Dec 24, 2009

How to stop 45,000 Americans dying each year due to lack of healthcare and save close to a million bankruptcies due to healthcare cost.

The fate of the most recent healthcare bill that turned from a promised universal healthcare option to another giveaway to the insurance companies illustrates the power of the lobbyists for the insurance companies and the healthcare industry in the USA. With a huge war chest of profits, neither the health insurance companies nor the healthcare industry will let any legislation pass to help the needy Americans at the expense to any portion of their extraordinary profits. It is about time for the progressives in the country to understand that this is a losing battle. Since the money being made, with no competition by a handful in the country through people getting sick is so huge that they will never relinquish that privilege. Why would they? It is easy and sure money since one can guarantee for people to get sick. So progressives must look for another, a more practical way to win this war rather than waiting for the government to do it for them. If they use their imagination, than waiting for the government to do it then they can achieve their goal of saving 45,000 American lives yearly and stop bankruptcy of half a million individuals by properly using the resources available under capitalism. I cannot figure out why only liberals worry about saving American lives that is being lost due to corporate profits.

To elaborate more on the crisis at hand, America may be the only country in the world where a handful of people could exploit people getting sick to make huge personal profits. In other countries it is provided by the government or by not-for-profit organizations because they hold the view that people do not get sick out of choice. According to a study done by Harvard University, 45,000 Americans die each year due to lack of healthcare. Also illness and medical bills caused half of the 1,458,000 personal bankruptcies in 2001 according to a study done by “The Journal of Health Affairs.” According to the same study, most people who had to go bankrupt by not being able to pay healthcare expenses already had health insurance and they have been paying the expensive health insurance monthly premiums almost religiously.

Although the majority of Americans are outraged over these dreadful statistics, and the ruthless behavior of the insurance industry, unfortunately a significant number of people in the USA do not find any need to treat all Americans as they should be treated. This group, that could be as high as 40% of the population, fanatically believes in a screwed-up and self-serving version of individual responsibility (expecting unemployed and under-employed to find money to pay unaffordable and compulsory health insurance, almost like the income taxes one pays to a legitimate government). Ironically some of the people in this group are themselves victims and often do not carry health insurance or can afford to go to a doctor. Yet they, almost on a suicidal mentality, hang on to the survival-of-the-fittest doctrine that had been handed over to them in some indoctrination process during their young impressionable days.

The economist John Kenneth Galbraith in his book “The Culture of Contentment” describes this significant minority in the USA as the contented population.

Any time, a member of the contented group feels guilty about their indifference to a major segment of needy Americans (ironically often includes themselves) who live in fear of life praying for miracles to keep them healthy, all they have to do is to listen to the rightwing media. In the rightwing media they will find the most charismatic journalists (who are paid millions by the corporate-owned media to keep the welfare for the rich going) not only assuring them that there is no need for them to feel any guilt over their beliefs but also that they turn furious over liberals advocating healthcare for all Americans. This contended population is pretty selfish, uncaring and ruthless to begin with making it easy for the media since all they have to do is to confirm their brainwashed beliefs that it is ok to ignore the death of so many Americans. To contrast, if a foreign power kills 45,000 Americans per year, this same group will go on protest marches (orchestrated by the rightwing media willingly available to lobby for the defense industry) demanding the government to spend whatever it takes to stop it.

The more ruthless and uncaring this segment of the population becomes more profits there are for those who pay the salaries of the journalists. The media is so sophisticated and teach the contented slogans, such as “obamacare is death for grand ma” etc. that the contended could repeat like a mantra any time any guilty conscious seeps through their minds. One of the most favorite mantra of the contended is the “healthcare for the illegal using our tax dollars.” They would cheer loudly when a CEO of the healthcare industry take a huge bonus using their tax dollars by denying healthcare benefits to people (or pretend not to know about it) but if they find out that healthcare has been provided to a dying child of an illegal they would shout as if the sky is falling on their heads. This is the power of indoctrination; humanity is secondarily to an illogical idealism.

