Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Obscene health insurance profits ready to harvest

Taddeo Gaddi - Sick persons praying for recovery

Sick People Praying for Recovery by Taddeo Gaddi (c. 1300-1366)
Photo by Doruk Salancı. Wiki Commons.

When I was a child, if we went to the doctor for a sore throat or measles, my mother wrote a check. It was for ten dollars. Granted, that was the 1950s and early 1960s, but even in the late 60s, I recall going to my mother’s doctor for a sore throat when I was home from college. The charge had gone all the way up to $20. It sounds like peanuts although it was a bit more like real money then. But it wasn’t ridiculous real money. Last time I went to a doctor….oh, wait….there virtually is no last time. In the 1970s, when health care costs began to get out of hand, I discovered homeopathy. And I have used it, almost exclusively, ever since.

I am not going to get into a debate about whether it works or doesn’t. For me, it works. Best of all, it is cheap. Every year, once a year, I would spend $150 to see my homeopath. He would assess my health, provide remedies as needed, and I’d go away…never to need a doctor for another whole year. If I did get some little bothersome thing in the interim, he would send me the remedy. I travelled some distance to see the late Dr. T.C. Cherien, a doctor like no other, a doctor who comes along once in each person’s lifetime and against whom all others are measured.

Zithromax, miracle for $100 bucks
So, having not found a replacement, I have on occasion had to depend on an AMA doctor friend of mine who would see me for nothing  and prescribe a remedy for a strep throat, zithromax, a well-tolerated antibiotic that even my basically allergic systems tolerate. And it only costs about $100 a pop. For five little pills.

I have no idea what my doctor friend charges for a visit, but it can’t be cheap. I can guarantee that it’s more than the current equivalent of $10 or $20, the office visit charge in the days before insurers figured out they could really rape us by including incidentals and not just the major medical events that were the intention of insurance in the 50s and 60s.

Of course, most people who work at good jobs in major corporations are covered by insurance. As a freelancer for nine-tenths of my career, I couldn’t afford health insurance on the open market. But because I ate well, exercised (albeit on horseback, over fences, from which I had a couple of emergency room visits), saw a chiropractor and a homeopath―and had another friend who is a dentist and adjusts the bill to suit my current income to a point―I have never been in the dire straits most Americans who work for themselves or work at low-paying jobs are in.

USA: Third world health care and longevity

And we are in dire straits. Writing in the New York Times on Oct. 5, David Leonhardt noted:

We don’t live as long as people in Canada, Japan, most of Western Europe or even relatively poor Jordan. Misdiagnosis is common. Medical errors occur more often than in some other countries. Unique to the developed world, millions of people have no health insurance, and millions more, like many fast-food workers, are underinsured.

This was in response to McDonald’s and its expensive, virtually useless hourly worker health insurance, and the fact that Mr. Obama’s national insurance reforms may exempt such plans.

It’s better than nothing, some claim.

No it’s not, claim others.

Here’s the real problem; it is national INSURANCE, not national health care.

Until the United States―mainly, but not limited to, the GOP, the Teabaggers, the cranially challenged fundamentalist capitalists and others―understands that inserting the profit motive into health care is unethical, immoral, and inhumane as well as unworkable, nothing will change. It is unworkable, that is, in every respect except one: obscene profits created on the suffering of millions.

Let me repeat that: The health insurance industry in the United States creates its obscene profits on the suffering of millions.

That may be capitalism, but it is also spiritually bankrupt in every sense of the word. It is especially bankrupt in a nation that claims so vociferously to follow the teachings of Christ, who said that whatever one does to the least among us, we do to Him.

I’m not a Christian, but I do believe Jesus of Nazareth was a prime example of existential goodness, goodness because right is preferred over injustice, because order is preferred over chaos, which leads only to destruction.

America has planted the seeds of its own destruction in so many fields. In the field called Health Care, the plants have withered and may not be able to be revived.

On the other hand, in the field marked Thoughtless Cruelty in Support of Obscene Riches, the bumper crop is harvested daily, only to disappear into a great maw of even more obscene conspicuous consumption, adding insult to exceedingly grave injury.