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.

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