We spend about $2.5 trillion each year in this country for Health Care. That is about 17% of our gross domestic product. Americans spend about $6,697 per person (2005.) Canadians spend about $3,326 (in American dollars.) In addition, all Canadians are covered. Recently, 37% of Americans surveyed said that they went without health care or a specific procedure because of cost.
The Canadian Medical Association has said that it does not want to privatize their system. In fact, they want to spend more on it than they do now because they like it as it is and as it has been since 1970. There are no restrictions on the time anyone can have a necessary procedures. All schedules are based on the needs of the patient. Canadians live longer than Americans, now about 2.5 years longer. There are more hospital beds and more nurses per patient in Canada than in the United States. That said, in the United States there are fractionally more doctors per patient and more MRIs. Of course, remember that we do not cover everyone and we produce too few family practice physicians to do so under our current system. So we are talking about only the people we do cover.
Why mention MRIs? If you aren’t familiar with them, think of them as sort of full-color, three dimensional X-rays. They are a symptom of our system which is focused on ability to pay rather than needs of the patients. Our system is massively inefficient. Many people who can get expensive MRIs might get more of them than they need and others who need them might not get them at all. The U.S., alone among industrialized nations, delivers health care like a commodity, through private corporations. Other countries deliver health care according to the needs of patients as a public service. The first question one gets in a U.S. hospital or a doctor’s office is “May I see your insurance card?” If you do not have one, you immediately have a problem. In Canada, and the other 35 countries ahead of us in health care you do not.
The paradox of the American system is that, while paying double that of any country in the world, many Americans who need treatment cannot get it–37% of Americans say that they have gone without medical care that they needed because they could not afford it–and many who do not need treatment get more procedures than they need because they can afford it.
Here are the facts.
1. Without a “public option” that Americans can choose if they lose their private health insurance–there will be NO CHANGE in the current system. There will be no insurance available to those turned down by insurance companies and there will be no reduction in prices. Period.
2. No matter what anyone tells you, there are no long waiting periods or rationing in Canada or any of the other 35 countries ahead of us in health care statistics. Care is administered by and decided by the medical professionals, not bureaucrats. We have waiting periods. Few people can see their doctor immediately unless it is urgent. No one is denied care in those countries. Here, right now, over 50 million people are denied care. In other countries health care facilities and personnel are there exclusively to serve the public. Here, health care is a business for those who can pay. Ask yourself one question. If I can’t pay my premiums, will I keep my health care? With the public option, you can never lose your health care.
3. Universal health care, with the option to buy into a public system, like Medicare, is not massively expensive nor is it unsustainable over a long period of time. The cost of health care for everyone, including those who may switch from a private plan and those who are not now on Medicaid, but who for some reason cannot afford or be accepted into a private health insurance program is approximately $60 billion per year. That is right now, before any private health care insurance comes down in price, which it will. That is before pharmaceutical companies are obliged to negotiate drug prices with the government as they do with other countries or with national pharmacies or with the VA. The last Bush tax cuts, mostly for the wealthy, amounted to $100 billion per year. So we can do it with that money alone, and have money left over. The Republicans say we don’t have the money because do not include the revenues from those tax breaks which they do not consider will be retired. But they will.
4. We can reduce the costs of delivering health care by very substantial amounts once we have health care reform. For example, Paul O’Neill, former Secretary of the Treasury under George W. Bush, former extremely successful CEO of ALCOA Aluminum, and hardly a wild-eyed socialist says that there is $1 trillion of annual waste in the current health care delvery system and gives several examples. He points out that rather than seeking 1.5% annual reductions in waste, as President Obama will undertake to accomplish, a program of eliminating waste in medical procedures, could reduce by a factor of five times greater than the Obama plan, the cost of health care in the U.S. Either way, O’Neill’s ideas or Obama’s, it is clear that the savings that many say are easily possible can be achieved with a reformed system that has the always-present sanction of a public health care option.
The Great Danger to You and to the Country
Why is the health care industry spending $1.4 million dollars A DAY and why have they hired 300 former congressional staffers, in addition to the already six lobbyists for every Senator and Congress person? Because they will lose profits. More economical health care and available health care is only possible through the reduction of profits and huge salaries in the health care system, which, unfortunately, is now corrupt. Will oversight of private companies, as the Republicans want, serve to maintain the costs as set out in proposed new legislation? Did oversight stop Bernie Madoff from stealing $50 billion? Did Republican oversight prevent AIG from going broke and leaving Americans with the tab or potentially causing major industries to come to a halt for lack of insurance? Airlines shut down? Rental car companies stop renting cars? No. Because “oversight” is an excuse to do nothing. “Oversight” of the health care companies means doing nothing.
