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US Lags in Preventable Deaths

Original post made by Fed up, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008

This just came out on Reuters:
Web Link

(I don't plan on participating in the inevitable ensuing discussion, where people with strong ideology and no common sense will now spin, spin, spin to defend our freedom to keep this wasteful system with much lower standards than we deserve.)

Comments (18)

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Posted by perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 11, 2008 at 6:16 pm

What a shock. Reuters came out with another "America is the worst" article? I am completely stunned.

What Reuters, and the one who started this thread who won't discuss it, fails to understand is how many people can afford health insurance but choose not to buy it.

Even Massachusetts stated that only 17% of their uninsured couldn't actually afford to buy it. And 1/2 of all uninsured are under 30. How many of us think we are going to get sick or need health care if we are under 30? And we can't exaclty call Mass a Red State, can we?

For such a lousy country as ours, our cancer death rate is 1/2 of France's ( surprise! that wasn't in this Reuters article, was it?). And, health care isn't "free" in France. My cousin pays the equivalent of $35 for every doctor visit, ( in a country where an Accountant like her is bringing home $7/hour after all her taxes which are supposed to pay for her "free" health care), more for many "elective" procedures, and has no way to help her grandmother to get into a nursing home because the "free health care" doesn't include taking care of the elderly when they can't stay home anymore.

This kind of obviously poorly informed poor perspective agenda driven ( NATIONAL HEALTH CARE,NOW!!) drives me nuts.

Please find me someone between 20 and 30 who can't afford the $75/month Kaiser premium for health insurance AND who isn't covered by MedicAid...

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Posted by perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 11, 2008 at 6:28 pm

Best ways to lower preventable death rate that the other countries do that we don't

1) Go back to being able to force some types of institutionalizations. People get much better care in institutions and are less likely to die from pneumonia and other infections etc than they are on the street. We can't force people to take care of themselves here. And EVERY SINGLE HOMELESS PERSON ( HOMELESS CUZ OF LACK OF MONEY) IS ON GOVERNMENT HEALTH CARE which costs them nothing.

2)Go back to letting people buy minimalist, catastrophic health insurance. Stop forcing people to choose betweeen Mercedes Benz coverage and nothing because some State bureacrats have decreed that all insurances must cover chiropractors and counselors..

3) No health insurance, no driver's license.

These 3 steps alone would dramatically decrease the number of uninsured and preventable deaths in our country, lower health insurance costs and help our homeless.

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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 11, 2008 at 6:42 pm

Cut profit out of the system. Eliminate private insurers; make them all go nonprofit, like they do in Europe. Force drug companies to lower prices; the latter suck up government grant university research, and then profit on the backs of that taxpayer-supported research. We're being robbed by Robber Health Barrons! 58% of the cost of your health care bill goes to administration and profit. We're going to change that in America, one HMO at a time - kicking and screaming, if necessary.

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Posted by Scott
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 11, 2008 at 8:10 pm

The best way to even the score is:

1. Force all industrialized nations that buy drugs from U.S. companies to pay a research premium for those drugs. The U.S. consumer already pays a premium (plus). Any nation that refuses to pay will not get the drugs. If they break patent rules, then they will get punished by trade sanctions.

2. Force the foreign industrialzied nations to defend themselves with respect to military costs and sacrifices. Europe was pathetic in the Yugoslovia breakup. The U.S. was called in to save the bacon, while Europe just continued to fund their medical system.

3. The other industrialized nations should be forced to take the immigrants that the U.S. now absorbs. Perhaps Japan, the most racist of those nations, would be interested.

4. Foreign students and professors should be banned from NIH grants and U.S. university training. Why should we continue to support foreign leaches? We can just train our own students. We already pay the premium.

When all these foreign industrialzied countries actually start to pay their own way, the premature death score card will not look so good.

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Posted by Fed up
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2008 at 11:19 pm

Where do your numbers come from? I read a 2003 Public Citizen study that 40% of health care dollars go to just administration, largely because of private insurance, and that if you factor in insurance profit and other non-care-related costs, in 2003 at least, less than half of all health care related costs in the $2 trillion dollar health care economy were going to actual care. I wasn't aware that it was now so close to only 40% of dollars going to actual care.

Is this the same study/new study/ different source?

