Occupy Hospitals and Insurance Companies
Writing for Time magazine (20 February, 2013), Steven Brill reports that hospitals, including those that are supposedly non-profit and are therefore exempt from taxes, routinely charge for their services at a markup of tens and even hundreds of times their cost. For example, for a procedure for which Medicare pays a few hundred dollars, based on their calculation of the cost to the hospital, including salaries, use of equipment and overhead, they charge others over $15,000. That’s about 30 times as much. Such exorbitant charges that pour millions of dollars into the pockets of the managers and CEO’s, plus the profit of insurance companies that perform no function other than being an unnecessary middlemen who get in between the patient and the hospital and collect a part of what’s spent by the patient, just as Mafia henchmen would do, has resulted in most families having to pay over 20% of their household income on healthcare insurance, often having to cut corners on other expenditures, including on food, just to keep up with the premiums. And that’s just the cost of their insurance payments, not actual care. When people, who have been paying their premiums month after month and year after year, get sick, they’re shocked to find out how much they have to pay out of picket, despite having insurance. They also discover, when sick, just how little their expensive insurance covers. They also find out that not every hospital will take their insurance, especially for expensive treatments such as for cancer. An insurance that costs hundreds of dollars every month, may only pay $2,000 for each overnight stay at the hospital which is far less than what most hospitals charge, leaving the burden of paying the rest with the patient who has to be stressed about money on top of his illness. No wonder close to half of all bankruptcies filed by American households is healthcare related. Getting sick has become a choice between dying and losing everything, including your home, your life savings and your children’s future. And when it comes to paying out of pocket expenses, they’re often forced to pay in advance, often made to sit in the waiting room until their check is cleared before anything is done for them, no matter how urgent the need for care.
According to the Time magazine report, Americans “spend more on health care than the next 10 biggest spenders combined: Japan, Germany, France, China, the U.K., Italy, Canada, Brazil, Spain and Australia” with quality and results that are no better and are often worse than in those countries that spend a fraction of the amount spent in the US.
Hospitals in the US operate literally like monopolies with complete freedom to charge whatever they desire with absolutely no oversight, logic, rhyme or reason, completely outside and beyond the reach of antitrust laws or any regulatory commission which normally applies to monopoly institutions such as utility companies. Imagine your utility company charging anything they want because you need the gas or electricity or water they bring to your home and which you have to pay regardless because you have no other choice and are therefore completely at their mercy. That’s what the current state of affairs is with hospitals. To say the situation is out of control and outrageous would be a gross understatement. And all this, four years after the passage of Obama care which was supposed to fix the problem. The fact is, however, Obama care was grossly inadequate and wrongheaded for the problem at hand and not much more than a giveaway to insurance companies and an effort to maintain rather than change business as usual and the status quo.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the pharmaceutical and health-care-product industries, combined with organizations representing doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, health services and HMOs, have spent $5.36 billion since 1998 on lobbying in Washington.
This is an egregious attack on working people’s living standards and the epitome of social and economic injustice perpetrated by the 1% against the 99%. Medicare for all Now! No more excuses, no more fake wars in the House and Senate and no more deceptive bandaid “solutions” and business and profit as usual! Redirect all that war spending in the hundreds of billions, corporate profits in the billions and ridiculous pays for CEO’s in the millions to taking care of people’s needs, now!