This is an unusual blog because it aims to encourage debate, rather than to describe specific health issues.
The subject relates to the US Health Care system, though the issues are global. Indeed, I encourage both our US and non US customers to share thoughts and experiences, so we may all learn and benefit.
Before I continue, I must say that we do not believe that there is one right way to run a health care system, and every system has both its advantages and disadvantages. I was prompted to write this blog following a chat with an American colleague about ObamaCare.
He was complaining bitterly about “being forced to buy expensive health care insurance for me and my family which we don’t need, and can’t afford”.
What upset him most, was that in his opinion, “The $Millions that should be spent on saving lives, is actually wasted on US$30 Million pay checks for Health Insurance CEOs. One is even paid $90,000 a day”.
Can you believe that? Indeed, his numbers shocked me, so I decided to investigate. I wanted to share these findings with you, and to encourage your thoughts.
What I Discovered….
As many of you know, in essence ObamaCare (officially called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) is supposed “to increase the quality, accessibility and affordability of private health insurance.” (ref. 1).
In reality, as reported in The Associated Press (ref. 2), it appears that not only is it causing people to lose their existing health insurance, it has also resulted in higher insurance premiums. For example, people paying $700 or $100 monthly would now need to pay around $1275 and $600 monthly respectively.
Has this also been your experience?
Moreover, while the masses appear to be unable to afford premiums, Health Insurance Corporate CEOs rake in millions, earning as much as $90,000 per day. For example:
- Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna: $30.7 million ($90,029 per day) (A 131% increase over his 2012 compensation.)
- Joseph Swedish, CEO of Wellpoint: $17.0 million ($49,853 per day)
- Michael Neidorff, CEO of Centene: $14.5 million ($42,560 per day)
- David Cordani, CEO of Cigna: $13.5 million ($39,589 per day)
- Stephen Hemsley, CEO of UnitedHealth: $12.1 million ($35,484 per day)
- Bruce Broussard, CEO of Humana: $8.8 million ($25,807 per day)
Financial proxy statements filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission show that average compensation for the top nine health insurance CEOs rose by more than 19% in 2013 (ref. 3).
What do you think of such $ amounts?
The disclosures of higher CEO pay coincided with these same companies announcing better-than-expected earnings in the first quarter of 2014. Despite this, they indicated that patients and businesses should prepare for increased insurance premiums in 2015.
Is that appropriate?
Perhaps the words of Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) are pertinent here: “For far too long, private health insurance executives have received outsized compensation packages – subsidized by the ever-increasing premiums of hardworking Americans – while millions of low income individuals and those with pre-existing conditions went uninsured. The United States’ healthcare sector has been in need of repair for decades, and over-the-top executive compensation is emblematic of the failure of our private health insurance system.”
Similarly Benjamin Day, Director of Organizing at Healthcare-NOW comments: “Families and patients are being asked to tighten their belts in the face of rising healthcare costs, while our premiums are being used to subsidize even more astronomical compensation for the already wealthy.
As a result, many now argue that a shift to a national "single payer" government run health care system is appropriate. Supposedly, this would remove for-profit companies from the equation
Is a National "Single Payer" Health Care System the Solution?
Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) believes so. He says: “While the Affordable Care Act is a good first step, truly universal coverage and meaningful reform to our healthcare system can be provided only through a single-payer system. I have introduced H.R. 676 – the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act – since 2003 to live up to this aim of universal care and establish health insurance as a basic right rather than a for-profit industry,”
However, Rep. Conyers seems to have ignored the known inefficiencies and corruption of the US Government-run health care system (ref. 4). Indeed as Uwe Reinhardt, a single-payer supporter ironically argues: “The reason the United States shouldn't have a single-payer system is that it's too captured by special interests to manage one well.”
A very good and sad example of that was highlighted just this past May. You may have heard about the travesty at the Phoenix VA (Veterans Affairs) hospital, supposedly a ‘perfect model’ of government-run health care. Here, according to a report by the VA’s acting Inspector General (ref. 5), “At least 1,700 war veterans were denied desperately-needed health care services because of ‘inappropriate scheduling practices’”
For many veterans, the wait time to see a doctor -- even for a serious health emergency -- exceeded 100 days.
The death toll has still not been confirmed, because these ‘inappropriate scheduling practices’ appear to be ‘a systemic problem nationwide.’
It is pertinent to recall the 2007 campaign words of presidential candidate Barack Obama to veterans. He specifically addressed waiting lists, denied care and poor treatment of vets. He promised his administration would be different “No veteran should have to fill out a 23-page claim to get care, or wait months -- even years -- to get an appointment at the VA. When we fail to keep faith with our veterans, the bond between our nation and our nation's heroes becomes frayed. When a veteran is denied care, we are all dishonored."
What is the Solution?
If, as Benjamin Day (above) says: “We face the highest healthcare costs and have among the worst health outcomes of any country in the developed world because we allow private health insurers and dozens of other intermediaries to act as for-profit middlemen in the health care system”...
...do you think that reducing excessive pay, eliminating all those middlemen, and introducing a ‘single payer system’ really addresses the fundamental issues? I don’t think so.
I suggest that the ‘Powers that be’ don’t want to properly identify and resolve those issues, because it is not in their financial interest to do so.. As Dr Guylaine Lanctot says: “The bottom line is that the medical systems are controlled by financiers to serve financiers. Since you cannot serve people unless they get sick, the whole medical system is designed to make people sicker and sicker.”
But it goes far deeper than just the medical systems doesn’t it?
The US medical system is just one cog in the huge wheel of political greed. As long as there is the cosy collusion between Big Pharma and government, the endless processed food industry subsidies, the perpetuation of drugs and toxins, the denial of alternative and preventative health solutions, the plunder of natural resources, and many more factors, health care will remain sick care.
Until these issues are confronted, analysed and addressed, and people educated and empowered to take responsibility for their own health and healing, little will change.
But the critical point is, YOU can change.
You can take control by deciding to live a healthy lifestyle as best you can. Imagine if enough people did this, and the population was in a state of optimum health….what would life be like then?
Isn't that an amazing thought?
Please do share your health care experiences wherever you are located. Consider too, if you were the ‘Boss’ and could dictate health care policy for your country, what would you like to see? (Please don’t expect $90,000 pay days! Though frankly if you could transform a country to a state of optimal health, you would surely deserve it!)
- The Affordable Care Act explained simply http://obamacarefacts.com/obamacare-explained.php
- The Associated Press look at some of the people impacted by cancelled policies http://bigstory.ap.org/article/sticker-shock-often-follows-insurance-cancellation
- Independent report showing the compensation for the top nine health insurance CEOs.http://www.healthcare-now.org/health-insurance-ceo-pay-skyrockets-in-2013
- For an interesting debate about health care corruption and how this may effect health care policies and practices see http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/01/16/is-the-u-s-too-corrupt-for-single-payer-health-care/
- VA hospital system problems