Major financial interests, in their never-ending quest to plunder the middle class, have now turned their attention to health care. In fact, the for-profit HMOs (health maintenance organizations), according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, have a problem. They cannot figure out what to do with all the money they are making. Some analysts believe they will buy more hospitals, others suggest they will give larger dividends to shareholders, but my bet is that executives will simply take $50 million in salaries.
It never ceases to amaze me how an immigrant can arrive on our shores not knowing a word of English and unable to distinguish George Washington from John
Travolta, and still receive totally free health care courtesy of the American taxpayer. Yet laid-off workers from Pratt, whose mothers are members of the Daughters of the American Revolution, live in fear that a bicycle accident by one of their children could cost them their life’s savings. Why is the United States the only Western country to allow this situation to exist?
The answer is that our populus has been led to believe that any further government intervention in health care is tantamount to socialism and that an unfettered marketplace allows patients the freedom to choose their own doctors. By now, it should be obvious to the middle class that those advocating unbridled market forces are merely perpetrating another scam to pick their pockets. Patients are no longer able to choose their own doctors. Insurance companies have arbitrarily canceled contracts severing patient-physician relationships that have persisted for decades.
The latest buzzword — managed care — is nothing more than a license for insurance companies to give healthy people the impression they are covered, while tormenting the unfortunates who are sick with mind-boggling paperwork and 800 numbers that eventually lead to a busy signal. Women are heaved out of the hospital two days after a cesarean section and psychiatrists are asked to reveal their intimate conversations with their patients or else not be reimbursed.
The main reason market forces alone cannot control health-care costs is that human beings do not choose to become sick and have no control of the DNA strands they inherit from their parents. Thus, some people are simply genetically programmed to get asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. People feel that their health is priceless and do not shop for health care in the same fashion as when purchasing cars and clothes. It is unusual for a family to call Dr. Smith
to see if he is less expensive than Dr. Jones while grandpa is having a heart attack.
What is truly amazing is the ability of the insurance conglomerates to convince our politicians that they are controlling health-care costs in spite of overwhelming contradictory evidence. Health-care costs in the past five years have increased 50%. Furthermore, 40.9 million Americans are uninsured, the most ever. The uninsured in Connecticut have grown 50% over the past two years, climbing to 12% of the population. All managed care does is force hospitals to downsize and decrease fees to health care practitioners. This money than goes to insurance company executives along with their stock and bond holders. The patients do not get lower rates.
Now insurance companies have come up with a new way of controlling costs — capitation. Under the present system, doctors are paid for performing services. With capitation, doctors are paid a lump sum to manage a group of patients whether they see the patients or not. In other words, doctors make more money if they don’t see patients! (I am not making this up.) Patients can now look forward to reading “Take two aspirins and call me in the morning” in their e-mail.
Do you think our Washington politicians and insurance company executives are signing up their families for capitated plans? Fat chance. In fact, these people never even joined HMOs. They all have traditional indemnity plans that enable them to pick their own doctors and demand whatever test they want without bureaucrats threatening not to pay the bill. They can do this because in the case of politicians, the taxpayers pay the bill and in the case of insurance executives, their premium holders pay the bill.
Organized medicine is complaining about the corporate cannibalization of health care, but in actuality, they are getting their comeuppance. Had the medical community supported a health-care plan that prevented the middle class from losing their life savings, this fiasco could have been avoided. Eventually, our Congress will pass single-payer catastrophic coverage for all Americans, a plan actually proposed by a conservative Republican in the early 1950s. Everyone will be covered for catastrophic illness but will have to buy insurance to cover routine care. Unfortunately, our insurance conglomerates will continue to massacre the middle class until that time comes.