It is because of this contended group that the politicians can get away taking open, legalized bribes from the healthcare industry lobbyist disregarding the plight of the people due to rising healthcare cost that rise as rapidly as, and in sync, with the year-end bonuses of the executives of the healthcare industry. This significant contended minority, as any fanatical group would be, is a sold voting block for the rightwing while the rest of the population is so tired of politics stay away from voting. So as long as this group exists in the USA (and they will always be), progressives have no chance of getting government legislation to stop this uniquely American death toll or the bankruptcies.

Therefore, instead of waiting for the President or the legislative body to do anything about this nightmare, the progressives could solve it by setting up their own health insurance company and a chain of hospitals that can be financed through the public stock market. This is how capitalism could solve this problem through competition. The progressives who already have managed to raise even more money than the conservatives for their political movements, mostly thanks to the Internet, could easily set up a movement to find the capital to set up an insurance company and a chain of hospitals. Then they can treat all Americans who have no health care at an affordable cost.

Progressives could set up two public holding companies. One company will manage a health insurance company and the other will set up and manage a chain of hospitals. The initial capital to set up these organizations could be raised through an Initial Public Offering (IPO) via the Internet. The insurance company could provide health insurance both to those who already have insurance at a better rate and then begin to selectively provide affordable health insurance to those in low risk category who already do not have any health insurance. Then as the company becomes profitable it can begin to provide health insurance even for those who could be classified as high-risk people if they are not eligible for Medicaid. At the end of the year if the insurance company has profits then instead of paying the management huge bonuses the company could send rebates to insurance holders giving them the option to turn these rebates into a stock purchase program of the insurance company. The mission of the insurance company should be to have a loyal client base that they will not betray.

Also the progressives could do an IPO for the company to set up a chain of hospitals. They could set up state-of- the-art hospitals, initially mostly general hospitals that would take care of common illnesses with the insurance company paying for more complicated problems to the other private profit-oriented hospitals. Eventually the progressive Hospital Company could build more sophisticated hospitals to take care of all problems. Through a marketing campaign and education such a movement could get a huge client base who would buy insurance from a company dedicated both to serve the clients and stockholders as opposed to paying excessive compensation to a handful of people. Also they would prefer to go to a hospital run by a company that think of service first and profits secondarily. Both the insurance company and the hospital chain could find trusted investment advisors to invest their extra funds collected through the IPO and premiums to get a good return on investments to keep the companies solvent and further their cause.

The beauty of this plan is that it would take the form of a profit-oriented public company, serving the stockholder base which could be the same as the clients of the company who get healthcare. The charter could provide an allowance to treat the poorest segment of the population through a charitable arm of the profit-oriented company. Even now many public companies have charitable arms to which they contribute or match contribution by their shareholders. So it could be arranged in the same manner.

By setting up a service-based health insurance Company and public hospitals financed by the public through the capital markets even if we won’t be able to solve the problem of healthcare in the USA immediately it would set the movement in the right direction. Also as there is competition from outsiders, the health insurance cartel that dominate the market now will have no choice but to bring down the premiums and the hospitals will have to bring down the cost so as to compete with the progressive hospitals. Thus the healthcare services will be affordable for all Americans. At a time when about 15% of the Gross Domestic Product is being absorbed by the cost of healthcare, a movement such as this based on the principles of capitalism could be the only way we could solve this crisis.

Dec 2, 2009

US Healthcare system—the Sickest Scam in human history

Transparency International a civic organization based in Europe composes an index each year called Least Corrupt Country Index. They score 180 countries in the world based on the propensity of the system to avoid corruption. The highest scoring countries are called the Least Corrupt Countries and hold the top places in the list and the least scoring countries are called the Most Corrupt Countries in the world. In 2009, the USA holds the 20th position in this list. This is an abysmal position to be held. It is at the bottom of the rest of the developed world’s standing; a position set at the borderline of developed world and the Third World where there is abject poverty strictly due to their corruption.

