590 paid for each of those hammers.”

    That would depend on how much ROI the bosses of those CEOs (their stockholders) are getting, and actually is up to the stockholders, and only them.

    More than one CEO of companies in which I’m invested is returning more than enough to justify his multi million dollar remuneration.

    I pay them back by voting my shares in their favor.

  • Les Slater

    Clavos,

    “More than one CEO of companies in which I’m invested is returning more than enough to justify his multi million dollar remuneration.”

    Not only his multi million dollar renumeration, but your capital appreciation and/or dividends represent a waste of capital. Multiply that by all the investors and it becoms quite significant.

    We know that in the health care industries, it is not the quality or quantity of the product that these costs are going into.

    Les

  • http://www.elitebloggers.com Dave Nalle

    Just to remind you guys, despite a tiny number of CEOs earning huge amounts, the average CEO still earns just under $100,000 a year, and as a percentage of earnings even the highest paid CEOs earn only a tiny fraction of the profits which they help bring in.

    dave

  • Les Slater

    Dave,

    That’s why I used the figure of $200,000 as a somewhat arbitrary figure as the cutoff for the beginning of waste.

    It isn’t the pay of execs that is the biggest issue, nor not even the stockholders capital appreciation. It’s what the management has to do to maximise the ROI. It’s contrary to delivering value to the customer of their products or services. To the extent that this hurts the health of the population it is reactionary and should be ended.

    Les

  • http://LesPaulisanexcellentguitarplayerwithanadmirablegraspofgoodjazz. bliffle

    Amazing! After all the hot air expended in this forum, no one has seriously challenged the hypothesis I put forward in #4, that we are actually paying billions extra for the current health system to deny care to 40 million US citizens. Amazing!

    The opponents of Universal health Care haven’t laid a glove on my hypothesis. Do I have to do it myself? Maybe I’ll wait another hundred futile comments.

  • http://LesPaulisanexcellentguitarplayerwithanadmirablegraspofgoodjazz. bliffle

    All those noble words in defense of CEOs would be more convincing if they came from the same people who pointed out that most government agencies pay $10 for a $10 hammer, not the $600 cited Step forward please.

    Incidentally, what was that agency that paid $600? Or was that report apocryphal?

  • Clavos

    Les:

    “your capital appreciation and/or dividends represent a waste of capital”

    How so? They are my ROI; which, of course, is the whole point of investing capital.

    Also, in my case, (and that of most intelligent investors), that additional capital then gets re-invested, generating still more capital, jobs, etc.

  • Clavos

    “The opponents of Universal health Care haven’t laid a glove on my hypothesis. Do I have to do it myself? Maybe I’ll wait another hundred futile comments.”

    Go for it, bliffle. Let’s see your chops.

  • Clavos

    “Incidentally, what was that agency that paid $600?”

    Reportedly, it was DoD. Specifically, the Air Farce.

    This site, named Government Executive, quotes a college professor(!), who terms it “an accounting artifact” (an odd phrase in itself), attributing the $600 price to the allocation, under government policy, of “R&D” expenses to the hammer’s actual cost.

    In any case, it’s tellingly symbolic of how horribly incompetent the government is in handling our money. The ridiculousness of allocating $588 additional costs to the simple purchase of a $12 hammer boggles the mind.

  • http://parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    Bliffle, while I don’t disagree with you claim that some health care/pharma companies make very sweet profits, it’s not helpful to us gross profit as a measure. Gross profit does not translate into how much money the company can pocket at the end of the year. Out of it comes taxes, investment, other expenses, and a host of other some legitimate, some illigitimate costs.

    You really need to use net profit and free-cash flow–both of which can also be manipulated, but at least it provides a better base for discussion.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • http://LesPaulisanexcellentguitarplayerwithanadmirablegraspofgoodjazz. bliffle

    Actually, Mark, I’m not against profits, but against high margins, or burden, for a low risk business such as health insurance. That burden can be hidden in all kinds of ways to benefit various scoundrels. Basically they operate as de facto monopolies. Free enterprise systems should drive down the burden of low risk businesses, unless they get monopoly protection from the government or they coerce it from their vendors and clients by what are technically illegal methods.

  • moonraven

    Another amateur economist. Where do they get you people?