When is our business community going to wake up to how fiscally stupid this is and how the existence of insurance company rackets is destroying our competitiveness? When are we going to care more about the health and lives of our families than avoiding the battle to overcome insurance company greed and graft?

(Sorry, couldn't help jumping in.)

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Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 12, 2008 at 2:22 pm

Mike and Fed UP:

Oh yes, absolutely you are right. Non-competitive, non-profit health care insurance is definitely the way to go..then we would all end up on MediCal or MediCaid.

And forcing lower profits for drug companies would clearly encourage them to risk the tremendous losses they incur in developing new drugs. How many times does a new drug not pan out? I know I would want to risk losing hundreds of millions to make thousands. It is the basis of innovation, after all.

Scott: Awesome post..

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Posted by perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 12, 2008 at 2:24 pm

IN the rest of the world, obesity is not seen as a "lifestyle choice", as I read it is now here in the US. Our "culture" encourages an "open minded acceptance" of horrific "lifestyle choices", causing more deaths.

If our government could only take over controlling how people here eat, we would prevent a lot of preventable deaths....

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2008 at 2:46 pm

I agree entirely with Perspective above.

In fact I think there is a lot that can be said about obesity here as being something that other countries do not have. Here, food seems to be an all day, all consuming affair. The average person does not have three meals a day, but continual grazing with periods of more serious eating.

It is ludicrous to think that people need to eat in their cars, eat at their desks, eat at movie theaters, eat on the go, eat, eat, eat.

We need to see more places where food is banned. Workplaces should ban food from all areas except cafeterias and only water should be allowed at desks (and nowhere near computers). If we can ban smoking why can't we ban food from just as many places.

Let's make meal times meal time. Let's not have working breakfasts, working lunches and pizza late night working sessions. Let's not schedule meetings at the lunch hours or dinner hours and I mean for everyone not offices. Let's not have tvs in the dining room and eating allowed in the tv room.

Let's try to put eating in its rightful place, necessary, but not the over-abundant, food wasting, status symbol it has become.

Remember, it is our health that is at stake and that of our next generation.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2008 at 2:48 pm

And, if you think my post above is over the top, remember this topic was started by someone calling themselves "Fed-Up" and they may have it just right.

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Posted by Fed up
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2008 at 6:42 pm

I don't drink, don't smoke, have never been overweight in my whole life, eat organic food, etc. etc. All this talk about food is, ahem, a big Red Herring.

I pay good money for insurance, supposedly good insurance. The company just never honors its contracts.

Not only does my insurance company not honor its contracts, it engages in tactics to wear and scare. I don't need this, nobody does. I also don't appreciate paying for the huge cost of care that their tactics add to our system - just the cost of administration alone adds hundreds of billions in waste annually (because they use the paperwork to delay and deny care for windfall profits). So not only am I stuck holding the bag, it's a much bigger bag than it would be if insurance companies didn't exist at all.

There is no value added here. Insurance company rackets are rackets. You're defense is like defending the mafia as "free enterprise". If you don't stop doing that, eventually there will be a real backlash against REAL free enterprise, and we WILL get the system you are afraid of.

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Posted by my hopes for change
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 13, 2008 at 11:19 am

Have you looked for another insurance plan?

Or do you have a pre-existing?

That would be a change I would vote for, all people being required to buy at least a minimal insurance plan, all insurance plans being legal in all states, and all insurances being required to accept a certain percent of clients with "preexisting" conditions.

Those three small changes would revolutionize our health care insurance system and put real choice back into our hands.

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Posted by Jarred
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 13, 2008 at 10:51 pm

Mike, I'm intrigued by your idea of squeezing all of the profit out of the health care system. Maybe we could apply it to all of our other industries too, since (in your view) profit and private enterprise are the root of all evil. I wonder if you recall anything about this novel plan having been tried in the 20th century, and what the results might have been?

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Posted by Fed up
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2008 at 11:52 pm

hopes for change,
I would only be for such a thing if the insurance companies were subjected to real incentives to deliver on their contracts, for example, if a patient chooses to leave for another company, there should be a significant financial cost to the company well beyond the loss of annual premiums, and gain to the new company who presumably would have to pay for a sick person's medical care. (People usually only understand a company's performance when they need delivery on the contract, i.e., they get sick.) Unfortunately, seeing such change through will be harder than just going to single payer and introducing market reforms from there. The corruption is now so entrenched, I fear that even the latter market reforms would be doomed.

