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The Health Care Scare

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When you've cried too many times at the stupidity of your fellow citizens you eventually just have to get out of the way and laugh at how stupid people can be.

Citizens who, 6 months ago were rightfully scared about lack of health insurance are now turning against the first major attempt to reform the industry in decades.

Why? Do they now have insurance?

Can they now afford insurance?

No, they have just been frightened by all the insurance company shills.

Now I'm not suggesting that politicians can be bought off by big business, but when you see politicians on TV ranting against health care reform remember this:

That congressperson personally has the best free healthcare insurance in the world and has it for life because congress got to vote to give themselves free GOVERNMENT health care and bill the taxpayers.

Also, an interesting point you might take into consideration:
From 1990 through 2008, health care professionals' organizations gave $463.5 MILLION to congressional campaigns. And that doesn't count pharmaceutical companies which kicked in another $171 million.

All this is according to opensecrets.org which compiles and publishes REPORTED contributions.

On all topics of interest to big business (do you have a lobbyist? I don't) total lobbying spending in 2008 was an impressive $3.27 BILLION spent on politicians by 14,976 registered lobbyists.

New numbers covering the second quarter of 2009 are being analyzed (they have to make spending public, they don't have to make it easy to understand) but for just the first quarter big pharma spend about $10 Million lobbying congress. With the healthcare bill in the public eye now, I suspect second quarter spending is a bit higher.

And consider that these guys aren't stupid so they aren't spending much of this money to lobby the White House, or Ted Kennedy, or the hundreds of others who are certain to vote for reform - no, a reasonable person might suspect that most of those millions are going to the republicans who you see ranting against healthcare reform. About $70,000 per reform opponent per quarter.

So, if you can ignore the shouting for a minute, look at actual healthcare facts.

1)If you don't have insurance then you have the same delays they talk about in other countries, but it is for basic services such as fixing a broken arm - emergency rooms are busy because they MUST serve anyone who shows up.

2) If you have any health issue, or anyone in your family does, you can't get health insurance.

3)If you have insurance you are ALREADY paying for everyone else who doesn't have insurance because hospitals must treat everyone and those with money or insurance must pay for those who can't, that is one reason aspirin costs $6/tablet at a hospital.

4) Someone is ALREADY standing between you and your doctor deciding what treatment you get - it is an insurance rep that gets paid to deny you healthcare. I'll take a government worker who gets paid to get cases off his/her desk any day over that.

5)Tens of millions of Americans (counting military, elderly, disabled, and govt. employees, about 27% of citizens) already have government health insurance and 99.9% of those eligible to get it do so - many more are anxious to get it - including Medicare.

Ever hear of anyone refusing Medicare or other government health insurance?

Worst of all are the idiots who believe those who are bought and paid for by insurance companies to go on TV and scare you by saying we already have the best health care in the world - actually, we have the worst AND the most expensive healthcare in the industrial world.

If you are born in France, Japan, Germany, even England or Canada you will live longer, be healthier, and your baby is less likely to die.

The United States is the ONLY first world country without universal health care - the only country where insurance companies make more money by refusing to cover sick people or refuse treatment to those who they do insure.

We pay the most for health care, but the last World Health Organization ranking for "healthy" life expectancy (http://www.who.int/inf-pr-2000/en/pr2000-life.html) puts Japan on top among 191 countries. The U.S. ranked 24th.

But cheer up; we are well ahead of sub-Saharan African countries such as Botswana.

In the U.S. we get LOTS of healthcare, but by the standards of advanced countries we PAY for far more than we actually get - things just look reasonably good because we pay so much!

One big reason we spend so much and get so little is the health care industry which skims an estimated $286 Billion each year in overhead costs (every health plan requires doctors to use a different reporting format - hundreds for any decent sized practice.)

Now cutting those costs by going to a one-payer system would cost those make-work jobs, but make-work, meaningless paper shuffling jobs is one thing we always criticized communism for.

Sure, there are sometimes delays in treatment - in the U.S. millions die each decade because of unnecessary surgery or simple medical mistakes in hospitals so simply finding someone who ALMOST died due to a medical delay is meaningless except as a scare factor for the truly ignorant.

Number-wise, it is far more important to computerize hospital treatment and enforce hand-washing if you want to live through a hospitalization than it is to avoid health care reform.

This happens a lot in medically related money matters. For example, if you asked most women they would say they are most scared of breast cancer, but the truth is they are far, far more likely to die of a heart attack.

Most people simply aren't any good at evaluating risks - why else would parents be scared to death that a child will be kidnapped by a stranger (an extremely rare occurrence) but will hand them a cell phone, blackberry, and then let them load four friends into a car and drive a 3,000 lb. 4-wheel weapon the second they are 16 simply because the kids demand that right.

BTW, automobile accidents are the leading cause of death among American teens.

Can you really expect people who pay so little attention to the lives of their kids to take the time to understand healthcare statistics?

But I am realistic.

We aren't going to get decent healthcare reform this year or any time soon. There is just too much money going against real reform. We will get a half-a**ed reform which may make things worse. We certainly won't get universal coverage or a single-payer system which works so well for so many in other advanced countries.

But what do I care? I have Medicare AND a passport so I can get inexpensive medicine in Canada or excellent medical care in Asia.

John McCormick is a reporter, /science/medical columnist and finance and social commentator, with 17,000+ bylined stories. Contact John through NewsBlaze.

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