Monday, July 18, 2005

Why We Need Better Health Care

A Daily Kos diary, Why We Need Better health Care: Sorry, No Rove, struck a chord with me. I grew up in Canada, and never had to worry about health care costs, insurance premiums, and greedy insurance companies refusing to cover claims. In fact, I was blogging on this very topic back in March of this year, in a series of entries, entitled Continued Observations on Free Market philosophy, Part Two - Health Care.

During my past three years living in the United States, I've worked for three different employers, I've had health insurance coverage from three different insurance providers, I've paid over $10,000 in insurance premiums, and haven't had a single insurance claim covered. I'm a young relatively, healthy individual, and have only had a few routine office visits over the past three years -- In every single case, my insurance company refused to pay my claim, based on one inane technicality after the other -- over time, paying $60-80 copays that I should not have to pay for adds up. For each of my last two claims, I have seriously fought tooth and nail over claims for periods of months, before eventually having my bill referred to a collection agency. I am now at the point where I refuse to seek medical treatment, because I cannot afford the costs, and I have simply lost my will to argue with health insurance providers.
"We have a fundamental difference of opinion. I think government-run health will lead to poor-quality health, will lead to rationing, will lead to less choice. Once a health-care program ends up in a line item in the federal government budget, it leads to more controls. And just look at other countries that have tried to have federally controlled health care. They have poor-quality health care. Our health-care system is the envy of the world because we believe in making sure that the decisions are made by doctors and patients, not by officials in the nation's capital. -Third Bush-Kerry debate, in Tempe AZ 10/13/2004"

We live in a country where 44 million citizens remain uninsured. The United States spends more on health care than other industrialized countries; as a percentage of 2001 GDP, the United States spent 13.9%, Germany spent 10.7%, Canada spent 9.7%, France spent 9.5%, and Sweden spent 8.7% on total health care spending. (David Walker, “Health Care System Crisis: Growing Challenges Point to Need for Fundamental Reform,” presentation to the General Accounting Office Health Care Forum, 13 January 2004).

I grew up in Canada - I didn't have a care in the world. A nation with Universal Health Care, a balanced budget, a social safety net, progressive civil liberties. Sure, the tax rates in Canada are marginally higher, but when you consider that you health care is covered by taxes - no worry about uncovered claims - and that a $400/monthly insurance premium isn't being deducted from your paycheck, the difference doesn't seem that extreme. Indeed, when I look at this chart comparing unemployment rates between the United States and Canada, the argument of higher unemployment seems almost entirely insignificant.

I've now lived in the United States for about four years. On the surface, there appears to be very little difference between the two countries. For the average citizen, however, day to day living is much tougher in America - Their is much cause for concern with the neoconservative vision of an America based on a society of accountability. Life is already tough - middle class two income workers are hardly any better off than single-income families were 40 years ago. With the Bush Tax Cuts, the attempts to privatize social security, repealment of state funding, abolishment of the estate taxes, and many other regressive policies, the Bush Administration is waging class warfare on the lower and middle classes of American society. Twenty years ago, CEOs made an average of 30-40 times the salary of the Average American worker. Today, that number has reached between 500-1000. We are on the verge of establishing a two class society - an aristrocracy - a corporate climate based on fascist principles.

The neoconservative vision of America serves the interests of a small minority - perhaps 15% of the country. We live in a democracy - if the other 85% of this nation would wake up and realize what is happening to this country, the tide would turn. The hour is late - with a corporate controlled media, and corporate controlled house, senate, executive and judicial branches of government, the playing field has been tilted heavily into the direction of corporate interests. Let's just hope that we can still turn this fight around.