    The health care situation in the US is at the bottom of the list for developed countries. It is a disgrace, and it is a crime against humanity, since the US government can well afford to put a universal plan in place that WORKS.

    Health is maintained by healthcare–that means, for all you morons for whom logic is a four-letter word instead of having 5–that if one has a right to health, one has a right to healthcare.

    And for those unbelievers who scoff at the idea of a chimpanzee typing randomly over an extended period of time actually writing something that is either true or makes sense: clavos was actually correct when he identified the D of D as being the purchaser of the $600 hammers. Now, perhaps he will tell us how much they also paid for toilet seats….

  • http://LesPaulisanexcellentguitarplayerwithanadmirablegraspofgoodjazz. bliffle

    Accounting Artifacts are common in everybusiness, they’re used to force the balance sheet to balance when one has lost track of some income or outgo.

    You use them yourself. Remember when the boss sent you on a trip and said the meal allowance was $20 and you had to pay $25 for dinner? So you added the $5 to something unaccountable, like a parking fee or whatever. Now, you aren’t going to try to tell me you actually left the $5 un-reimbursed are you?

    That’s an Accounting Artifact. It’s amazing how much financial slop there is in a company and the odd corners that dollars are pushed into to make everything look neat on the balance sheet.

    Anyway, governments and businesses alike use them. Maybe the $600 hammer was such a thing.

  • Les Slater

    Clavos,

    “Also, in my case, (and that of most intelligent investors), that additional capital then gets re-invested, generating still more capital, jobs, etc.”

    From my #114:

    “It’s what the management has to do to maximise the ROI. It’s contrary to delivering value to the customer of their products or services.”

    The ‘intelligence’ is not used to maximise value to the consumer but to maximise their ROI. Investing, in itself, provides NO VALUE. Instead, it allows a sector of society to consume more than they produce.

    Brokering the change in ownership of a boat is providing a service to both sides of the transaction, hence, has value. Making a part of those earnings available to reduce service in the healthcare industry is not productive, no matter how profitable it is to you personally.

    Les

    Les

  • moonraven

    I don’t think so. It was quite a number of years ago that the hammer reached the height of 600 bucks, but I seem to remember that there were even copies of the invoices from the provider floating around in the newspapers.

    Of course, maybe in the tradition of Nalle, I just made all that up….

  • Clavos

    Les,

    “Investing, in itself, provides NO VALUE”

    Sure it does. It provides capital for the use of the corporation to be used for such things as capital improvements. Those in turn, provide revenue to suppliers, additional jobs, additional taxes to the government, etc.

    I’m not being ingenuous here. I understand your point that no value is added to the widgets the company makes (or, in this case, the insurance it provides), and you did say “in itself,” so with those qualifications on your point, I’ll agree with you.

    However, I still say that investing adds overall (though sometimes indirect) value to the economy as a whole.

  • Les Slater

    Clavos,

    “However, I still say that investing adds overall (though sometimes indirect) value to the economy as a whole.”

    This is what I’m arguing against. The economy, of course, does continue, and produce, but grossly inefficiently.

    The healthcare industry is the topic of this thread and a convenient one for examination. It is clear that the operation of the market for capital here is to the detriment of the delivery of the product. Nobody is saying nobody’s making money on it, but that’s the point.

    Les

  • Clavos

    “The healthcare industry is the topic of this thread and a convenient one for examination. It is clear that the operation of the market for capital here is to the detriment of the delivery of the product. Nobody is saying nobody’s making money on it, but that’s the point.”

    Fair enough.

    I don’t think the government handling health care is the solution, either. Frankly, I’m not sure what the solution is, but as I’ve said repeatedly on this and other threads, my contempt for the ability of the US government to direct anything efficiently and inexpensively know no bounds.

    That said, Les, here’s a link to a single payer system being proposed by a group of physicians. My wife’s brother, a gastroenterologist making a LOT of money (and who is, IMO, a pretty smart guy), is a member and a proponent of this proposal. He introduced me to it.

    I’d be interested in your perspective on it.

  • Les Slater

    I read it. This proposal is very interesting. They call for a single payer system, the federal government. They explicitly diss, and call for seriously limiting, profit’s role in the funding of healthcare. It is not explicit but the logic of their proposal is a full nationalization of the U.S. healthcare system. They don’t dare say so but it doesn’t take too much reading between the lines to see that’s what it is.