American people, who are some of the greatest people in this world, should not let their country rank so low among the civilized nations. Especially when you look at it, this reputation as a corrupt nation to the USA comes only because of a handful in the nation. This handful of corrupt people who control the world of finance, media and the government (through lobbyists) are who warrant this reputation. So even if 90% of the people in the USA are honest, this 10%, because they are powerful, create a society so corrupt to deserve this reputation.

Taking a look at the US healthcare system should give us one good reason why Transparency International ranks the USA so low in the list.

The welfare provided to the insurance companies in the form of indirect taxes to the US taxpayers hidden in the form of health insurance premiums must be the largest such largess provided to any handful of people in the history of mankind. Let me explain the logic behind this artful maneuver.

When you look at it analytically you could see that the USA has the craftiest socialized healthcare system. This is why a huge portion of the GDP (about 17%, which is way bigger than in any other nation) goes to healthcare. However, just like the few other expensive welfare deals in the USA, welfare in the form of healthcare is provided also only to the most powerful and the wealthiest people in the country. The people who concoct such inequality must think that most common people are pretty ignorant in the country. However, a careful look at the history of the world should give them pause. This sort of unfairness could not last long in any society unless it becomes a dictatorship or those who device such crafty ways only to help a handful, find a way to brainwash the population so diligently making them incapable of thinking right and not see right from wrong.

For example, none of the legislators, the media personalities or the powerful corporate executives pays a penny in health insurance premiums in the USA. They are paid either by the taxpayers directly (in the case of legislators) or indirectly through tax deductions to the corporate employers of the media personalities and corporate executives.

When paying auto insurance or any other personal insurance, the above-mentioned privileged people in the society, pay it out of their own pocket from after tax dollars just like the rest of the population (granted in the case with some corporate executives, even that is paid by their corporations). Thus there is competition in the country for auto insurance etc making it affordable for all the citizens. But when it comes to healthcare, because it is socialized—only to help out the most powerful in the county—the healthcare remain too expensive for the rest of population making it unaffordable for a huge segment of the population.

If the powerful group, mentioned above, is required to pay health insurance the same way they pay their auto insurance then they will feel the pain of high premiums (that go up many times more than the rate of inflation each year) and will take appropriate action to increase competition by health insurance companies and bring down the cost of healthcare insurance premiums. In the USA the consensus of this powerful group is all that matters because they are the only ones who have access to the media. The rest of the population is shut out of the media. True, there is a handful of journalists who speak for the rights of common man but the rest of the journalists are there to disseminate corporate propaganda and brainwash naïve people to stay ignorant of such obvious corruption in the country.

When it comes to health insurance the rest of the population pay the most regressive taxes, ever conceived, in the form of health insurance, based on their income levels, while 40 million of citizens, go without any healthcare because they cannot afford it. The US system must be the only system in the world that has facilitated a few anti-competitive group of insurance companies to collect taxes paid by the citizens that is deducted right off their payroll (to emphasize, most regressively). The insurance companies, by the order of Congress, are exempted from anti monopoly rules so they can fix the prices by collusion and charge insurance premiums to the population at will.

There is no difference between a government taxing people for health insurance and giving it to the insurance companies or allowing the insurance companies to collect such hidden taxes in the form of health insurance premiums directly as is being done in the USA. For example in most of the other developed countries (that are considered the Least Corrupt Countries) the government collects taxes so they can provide healthcare to their citizens. But only in the USA this taxes are directly paid to insurance companies. The major difference is that in other developed counties this tax is progressive with the richest people paying a higher share while in the USA it is regressive with the richest people paying the lowest rate of taxes.

How could this be possible in the greatest democracy?

