Waiting for Health Care Reform
"We're waiting for the day when getting sick doesn't mean going broke. We're waiting for emergency rooms that aren't overcrowded. We're waiting for our policymakers to take action and fix the problem. We're waiting for the nation to have the best health care system. We are waiting for health care reform!"
On May 11th, representatives from the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the hospital industry, the medical device manufacturer’s industry, doctors and the medical establishment (AMA) met with President Obama and agreed to slow growth in health care by 1.5%, thus shaving $2 trillion in savings over the next 10 years.
Three days later, they rescinded that promise.
Everything about this scenario highlights the principle flaws and failures of all attempts at so-called health care reform, to date.
I recently read that:
“Public policy is like sausage: you do not want to see how it is made, and the end product is not good for your health.”
All of the parties who met with the White House are representatives of the medical-pharmaceutical-insurance industrial complex. There was nobody there representing us, the people/consumers. It is clear that we, the people, do not have a seat at the table, let alone a voice, and that enormous profound decisions will be made relative to our health, health care and related expenses without our input.
That is dangerous and does not bode well for us. The reason: what you and I call health care expenses, they call profit.
The medical-pharmaceutical-insurance industrial complex is, above all else, a commercial, for-profit industry. As long as the business incentives of profit and growth dominate, the costs of care will continue to spiral higher. That is the essence and nature of business.
This point could not have been driven home more poignantly when the parties reneged on their promise. After all, their promise had nothing to do with killing profits, just with slowing growth by 1.5%; more precisely, slowing the annual rate of growth from the current 6.2%, to a rate of 4.7%. This, according to them, would be 2 trillion dollars less profit over 10 years ($200 billion dollars per year). That sounds like a lot, but this is an industry that generated $2.4 trillion in 2006, with anticipated revenues of $4.3 trillion by 2017.
Ultimately, they couldn’t even agree to curtailing profits by about 8%!
From our perspective as consumers, the system has failed us. The for-profit system continues to drive up costs, stressing the viability of businesses, government and individuals, excluding more and more people, at the same time providing inefficient and inconsistent quality of care. Yet, this for-profit health system refuses to reform. And, with each passing year, as their power and influence grows, the reform we need becomes more difficult to achieve.
The entire system needs drastic overhaul and reform, way beyond the mere creation of a unified payer, which has virtually nothing to do with controlling costs. Piecemeal attempts at reform evoke false hopes, much like CPR, which fails almost 100% of the time “because of the largely overlooked fact that it is being performed on the already dead.”
Ultimately, as David Mechanic says in his book The Truth About Health Care:
“At some point we as a nation will have to decide whether we wish to design our health system primarily to satisfy those who profit from it, or to protect the health and welfare of all Americans.”