    I’m in favor of a full nationalization of the healthcare system. They also explicitly recognize healthcare as a RIGHT.

  • Baronius

    Moon, you say that if there’s a right to health, then there’s a right to health care. You sort of missed my point. I’m not assuming that anyone has the right to health. Quite the opposite. Health isn’t a human right, because it’s not inherent in human nature. So failure to provide health care can’t be a “crime against humanity”, as you put it. Or is there a reason that you consider health a human right?

  • Les Slater

    “Or is there a reason that you consider health a human right?”

    A minority think they have a right fuck us over in the health care business so they can enrich their miserable worthless shits of existence.

    People are seeing this and will insist it’s our right.

  • http://www.friendlymisanthropist.blogspot.com alessandro Nicolo

    “I’m in favor of a full nationalization of the healthcare system. They also explicitly recognize healthcare as a RIGHT.”

    Les, all interesting points you make. However….

    I know no one listenng to me but trust me, nationalize it and you will create one big gigantic, inefficient piece of crap. Frankly, there’s enough evidence to suggest that socialism is not a solution in the long run. Look at the European countries who are moving away from it slowly. Canada too recognizes you can’t be %100 percent nationlaized. Whether you like it or not the government WILL mispend, partisan politics WILL make it impossible to solve probelms quickly and you WILL see a drop in quality.

    I still find it odd that people would still advocate such things. Come up with a better solution. If you nationalize I say RUN for the hills.

    Nationalization in itself is a scam. Here we have all sorts of “nationalized” institutions (with pampered unions who act more like corporations than anything else) that in effect are companies. Only they do not admit it. Yet, they get ranked and treated as if they are a private company. Unions have made this place extremely stagnant on so many levels it’s staggering.

    What all this does is ensure that real wealth is not created, the same dollar circulates at the top and only people on the “Inside” can get access to that dollar. If you think socialism is human and compassionate come and actually live under it. And Canada is a mixed economy! Imagine if it was full-fledged socialism!

    Furthermore, to your point #112 about dividends and captial appreciation. I appreciate your deep thinking on this but it’s just that – thinking. If you bought shares in a company in the 50s and it paid you dividends per share AND increased in value, you’re net worth would be REAL.

    I was a former investor and did see much that was questionable but to suggest that the system as strutuctured is a fraud is pure fantasy. You can make money on dividends. And if you’re smart you keeping reinvesting it. I know my investments do well with high paying divdends. Is that a myth?

    No, communism was/is a myth. Anything with a cap is a cap on the human spirit. If communism was the model of the day in Renaissance Italy or any other point for that matter we’d still be stuck in the mud. Marx and Engels make for a fab read and interesting philosophy but….seriously folks.

    We live in an imperfect and flawed system designed by an infallible species. If I had my choice I know which of the lesser evils I would choose – and it ain’t socialism dats fir shure.

    Just my thoughts.

  • Arch Conservative

    Healthcare is not a right. it is a commodity like anything else.

    I don’t understand why anyone would expect a doctor to provide his/her services to an individual who is incapable of paying for them.

    That’s not expected in any other industry so why do we have those expectations for the health care industry?

    We all need cars just as much as we need to be healthy so why don’t we just demand free cars while we’re at it?

    Hell we all need food to survive too so our weekly grocery shopping should be free or subsidized by someone else right?

    Now I’m thinking like a leftist…everything should be free because it’s not nice to make people pay for the goods and services that they utilize.

  • moonraven

    I think you people have been jerking each other off for so long that your brains have rotted.

    LIFE, liberty and the pursuit of happiness–can you have those rights if you are not healthy?

    People die every day because they cannot afford health care and have no health insurance. That’s depriving them of all 3 rights–being dead clearly abrogates the right to life–and one is not free if not free to live–and clearly is not happy, nor pursuing happiness.

    I hate to see anyone suffer–but I think I will make an exception for those of you who do not believe in the right to health. I will, reluctantly, wish you long miserable lives and unbearably painful deaths.

  • STM

    There is nothing wrong with a single payer system provided that single payer system also also people who wish to to take up “top-up” private insurance, which allows you, say, the doctor of your choice and a private room in a hospital or accommodation in a private hospital.

