The scary future of health insurance in America

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Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., (left) and Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., participate in a news conference to announce legislation giving people between the ages of 50 and 64 the option of buying into Medicare on Feb. 13 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

A poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 71 percent of Americans would favor Medicare-for-all, if it would guarantee health insurance as a right for everyone.

But 60 percent of the people polled responded that they would not favor Medicare-for-all if it meant higher taxes and 70 percent said they would be opposed to the idea of national health insurance if it meant delays in tests and treatments.


That is how you end up with the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, a bastardized form of national health insurance that never lived up to the hype and made a lot of people angry. That’s what compromise looks like. You end up with something that is politically expedient but unsustainable over the long haul because it lacks cost controls and adequate funding.

There are billionaires in America, such as Michael Bloomberg (the former mayor of New York) and Howard Schultz (the owner of Starbucks), who say this nation will go broke if it adopts a single-payer national health care plan.

That is the type of plan you can find in England, Canada, Germany and just about every other nation in the industrialized world.

But the United States can’t do it, the billionaires say.

Republicans are already attacking Democrats running for president as socialists for supporting that sort of plan.

This is nothing new. Barack Obama was criticized as a socialist for his plan, which stopped insurance companies from refusing to cover anyone who was actually sick.

Providing insurance to such people is simply not good business.

I once wrote a column about a single mother who was refused health insurance because she paid out of her own pocket to get her three children counseling after their father died of a heart attack in front of their eyes.

Insurance company officials explained that since the children had received psychological counseling, they were considered high risk for suicide and therefore could not be covered.

Actually, that’s not quite true, as the insurance company reps pointed out. The family could have obtained insurance at a cost of about $15,000 a year, which was prohibitive since the family breadwinner had just died of a heart attack.

Americans are fond of criticizing politicians who fail to fulfill their campaign promises, but when Americans say they want Medicare-for-all but don’t want to pay it, it’s difficult for politicians to figure out how to satisfy voters.

Political polls are skewed, of course, based on the questions asked.

Ask people if they want health insurance that will double in out-of-pocket costs one year to the next. Or simply vanish altogether because their employer wants to make more money, or their company is bought out by another firm.

What would people think about a system of health insurance where secret panels decided if patients could get life-saving treatments and CEOs, whose salaries are linked to their company’s stock price, decided how much sick people should pay for prescription drugs?

That’s the system we have now.

As for delays in treatment, it took me about three months to get an appointment with a specialist. Not treatment, mind you. Just an appointment.

We have the most expensive health care system in the world. That’s because doctors, hospitals, drug companies, medical supply companies and health insurance companies all make lots of money.

And all of them will spend lots of that money to oppose Medicare-for-all. Their profits depend on stopping that movement.

Hey, changing the health care system is scary. That’s a fact. So is getting sick.

Each year thousands of Americans claim bankruptcy due to the cost of a family illness. Maybe Bloomberg and Schultz will help you out if you get into financial trouble. But I doubt it.


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