Health and Happiness

As the alleged pig flu pandemic sweeps many nations around the globe, it’s time to ponder exactly how Republicans in the United States of America can say they have the best health system in the world. They do have the most expensive, but the best? I think not.

Contrary to the beliefs of Fox News and it’s Republican associates, the US health-care debacle has been going on for years and years and years. Thanks to some generous political tipping (various slightly legal bribes paid through a process dubbed ‘lobbying’), this side of the fence believes in its heart that private companies can offer a better health-care system.

37th in the world – (World Health Organisation report 2008).

Our grand supreme 3-point swisher Barack “Omygod” Obama is trying, as so many Democrats before him have failed to do, to convince the American public to some kind of federal government provided health-care package involving, among other things, a government provided alternative insurer.

According to the US Census Bureau, just under 50 million Americans, or one sixth of the population are without health insurance – this figure includes children. I’m not sure what it means to be uninsured as a health consumer, but if it’s anything like my car insurance (insurance is insurance after all), if you don’t have insurance and you break something by accident you have to pay the full amount to get it fixed. As with health-care, if you have a heart attack and don’t have health insurance then surely you have to pay the full amount to get it fixed. God forbid if you need a new heart or lungs.

I had a run-in with an insurance company about 15 years ago after an accidental fire in our student flat. They attempted to recover costs off me for burning down the kitchen. Thankfully (!??!) my mother had had a very similar oil vs stove fire earlier that year and had received a full pay out from the same insurance company so I was pretty confident that I did not have to pay. Taking advise from my flatmate, who’d kindly asked his father, I ignored the letters.

After a while the threatened me with a collection agency or some such thing and I asked my dad what to do. Together we drafted a letter containing the word ‘solicitor’ several times and the problem went away. My point is this: they were an insurance company and the may, a) not pay the claim because of something in the terms and conditions they think favours them, and b) they will try to seek recompense if they believe you to be at fault.

Now, I’m not saying this is wrong. After all, insurance companies are people too. Well, not really. Insurance companies are companies. But they are full of people. What I’m attempting to say, quite unclearly as it turns out, is that an insurance company is in the business of making a profit. If it is a publically listed company the profit is definitely paramount and maximising said profit is what the board are aiming for. It’s not their fault, they are just doing what the shareholders want them to.

So if insurance companies are in the profit business, how might they achieve successfully in this? Please see points a) and b) two paragraphs before this. They will deny claims or charge those at fault. Why would health insurers be any different?

I’ve seen quite a few Republican types on the news in recent times. Many are concerned. Concerned and worried. Thanks, in part, to a couple of things. Obama saying he is ‘gonna change’ things and the War on Terror dribbling to a Vietnam-like close. Conservatives by their very nature abhor change – they wouldn’t be conservatives if they flip-flopped on the various issues like us liberal types. Stay the course – stand tall – be true to your calling etc. Liberals like to change their minds if evidence and research suggests they should. It’s generally called common sense.

(Of course, as with all other mutterings on this page, I am full of opinion and argument with little in the way of back up and a lot in the way of gross gerneralisation – but that is the nature of my beast (sorry to sound overly sexual there))

Common sense would suggest that a country with a sixth of it’s population unable to just waltz up to a doctor and get a flu jab or an arm in plaster needs to offer some kind of health-care to these 47 million people. Republican sense, on the other hand, suggests any government involvement in the health system is sacrilege and they will not abide by it even if it means people dying.

Many commentators are suggesting that there will be bureaucrats between the patient and the doctor. As Mr Jon Stewart, Daily Show, New York pointed out, isn’t there a health bureaucrat inbetween my doctor and me at the moment anyway?

Another point that could be made here, and I’m coming from the direction of being a public sector worker myself, is that we public servants get paid a lot less to do the same job than those in the private sector. Private sector health i-dotters and t-crossers will be getting paid the private sector rate – far more than the health bureaucrats in the US Federal Government or in the Ministry of Health in Wellington (that’s NZ).

You could argue then that having federally funded health bureaucrats in Washington deciding things might actually make the US health system cheaper…

Or is that jumping the ak-47 slightly?

Anyway America, good luck. Health reform is a remarkably hard thing for anyone to achieve. But it could mean a lot cheaper premiums, which can’t be a bad thing.

Until next time, adios.

Boon x


2 responses

  1. We just need to stick to free market health care. Government health care will stop us having the best health care in the world.


    1. But it’s not a free market! The market is run by the insurance companies for profit and 47 million Americans DO NOT HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE. Because they can’t afford it – they have been priced out of your so wonderful free market.
      I’m sure you will agree with me (and when I say sure, I mean you won’t) that an unfetted, totally free market fails utterly. On paper it looks really good but as soon as you add people into the mix, greed takes a hold and voila! AIG or GM needs delicious bailout money.
      You’re telling me the free market will provide? It never, ever will.
      You sir, are a fool!
      And to prove my point, the WHO has ranked the US at 37 on the list of the world, behind the likes of Andorra, Malta, Morocco and your drug producing neighbours Columbia. Mind you, you are ahead of New Zealand, so what do I know.


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