05 April 2006


According to Democracy Now!, everyone in Massachusetts will be required to purchase health insurance. The idiots in the blogosphere have praised this as "better than socialism," or denounced it as government meddling, but I have a better name for it: subsidy for the insurance industry.

The whole idea of "insurance" is a scam. The idea of a single payer health insurance program receives its positive press due to the fact that you have one agency, the government, covering all health insurance costs, so there's no need to pay for an expensive insurance industry. If you really look at a standard denunciation of the US medical system, it's that
The U.S. spends by far the most money on health care of any country in the world, about 14f gross domestic product. The next closest country spends just over 10 percent. Not only do Americans allocate a larger percentage of GDP to health care, they spend more in absolute dollars. Americans pay $4,637 on average for health coverage while Canadians, the fourth biggest spenders, shell out $2,200 (US).
Why? Why is US health care more expensive?
This is good for segments of the economy. Pharmaceutical companies are making big bucks, U.S. doctors are some of the highest paid, fancy new technologies are being sold that purportedly do miraculous things, the hospitals are getting their cut and the insurance companies keep raising their costs, so surely all is swell.
So that's what you're paying for. Is it worth it?
Not really. According to the N.Y Times there are "60 million uninsured during a year (May 13)"

Don't despair, however, since according to the Financial Times at least "the system is world-class (May 24)" for those with employer paid insurance. But is it?

American life expectancy is only the 17th highest in the world. More importantly a World Health Organization study that counted years of good health showed that the U.S. ranked even lower by that measure. "The United States rated 24th under the system, or an average of 70.0 years of healthy life for babies born in 1999." Christopher Murray, a director from WHO summarized the findings; "Basically, you die earlier and spend more time disabled if you're an American rather than a member of most other advanced countries."
And a lot of this "health insurance" is really only catastrophic health insurance, leaving regular preventative care to the discretionary spending of the "insured."

To sum up: people buy health insurance, making their payments month after month, without seeing anything in return. The healthy thus pay for the sick, and not in accordance with any grand scheme that takes money from them according to their ability to pay, but rather according to insurance formulas. And they're not just paying for the sick; they're paying for the HMO bureaucracy, the pharmaceutical industry, and so on. Don't kid yourselves about Massachusetts; that's still going to happen there. The difference with Massachusetts is that there it's just going to be mandatory for everyone to pay, and so those who wish to avoid paying for the medically-rich will no longer have the option of doing so.

Don't be surprised if they underfund the program, too. Hopefully nobody will be penalized simply because Massachusetts can't afford their health insurance.


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