The Elephant in the Hospital Room
Healthcare in the U.S.? Depending upon who’s doing the polling, some Americans are content under the current system; many others feel unfairly burdened by it. We’ve wasted a lot of time and taxpayer money trying to come up with a new U.S. healthcare system. Nothing much happened. And nothing much can happen, until we all acknowledge the elephant in the room.
What is the elephant? The boat-rocking idea that certain powerful, well-greased politicians don’t want to talk about: Converting the U.S. to a system of private, not-for-profit health insurance companies. Not "health insurance for non-profits", which is what you’re likely to find if you Google the phrase. We’re talking about insurance companies registered as non-profit corporations, with missions to serve their customers, not their Boards of Directors. Ever wonder how much of the ever-rising premium you and your employer pay Blue Cross, United or Humana goes to the salaries, bonuses and perks of those companies' top dogs? What percentage of your monthly payment helps fund the huge marketing, advertising, public relations and lobbying machines designed to grow their profits – which, by the way, are mandated to increase every year in typical for-profit enterprises?
You might well suppose that if dot-org health insurance even exists, it must be in some socialist state. You’d be in for a surprise. Private sector, not-for-profit health insurance is found in democratic, super-capitalist countries like Japan and Switzerland, with a demanding citizenry very similar to the U.S. These are places where people expect their high tech, top-of-the-line healthcare immediately, not in 3 months. They do not accept gatekeepers or restrictions on choice of doctors. These countries have lower infant mortality rates than the U.S., longer life expectancies and spend less on healthcare than we do. Why? In large part because, the profit motive has been removed from health insurance providers, keeping consumer costs low.
Among capitalist First World nations, the U.S. stands alone in allowing insurance providers to earn profit on basic healthcare plans. So how long can our politicians ignore the elephant? For as long as the insurance companies want them to.