    But those who don’t have it still get a high level of care (my wife works in a Sydney public hospital considered to be a world leader in heart/lung transplants).

    Those of you who haven’t experienced how good this kind of system is CAN’T judge it. You are NOT speaking from your own experience. I have lived with it in its various forms in Australia since the 1970s, and can tell you that the peace of mind it provides is pretty damn good. I pay a bit extra in tax, but it’s not much. It helps those lower down the scale who would find that getting seriously ill would be either an impost or an impossibility. Come on guys, think about your fellow citziens. It’s not always about you.

    Because the government’s single payer system gives a set rate for service providers, which is worked out with doctors and hospitals, you simply go to those doctors who accept the flat fee – the majority of doctors. Some may charge a little bit over, but it’s your choice how you go about it.

    I’d like to point out to those like Arch concerned with profit and fair pay for the provision of service, doctors are among the wealthiest of Australians.

    They aren’t struggling. But the rub is, neither are the rest of us when it comes to getting sick.

    The right to quality, free or subsidised health care is, IMO, a fundamental right.

    Hell, you pay your taxes … why shouldn’t the government do something good for you.

    This system is great, it’s created jobs, and has become the third-rail of Australian politics – much like the tax deduction in the US on interest mortgage payments.

    Perhaps if the US spent, say, 2.6 percent of its budget on the military, like most other countries, instead of what is it, 4.5?, you could have some of these things that other people have been given and have come to love.

    I’m not talking here about systems like Britain’s NHS, BTW, which is a vast and unwieldy bureacracy foundering under its own weight and the incompetence of its mid-level administrators.

    But at least in the UK, as DD points out, it’s there, which is a start.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com/ handyguy

    That is the difference: in this country we look at healthcare as a product, part of an industry. In Europe and Canada, it’s more akin to police forces or public school systems…something all citizens agree to contribute to for the greater good.

    No one should have to lose a house or go bankrupt because of medical costs. The US ‘system’ has to be fixed/reformed in some way. Insurance companies who give bonuses to their managers who deny benefits to people deserve plenty of criticism and if necessary, heavy government regulation.

    Maybe it won’t require that, if we just move away from the totally illogical idea of employer-based insurance.

  • STM

    The whole thing just requires a bit of thinking outside the square.

    I’d say too that the cost of provision of employer-funded care as part of a person’s employment package should go into a person’s wage packet under a government single-payer system because then a portion of that could be used for additional private fund cover if it’s required.

    You don’t know how bad you’ve got it over there when it comes to this stuff. It’s not that hard either, and once you’ve got it, no matter your political persuasion, you’ll never look back.

    The doctors and private hospitals here love it too, so that kind of negates Arch’s arguments.

  • Clavos

    But, if the government is paying for my health care, does that give it the right to forcibly prevent me from living a lifestyle that’s injurious to my health?

    It should. If they’re paying the bills, they should be able to dictate preventative measures in order to keep costs down.

    And they probably will; there are enough nannies out there who will make sure it happens; look how they’ve marginalized the 20% of the population, who are smokers.

    And that’s the part I’m not comfortable with; it will result in too much control over what should be individual decisions.

  • STM

    It didn’t happen here, Clav, so I guess it wouldn’t happen there.

    I reckon we’d be a reasonable pointer, given that Aussies are the most sports-obsessed band of risk takers to be found anywhere in the world (possibly apart from al-Qaeda, but it’s close).

    Mate, believe me, this is a fantastic system. It works. The fact that a very conservative right-wing government has only tinkered with it slightly is a guide to a) how good it is and b) how popular it is.

    Time to think outside the square. Don’t be frightened. There is nothing to fear but fear itself …

    Here’s something to think about: given that the US prides itself on best-practise, you can bet that any genuine national health system dished up in the US will be very good indeed.

  • Les Slater

    “does that give it the right to forcibly prevent me from living a lifestyle that’s injurious to my health?”

    Motorcycle helmet laws.

  • Clavos

    …and seatbelt laws. Exactly.

  • STM

    You guys are missing the point. This is about provision of health care, not provision of nanny services. The cops and the local councils (boroughs in the US?) do that stuff.

    I have never heard of anyone here refused medical treatment for anything: smoker, drinker, non-helmet wearer, goose who had a car smash whilst not wearing perfectly good seat belt, etc.

