Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I like those odds!

An excerpt from Joe Bageant's excellent "Deer Hunting With Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War":

A 2005 Harvard University study found that 50 percent of all bankruptcy filings were wholly or partly the result of medical expenses, a 2,200 percent increase since 1981. The average out-of-pocket medical debt of individuals who filed for bankruptcy was $12,000. In the United States someone files for bankruptcy every thirty seconds in the aftermath of a serious health problem.

All of that is tragic enough, but here's the real irony: Sixty-eight percent of those filing for bankruptcy have health insurance. Premiums, deductibles, and uncovered expenses are so high now that the insurance that working people get through their employers does not necessarily save them from financial ruin...

I'd hate to kick the ol' dead horse, but the health care system we have is simply not working. Bear in mind that this book was written in 2006, well before the massive economic meltdown, although it certainly predicts it with a quote from social critic James Howard Kunstler:

The mortgage industry, a mutant monster organism of lapsed lending standards and arrant grift on the grand scale, is going to implode like a death star under the weight of these nonperforming loans and drag every tradable instrument known to man into the quantum vacuum of finance that it creates.

And, of course, the housing crisis is delicately interwoven with health care. When heart failure or cancer rear there ugly heads and you either don't have adequate health care or, in a lot of cases, any health care at all, chances are you're losing your house. Now, I don't know if national health care is really the way to go, but would someone please describe to me a plan involving privatized health care where American citizens won't get cheated out of the medical attention they need? From where I stand, it seems that the chips are stacked against us when the medical industry is run by insurance companies whose job it is to do everything in their power to find ways to deny coverage in order to make a profit. When the word "profit" is anywhere NEAR the health care system, how can you really, truly believe that any doctor, hospital, or insurance company gives a shit about you? "Oh, my doctor cares about me." Does he, when he's cooking the numbers or only treating certain, non-risk patients in order to keep his insurance payments low? Get real. He's only good if you're not really sick.

But this is not the fault of doctors or even hospitals, really (although Bageant's book does point out that these regional "wellness centers" that keep popping up label themselves "non-profit" so that they can, ironically, make more money because they don't have to pay tax. Of course, they can't show that as profit, so they keep pumping it back into their own system without doing things like, I don't know, lowering medical costs for patients). This is, unfortunately, the climate that our system has produced and unless we change things (and I'm not talking about "reform," I'm talking about ripping this system out like a national cancer) there are going to be riots in the streets.

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