It is possible because there is an open system of legalized bribery going on in the USA. The insurance companies not only pay huge sums to Congressmen and Senators but also hire spouses and other relatives of these powerful politicians as highly paid employees of their companies thus causing them to pass legislation to make this welfare program possible. Under any civilized system, this would be construed as a direct conflict of interest but the US legislators seem to find no inconsistency with this practice. Well obviously because it serves them so well. However, let me say that there are some fantastic upright citizens who hold the positions of legislators in this country, in spite of them being attacked severely by those at the media who do the propaganda for the handful of powerful people who are turning the USA into one of the corrupt nations. I hope that citizens of the USA would have the right judgment to recognize the good from the bad.

Why the media does not do enough to inform the public these issues?

The media in the USA is also owned by a few corporations and they depend on advertising from these insurance companies and the others in the healthcare business to increase their revenue. The system as it is practiced today is good for the media and they have no reason to make any changes to it. It is just wishful thinking if the citizens really believe that the US media is interested in helping the average person in the country. The motive of the media is to make profits for their owners and stockholders. They are not here to tell the truth. Also when it comes to journalists, there are a few journalists who are dedicated to telling the truth and take their responsibility seriously and do what they can do to facilitate the rights of people. Again, I hope the citizens of the USA will have the right judgment to recognize those who speak for their rights and those who pander to the powerful groups since lack of press freedom is the surest way to the decline of a society.

It is quite clear the democracy that is going awry in the USA currently is being run with the help of two corrupt institutions that are called the legislative body and the media. It is because of these two groups, that the healthcare industry led by insurance companies, are making such huge profits paying the handful of people at the top over hundreds of millions in bonuses while the majority of the population live in insecurity. There is a huge cost hidden in this system. For example, in the USA we currently have the largest prison population in the world amounting to about 25% of the global prison population. Most these prisoners live in the most deplorable condition that will turn even the most rational person to a hardened criminal by the time they come out of prisons. The crimes being committed in the society are not heard of being committed in any other developed country in the world. When it comes to the level of crimes being committed, the USA takes the form of a Third World nation (this could explain why it is rank as a corrupt nation nearing the positions held by Third World nations). These are the hidden consequences of a system with a tightly controlled media and a legislative body that the money can buy.

According to a study, about 40,000 Americans die each year without health insurance and a huge portion of personal bankruptcies occur due to healthcare expenses. Those who have no health insurance, if they face an emergency could go to emergency room in a hospital and get care at the expense of the taxpayer. No doubt the healthcare providers love that process since each time an uninsured person walks into the emergency care unit they could charge what they wish and bill the taxpayer for that amount. It is in spite of this runaway cost of the emergency care units that 40,000 people still die each year without access to healthcare, according to the study.

As long as this healthcare industry making billions in profits hold the USA hostage, the situation in the country could never get any better but the country will be in a downward spiral just like Rome was in its history as it was going down due to its corruption. All those who love the USA should take this situation seriously and do everything in their power to send a message to those who have designed this system, which apparently has put in place only in the last few decades. According to what I have read, it was not this way till about the 1970s. If so, there is still time to change this, if people are aware of this problem and speak out by opposing a handful who gain huge sums in profits at the expense of the health of its people.

To stop this healthcare scam and make healthcare affordable for all citizens is a simple process. All we have to do is to eliminate the tax deduction for the health insurance payments and require all the citizens, including the legislators to pay their individual healthcare premiums the same way they pay their auto insurance premiums. Let’s not forget that the elimination of this tax deduction for health insurance also will help balance the US budget that is going out of control.

Once the powerful people (including the legislators and the media personalities) begin to pay health insurance premiums from after tax dollars from their own pocket, they will make such a noise making their opposition to high insurance premiums known to the insurance companies. Then the legislators will pass immediate laws allowing competition in the health insurance industry and such competition will bring healthcare insurance to make it as competitive as auto insurance and thus making it affordable to all the citizens. Until this happens there is no way to curtail the cost of increasing healthcare cost in the USA.

Let’s hope that brave American people will not allow them to be brainwashed by a handful in the media to help a handful in the society to make wealth at the expense of the health of this great nation. Let’s hope that right judgment by people will prevail to fight back and take their nation to be run by people for the people.