    On the seat belts issue Clav (and helmets are another), as a result of my previous occupation, I have seen a lot of corpses that would have been living, breathing human beings had they been wearing belts.

    The saddest one was two young guys (both 19)whose car skidded on a bend on a wet night at less than 35mph and hit a power pole at very low speed.

    When you looked at the car, it had relatively little damage, but the passenger was thrown into the windscreen and killed instantly and the driver took most of the impact around the chest through the steering wheel. He died while the ambulance crews were putting him in the back of the transport.

    Had they been wearing belts, they wouldn’t have had a scratch according to the very senior and very experienced accident investigator who carried out the post-crash inquiry.

    I also saw the results of a teenage girl whose head (no helmet) hit a brick fence when her boyfriend dropped the bike.

    He was fine, she was splattered all over the place like strawberry jam.

    Your business, I know, but geez, it’s awful when you see it …

  • Clavos

    With all due respect, mate, I rode a bike as my only transportation (didn’t own a car) for years in the sixties, before there were helmet laws, and I wore one.

    Years before that, my father installed military surplus seat belts in our family car when I was a kid, and NO auto manufacturer even offered them as an option.

    I KNOW what they’re for and the good they do, Stan.

    It is most emphatically NOT, IMO, the government’s place or duty to dictate their use to me or anyone else, simply because they are a good thing.

    However, holding that view makes me in the minority in this country these days; the trend is VERY MUCH toward forcing people to behave in ways now considered to be appropriate, especially if the issue is health-related.

    For evidence, I offer not only seat belt and helmet laws, but also proliferating anti-smoking laws that now include, in some jurisdictions, prohibition of smoking outdoors. The ONLY purpose of such a law can be to force the smoker to stop smoking; there is no way smoking outdoors can be considered to be injurious to anyone else. Again, for the record, I smoked for twenty six years, and quit (before it was the law) twenty two years ago, on my own.

    There are also groups beginning to agitate to force the fast food emporiums to start serving more healthy foods, all under the guise of doing good.

    Believe me Stan, when (not if) UHC is implemented here, it WILL come with a whole set of corollary Orwellian laws prohibiting unhealthy individual behavior.

    And it’s not really about health.

    It’s about control.

  • STM

    I agree with you about the smoking. I’m also an ex-smoker.

    I can’t agree on the UHC orwellian controls. I reckon the government in this country is more prone to that sort of stuff than its US counterpart, and yet it hasn’t happened here.

    They do carry disgusting, graphic warnings on smoke packets, and the insurance companies here (not the health cover ones though) do discriminate against smokers for life cover, etc.

    But none of the stuff you are worried about has happened (and everyone here had the same fears).

    It’s good stuff, even I’m a convert in its current form, which is less slightly less socialised than I’d like. I know this is the system you’ll get too if the Dems win, as Hillary was out here studying it at one stage and suggested it would be the best model for the US.

  • Clavos

    With respect, Stan, I submit that the USA is WAY more Orwellian than Oz, already. We have a STRONG (and getting stronger) “nanny” movement underway here; they would like to legislate all dangerous/unhealthy behavior out of existence, and they are making significant headway in doing so.

    That’s the reason for my inquiry about Aussie visas on the other thread.

  • STM

    I suppose the big advantage for us is that we’ve got a similar sized government, but way less people. So when everyone starts jumping up and down, the bastards have to listen (eventually).

    On smoking: You can’t smoke in pubs, clubs and bars anymore in NSW, but I don’t know how it is in the other states. However, with pubs, it used to be a habit for everyone to get out the front drinking on the footpath in summer, so that’s returned (in winter now as well as it never gets that cold). The big clubs have simply put in “outdoor” covered smoking areas with those standing gas heater things to keep the smoking punters happy in winter. Cleverly, they’ve realised that most good drinkers are also smokers.

    It’s been coming for a while, and we had an ad on TV recently with a mad-looking Irish guy saying: “If we can do it in Ireland, anyone can do it”, or words to that effect.

  • http://www.elitebloggers.com Dave Nalle

    On the Nanny government front. Does OZ have video cameras at every stoplight yet? That seems to be going a damned sight too far to me. They’re putting in a new light at the end of our street at an intersection they just built on a new road, so there’s no history of accidents there at all. Yet it has cameras all over it. Big Brother is watching.