Presently, there is no incentive for insurance companies to deliver well on their contracts, and most of their effort is in concocting schemes to avoid payment. The result of this can be seen in the extreme cost of healthcare administration and low outcome performance in our system relative to other 1st world countries.

Right now, I see these plans to require everyone to buy insurance as akin to requiring everyone to pay for mafia "protection" - requiring it means making those who are least able to afford it and least able to combat the mafia tactics to buy in like the rest of us chumps.

Oprah Winfrey (yes, Oprah) did a program on health care, on which she ran a letter from a former CEO of a hospital. He had to quit because of MS, and found himself in the same insurance nightmare that most people with chronic illnesses do. He said, "if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone." Trouble is, this is a lesson that is almost impossible to impart until people actually go through it themselves.

I think much of the problem is because too many people, like the poster above, do not see that grossly corrupt private enterprise is not the same as legitimate private enterprise. It's like saying any snub to bank robbers is a snub to all bankers and bank patrons. Sadly, these people are giving legitimate free enterprise a bad name by associating extreme corruption with it - the backlash is already apparent. I think it's not too late to head it off, but the time to change is yesterday.

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Posted by R Wray
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 14, 2008 at 10:12 am

--"just going to single payer and introducing market reforms from there"--
That's a contradiction-there's no market with single payer.
--"Presently, there is no incentive for insurance companies to deliver well on their contracts"--
Why is there no incentive? The answer is because of the government intervention. The insurance business is one of the most regulated businesses. It is subjected to endless government mandates, and controls have bred more controls.
The solution is to get the government meddling out of health insurance.

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Posted by Fed Up
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2008 at 11:38 am

Yea, get the police off the backs of the mafia, and things will be peachy. Sure, that'll work.

Actually, I'm being facetious, there really is no "police" of the insurance companies.

You're really funny, R Wray. Insurance companies are profitable beyond belief. Are you saying government intervention is just so good for insurance companies, they just can't help making all that money while failing to deliver on their contracts? (And I suppose "government" is to blame for the weeds in my yard and my hangnails and ,,, [fill in the blank])

Your argument that we wouldn't have a market with single payer isn't meaningful. We don't have a healthy functioning market now. I could discuss that point, but I suspect nothing I could bring up would get you out of your trench.

From where I'm sitting, and so many of us are sitting, insurance companies have a lot more unfettered control over our lives - on our time, finances, cost of health care, access to health care, privacy, etc. - far more than the government does in any area, even taxes. You rail against government because why? Because you fear from government exactly the cost to freedom and economic well-being exacted by insurance companies in our present system. They have become Big Brother, and you are still shaking your fist at a weak and eviscerated government. Who, by the way, isn't standing in the way of insurers being outrageously profitable.

I agree with you on one thing, though. More regulation of insurers won't solve the problem. We need to get rid of them altogether.

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Posted by R Wray
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 14, 2008 at 12:21 pm

Insurance companies have lobbied for many mandates and regulations in their favor. They would be the last ones to want a free market in insurance--they might have to compete and provide innovative products and better service. We certainly don't have a significant market now.
I rail against the government when it gets into areas violating individual rights. The government has the guns.

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Posted by Off Topic
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 14, 2008 at 10:34 pm

R Wray:
"The government has the guns."

Sadly, you're wrong - the gun nuts have the guns, thanks to the nutty NRA, who think you should be able to carry anywhere - colleges, national parks, malls - all in the name of "crime prevention", that some how if we all have one, no one will use one.

BTW - How many do you have, R? 2,3,4?

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Posted by Fed Up
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2008 at 12:34 am

R Wray,
I'm glad to see we have some common ground. I am with you on everything in your last post. You are right, insurance companies are the last ones to want a free market in insurance, but I've never so much as heard any proposals that would substantially put them in a position of competing to DELIVER the insurance coverage when it is needed.

If there were any legitimate efforts to bring real market reforms to insurance, I would be with you on that. I'm afraid REAL reforms - under the present racket stranglehold on our system - would be even more unlikely than single payer. At least single payer would break the rackets. I would only hope that people who value market forces would see it as that, as an intermediate step. If we don't, then there is more likely to be a revolution/strong backlash that sweeps in an inflexible system that everyone will hold onto because at least it's better than being shaken down by insurers (which will only get worse if we don't do something).

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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