Greedy corporations. Greedy doctors. Greedy lawyers. Uninsured people who lead unhealthy lifestyles, or who engage in activities that create messes for everyone else to clean up. Or, sadder, people who are born with genetic predispositions for disease or other medical calamities.
Oh, and don’t forget the politicians — yup, they certainly played their pathetic role doing just about nothing.
What I’m talking about here are the ingredients that when mixed thrust upon us and our children and probably our grandchildren and great-great-great-grandchildren an out of control albatross of a healthcare system.
I will recite here a litany of examples none of which should be at all surprising to any American who’s been paying attention over the last 30 or so years. These come from Ezra Klein’s Washington Post Wonkblog, posted on March 26.
Klein recites some of the annual findings of the International Federation of Health Plans, which each year publishes the actual costs of popular medicines, devices and procedures paid by 100 health insurers in 25 countries. As Klein writes, and I repeat here, the information is shocking.
Take the angiogram, an x-ray exam that charts blood flowing through your body’s major arteries. In 2012, the cost of an angiogram in Canada was a mere $35. In Spain it cost $125. In France, it cost $264.
In this country? Well, depending upon where you lived and what type of plan you had, it could cost as little as $173. But that bargain basement price was unfortunately reserved for only about 25 percent of patients.
The average U.S. price was $914. And if you were unlucky enough to pay the top rate, this test cost as much as $2,430. Whoa.
Let’s say that angiogram discovered some blockage that required repair through an angioplasty, where doctors go in and widen the artery for better blood flow.
In France, that procedure in 2012 cost about $7,500. In Spain, it cost $9,500. But in the good ‘ol U.S. of A., the same procedure cost between $16,000 (for the lucky bottom 25 percent) to $28,000 (the average cost) all the way to $61,000 for those paying the top rate.
God forbid the angioplasty didn’t work and you needed a heart bypass. Such a surgery in Spain costs a bit over $17,400. In France, the surgery costs about $23,000. In the home of the Quarter Pounder, this same surgery costs a Whopper — $46,000 for the bottom 25 percent, $73,000 on average and at the top a mesmerizing $150,000. Wow.
Klein cites many, many more comparisons, including with other countries. One other shocking detail he notes is that as a percent of gross domestic product, the U.S. spent 17.6 percent on healthcare in 2010. That compares to an average of 9.5 percent, with places like Spain and France spending between 9.6 percent and 11.4 percent respectively.
This is why Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, is here if you didn’t already know. The outrageous growth in healthcare costs requires action, immediate attention. Obamacare does not go nearly far enough in my opinion. The world’s largest economy shouldn’t be spending this much on medical costs. Having a heart attack shouldn’t bankrupt your family. Doctors and hospitals should not be getting away with price gouging. And lawyers should not be forcing unneeded tests and procedures on the rest of us through big court battles that have forced doctors and hospitals into a costly game of cover your butt.
Until health care is nationalized in this country (never gonna happen), I agree with Obamacare that the onus needs to be put somewhat on the people who refuse to get coverage. After all, the guy and gal who have no health insurance but all of sudden find themselves in a catastrophic crisis are a serious drag for the rest of us. Hospitals absorb the costs and pass them along to future consumers. Your aspirin costs $50 a pill because you are paying for yours and the three homeless people who came into the emergency room last night. Actually, that’s unfair. Anyone who’s lost a job lately probably lost healthcare coverage. So, you’re paying for their aspirin.
And actually, at some workplaces, like Walmart, they mostly keep your hours below full-time to avoid paying you health benefits. So you pay for their aspirin, too.
About 600,000 people in Nevada don’t have insurance. Come Oct. 1, I encourage every last one of them to get some. It won’t be free. But if you’re broke, there will be some subsidies of which you can take advantage. Medicaid won’t be changing very much either if that’s your soup du jour.
At least Nevada has done its best to get its Silver State Exchange up and running. In a state filled with rabid anti-anything-Obama zealots, that’s surprising.
Another Washington Post Wonkblog item, this time from Sarah Kliff, posted on Sept. 3, even suggested that Nevada’s Silver State exchange website (http://healthrates.doi.nv.gov/Wizard.vbhtml) was among the best in the country.
Kliff wrote that not only was it easy to use and the clearest of most states, but it was informative even for those who don’t live in Nevada. Uninsured? Then there’s really no excuse not to check out the new rules and the plans available to you and your family. And if your employer doesn’t realize they will need to offer health benefits soon, you might want to let them know.
If you don’t have insurance by Jan. 1, you can expect to face some penalties — not much of one at first — taken out of any tax refund you might be getting. Later, if you continue to live in denial that you need health insurance, you will inevitably pay more and more of a penalty, until it is simply cost-effective for you to start buying insurance, or you are jailed, or you flee to France or Spain or Canada. Either way, health insurance is likely in your future. There will be fines for business owners, too, at some point, though those have been delayed.
Obamacare will not be perfect. But it beats going back to the way things were, particularly if the Affordable Care Act accomplishes even a little of what it is meant to, namely drive down costs by bringing more people into the ranks of the insured.
The greatest country in the world should not be choking itself on its own healthcare system.