    Dave

  • STM

    No Dave, generally just the ones where there have been a stack of accidents. However, I suspect that some of them are used more for revenue raising than anything else. The one good thing about these cameras in NSW is that there are warning signs everywhere as you approach an intersection to tell you it has a red-light camera.

    If you go through on the red, you’re the goose – or blind.

    Same with speed cameras. There was one put in recently that had no warning signs, and of course people have been getting booked. The state government – currently criticising local councils for their over-the-top use of parking meters/council rangers as revenue raisers on the back of extreme public anger – was made to look like a bunch of dolts of the highest, as the Roads and Traffic Authority had made a killing in one week on that particular camera.

    Generally though, they are pretty fair in terms of warning you (flashing signs to alert their presence from about 200-500m off); their stated reason for this being that they are out to slow down traffic and save lives, rather than raise money.

    Somewhere in between is probably the reality.

    Any of you guys coming down here would be hopeless, though – you’d be trying to drive on the wrong side of the road, which is a sure-fire way to invite a swift response from the blue-light taxi company.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    I haven’t read all the comments…but can someone please explain to me why it’s the govt’s job to supply you with anything?

    You want affordable health care for your whole life…then do 20 in the military…you’ll get health care for you and your wife for ever and your kids until they’re 21 at a minimum…otherwise…get a fucking job you bunch of freeloader wannabe’s!

  • REMF

    “…can someone please explain to me why it’s the govt’s job to supply you with anything? You want affordable health care for your whole life…then do 20 in the military…you’ll get health care for you and your wife for ever and your kids until they’re 21 at a minimum…”

    No oxymoron there…

  • Dr Dreadful

    Then what is the government’s job, Andy?

    Also, it’s not freeloading. Socialized (if you want to call it that) health care is not free – it’s paid for through taxes.

  • http://www.elitebloggers.com Dave Nalle

    Dr. D. as far as I can tell the main legitimate role of government is to protect us from others and from eachother, not from ourselves or from entropy or from fate.

    Dave

  • moonraven

    The last thing you sitting ducks in the US should be crying wolf about is the government stopping you from smoking or having unprotected sex or eating all the junk food you can cram into your expanded bellies.

    With Dickhead Cheney pushing Bush to bomb Iran I would be on the lookout for another Cheney-engineered “terrorist strike”.

    Too bad the Reichstag is not in Washington, DC. but he will think of something–the Sears Tower, the John Hancock building, the Space Needle….

  • Baronius

    Moon, there are obvious limits to the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Stephanie and I discussed this upboard. But there’s no way a government can guarantee a healthy life, any more than the achievement of happiness.

    It just doesn’t make philosophical sense. The Founding Fathers certainly didn’t think that the right to life included a right to health. Remember, these guys were huge fans of education, and didn’t see education as a right. Something good, but not something to be guaranteed by the government.

    (Anyway, you’ve rejected the US, so I don’t see how you can use the Founding Fathers as a reference.)

    But back to the question of health. It can’t be a human right, because many people aren’t born with it. We live our lives sick, then we die. I’m not happy about that but it’s true. There’s nothing inherent in the dignity of the human being that gives us health. Being sick isn’t an affront to the laws of nature. You can’t put health up there with freedom of religion and the like.

    DD and Nalle are talking about the proper role of government. I think it’s to ensure our rights. Not our comforts.

    And again, Moon, I think we’ve all earned a little more respect than you’re showing us. Please clean up your comments.

  • moonraven

    I will make whatever comments I choose to make, and in whatever manner I see fit.

    I fail to see what you have done to earn my respect.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    I’m not sure anyone is claiming health as a right, but instead basic health care and freedom from the worry of medical-expense related financial ruin. The poor shouldn’t be denied care, and no one should become poor because of their health.

    None of this means we can’t still have viable health-insurance and pharmaceutical businesses. They just shouldn’t be able to increase their wealth by denying care rather than providing it.

  • zingzing

    moonraven: “I fail to see what you have done to earn my respect.”

    some of these people have shown YOU a little respect, even as you have done NOTHING to earn it, by attempting to have a reasoned conversation with you (which is the height of their folly). that kindness, no, charity, should be returned.

  • moonraven

    Dream on, sad fish.