If we do not have a public option, you will never see lower health insurance prices and you will never be safe from losing your health care. How do we know this. We know that the pressure from the health industry (a term that would be laughable in Europe. In Europe, health care is dedicated to helping people…period.) is enormous. Senators Cornyn, Kyl, Thune, and McConnell said yesterday that Medicare is a failed program. They said that both Medicare and Medicaid do not work. That is not true.
Just ask ANYONE on Medicare. Ask any one of the 300,000 family physicians who are in favor of public health care. Only the greediest among the specialists in the medical profession the ones, like these Senators, who are only in it for the money, do not want Medicare. Certainly the patients don’t want to lose it. Do you know anyone whose parents want to give up Medicare? Any who want to go on the open market and buy health care, at age 65 or 70 or 80? Can you imagine what kinds of horror stories would be on the news every night?
These Senators complain about the costs of Medicare. Too high, they say. But let’s assume that you take the worst patients, the oldest and the sickest and you guarantee that they will have the best care that the country can afford. And the reason you have them is that no insurance company in their right mind would insure them. Then you pay for it with taxes. But, even as supposedly responsible adults, you, as Republican Senators, in the meantime cut taxes first from 70% to 28%, then find you are going broke, after losing $5.16 trillion dollars between 1980 and 1992. Then Democrats come in and raise the top rate to 39% and balance the budget. But then Bush comes in and cuts the top rate from 39% to 35% and cuts corporate taxes and then on those corporations who actually paid corporate taxes, allowed them to move to the Cayman Islands (actually incentivized them to do so) so that they pay NO taxes.
Then, with money going out the door at $500 billion dollars a year, you President Bus and you, Republican Senators and Congress persons, started two wars. With no money in the bank and manufacturing moved to China by these same people (Neo-Conservative Republicans who have controlled government almost exclusively for the last 29 years) they said….oh, we don’t have enough money to support Medicare.
Don’t have enough money? We had enough money. We all paid and still pay in to Social Security and Medicare. It is not some gift from Republicans! Find the god damned money! You gave it away to the rich. Now let’s tax the hell out of the rich until we get things back in order.
Congress is overwhelmingly on board with health care reform and a public option. If you have a Republican congress person, don’t bother to write them. Just vote them out next time. The public health care option is safe in the House of Representatives. If you have one of the Senators below–but even if you don’t–it is very important that you write to them. They are being bombarded and probably threatened to keep them from voting for a public option. This is the most important vote since we voted to end segregation. Some people’s lives, just trust us on this, are destroyed by the current health care problem. In Canada and Europe they simply look at you with a puzzled expression. It does not and can not happen there. And it will not happen here if you pressure…and your Email, letter or quick call will help, no matter what state you live in…pressure these Senators to vote for a public option.
Here are the Senators who are not on board with a public health care option for you.
Email them or simply call the number and tell them in your own words to vote for the public option or say something like this:
“I’m calling (or writing) about health care reform. We want the Senator to support a plan that offers, in addition to all the private plans, a public plan. Not a non-profit private plan, but one sponsored and backed by the government. If the Senator cannot support us on this, then we cannot support the Senator for re-election, whether or not a public plan is part of the legislation. Our position is simple: If the health care industry is more important to the Senator than the people who vote, then let the Senator look to the health care lobby for votes in the future. Thank you.”
Here they are. Contact them as soon as possible.
Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas — lincoln.senate.gov/contact/email.cfm — (202) 224-4843
Evan Bayh of Indiana — bayh.senate.gov/contact/email/ — (202) 224-5623
Michael Bennet of Colorado — bennet.senate.gov/contact/ — (202) 224-5852
Mark Begich of Alaska — begich.senate.gov/contact/contact.cfm — (202) 224-3004
Tom Carper of Delaware — carper.senate.gov/contact/ — (202) 224-2441
Maria Cantwell of Washington — cantwell.senate.gov/contact/ — (202) 224-3441
Ron Wyden of Oregon — wyden.senate.gov/contact/ — (202) 224-5244
Ben Nelson of Nebraska– bennelson.senate.gov/contact-me.cfm — (202) 224-6551
Bill Nelson of Florida — billnelson.senate.gov/contact/index.cfm — (202) 224-5274
Mary Landrieu of Louisiana — landrieu.senate.gov/contact/index.cfm — (202) 224-5824
Kay Hagan of North Carolina — hagan.senate.gov/?p=contact — (202) 224-6342
Feel free to copy this list and send along to any other web site or organization