  • zingzing

    oooh, tough girl!

    you’re so cool, moonie.

  • STM

    Andy, this has nothing to do with the founding fathers. As I keep pointing out to you, the 9th amendment to the constitution quite clearly enunciates that the constitution as written is not to be regarded as the only law of the US nor the only instructuion on the rights that can be afforded to US citizens. Most other western governments have some form of UHC, some good, like ours in Australia, some not so good, like in Britain.

    However, I do know that in Britain if you become a medical emergency, you will be picked up by an ambulance, rushed to hospital and treated immediately free of charge no matter what. Same as here, although our system also has a voluntary private component as well so it’s slightly different.

    I’ll give you some background: We didn’t have it until the 1970s. Until then, our system was identical to the US system, except that hospitals were not allowed to turn anyone away in need of urgent treatment whatever their financial circumstances.

    Everyone here had the same fears and views that people opposed to this in the US are having now.

    What happened was, once it came in everyone loved it. It became the best thing since sliced bread and so popular (despite much tweaking to get it right) that no government would risk tinkering with it too much lest they get booted out of office.

    And as I also keep saying here, the US is likely (not if, but when) to get a sinmilar system to the Australian one as one of your presidential contenders ordered a study done of the Aussie model, which probably fits more easily with the American attitude that would likely involve private industry.

    Given that Americans do very well at most of what they do, it’s also likely you’ll have a really great system.

    It’s not free, either, BTW. It’s just reward for paying taxes. It’s good for governments to do things other than spend money on stuff that kills people.

    Stuff that stops people going broke when they get sick, or more crucially, dying because they can’t get or afford adequate care, is a pretty worthwhile thing for a modern nation to have.

    No doctors need suffer in the process. They get paid by the government (with your tax money) instead of out of your pocket.

    Like I say, there is nothing to fear here but fear itself.

  • Clavos

    “Until then, our system was identical to the US system, except that hospitals were not allowed to turn anyone away in need of urgent treatment whatever their financial circumstances.”

    They aren’t allowed to here either, that’s why all the selfish types are bitching about the burden on our hospitals from the illegals.

    “Given that Americans do very well at most of what they do, it’s also likely you’ll have a really great system.”

    Nice of you to say so, mate, but these days we don’t do practically anything well.

  • STM

    Clav, I reckon you’ll be the first convert.

    Have a look at this and tell me it couldn’t work up your way.

  • Clavos

    Mate,

    I don’t doubt it works well Down Under.

    As a two year veteran (with no end in sight) of dealing with the US Medicare system, I have strong (and amply justified) doubts about how well UHC, especially if it’s modeled on our present system, will be handled here.

    I’m not opposed to the idea; I simply have virtually zero confidence in our ability to do it right.

  • http://benefitofthedoubt.miksimum.com/ Jesse

    The argument over whether “rights” exist in any form (see Arch Conservative for the opposing viewpoint) or whether “healthcare” is constituted among them (as per Baronius’s objection) is definitely the most interesting thread woven into this… uhh… thread, in my opinion.

    I made an argument for the right to healthcare, as implicit in the idea of a community of human beings. There may be other definitions of a “right” going around, but if so, they confuse the crap out of me. B, you clearly grant the idea of a “right,” but you don’t state any concrete definitions of a right, or examples to demonstrate them. I’m very curious: if healthcare isn’t a right, what IS a right?

    The nature argument definitely doesn’t do it for me. In nature, the only “right” is the right to try to survive. That has nothing to do with the world of human interaction or society, unless you’re Arch Conservative, who seems to want to reinstate a state of nature right here, in your township or community. But as far as I’m concerned, we left behind the “state of nature” as soon as we learned to cook our meat over fire.

    The “babies” example is especially interesting. What exactly are “all babies born with” that is thereby consolidated as a “natural right”? Of course not all babies are born healthy, but in order to self-actualize, or attain any kind of reasonable level of sovereignty, they usually need their health cared for, immediately, from the beginning, and up through age 15 or 16, at least. There is no logical connection between “some babies are born sick” and “healthcare is not a right.” Healthcare is a right, in fact, BECAUSE all humans are fallible, even from birth, and the only way we’ve prospered as a species is via the solidarity of our communities.

    I think, if you want to go with constructionism, it’s important to note the phrase “pursuit of happiness” in the constitution. Contrast that existent phrase with “pursuit of survival”… if we have to treat healthcare as a scarce commodity and compete for it, then we’re being forced to pursue our very survival, even within the borders of this insanely prosperous country. The only government that can guarantee the “pursuit of happiness” is one that can also promise to provide the basic means for survival, at least to whatever extent we’re able to do that.

    As an American, I want myself and my countrymen to be guaranteed basic medical care. I’m happy to pay my dues for that privilege.

  • Dr Dreadful

    STM: It’s good for governments to do things other than spend money on stuff that kills people.

    Quoted for truth…

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    It’s not an oxymoron you moron…it’s fucking earned! You’re name may have changed but your bullshit line hasn’t!

    And where do the taxes come from? Okay, you say it ain’t free…the people you want to give this socialized medicine to aren’t the ones paying taxes…so, they’re getting it for free.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    STM – what is the tax rate over there anyway?

  • Dr Dreadful

    Andy, you misunderstand the concept of socialized medicine. Everyone is entitled, not just the poor. Capisce?

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    I capisce…but the stories I’ve heard about socialized medicine tells me I don’t want that kind of treatment!

    And I’ve seen mentioned here several times…I surely don’t want those idiots in DC running it!

  • Paul2

    Now what exactly have you heard ….

  • Dr Dreadful

    the stories I’ve heard about socialized medicine tells me I don’t want that kind of treatment!

    Then don’t use it.

    In most western countries that have socialized medicine, you can still get private health insurance if you want it. Or, taking the case of STM’s wife (which he talked about either on this or the other healthcare thread that’s going on right now), who under the Australian system was able to obtain care from a private hospital – because it happened to be convenient – and then got her expenditure reimbursed by the state.

  • STM

    Andy asked “STM – what is the tax rate over there anyway?”

    Similar to yours, a bit higher but not too bad compared to a lot of western nations.

    It’s very low or non-existent at the bottom (my son has just turned 20 and earns pretty good dough for a three-day week at $35 an hour, and pays very low tax), and there’s also a tax-free threshold no matter how much you earn, so they start working out what you owe from that point on.

    My tax is at the top rate, sadly – I end up paying around 31 per cent, but further down the scale it’s good. There are no state income taxes, however.

    We have a GST also of 10 per cent on goods and services, but basic foodstuffs (meat, fruit and vegies, milk, bread, etc) are exempt, which means the average household budget isn’t impacted hugely.

    Having said all that, the federal government is quite generous in what it allows you to claim as legit deductions on your tax return, so you can get a fair bit back at the end of the year if you’re entitled.

    The states and territories levy some indirect taxes, but they are pretty standard: motor vehicle registrations, etc, and are one-offs. For small businesses, the feds are pretty tight here though and make you do a business impact statement every quarter to make sure you are not engaging in the black-market economy the GST was designed to target.

    The pay off, though, is a really great government-funded health system that we all love and which has freedom of choice folded into it. I guess the fact that people of all political persuasions like it is the telling factor with it.

    Hillary Clinton was here some years back and had a team studying it for the US because she thought it ideal, so my tip is – when you get one, it won’t be like Canada’s or Britain’s, it’ll be more like ours.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    Well guys, this all sounds great…so…when it starts…I’ll be more than willing to throw in my $460 a year that I pay in premiums for the coverage I have for my family and I…

    …that’s the problem I see…it all sounds great…but it just means that someone’s reaching deeper into my pocket! And I’m a cheap SOB!

    Look at this child health care thing right now…congress is looking at paying for it with a cigarette and cigar tax…why? I read yesterday that it could be as much as $10 on a single cigar!!! If the govt needs more money for shit let them legalize pot and tax it! That’s the only additional tax I’m willing to pay (without bitching)at this time!

  • moonraven

    Cheap, huh?

    Time to realize that the phrase, You get what you pay for, is very often true.

  • http://christopedia.us XenonII

    “Michael Moore is a Jew-hating son of a bitch”

    WTF? Typo surely…Michael Moore is a White-hating Jewish son of a bitch more like.

  • Zedd

    Why do we always end up talking about Jews. HELP!!

    Healthcare is the topic(or health care or health-care. It’s become one word but just in case Clavos pulls out his text books from the the 20’s – 1620’s – and explodes).