I was at the Tennessee Tea Party rally last Friday (story to come in this Thursday's Scene) and I heard speaker Bernadette Ash voice the most laughable appraisal of our health care system. Bernadette is a sort of minor figurehead -- a common man lay person without much to add to any debate, much like the Plumber -- trotted out in front of Teabaggers as proof-positive of a flawless health care system.
Her daughter was born incredibly premature, survived and apparently is evidence of a, and I quote, "perfect" health care system. How our ability to treat severe medical issues relates to the population's overall ability to access quality health care is beyond me. But the Teabaggers deal in obfuscation and misdirection. Let's look at a few facts, according to a video created by doctors who advocate a single-payer system.
- 46 million uninsured Americans
- Cost of health care is the second leading cause of personal bankruptcy.
- Average family premium is more than the yearly wage for a full-time minimum-wage worker.
- National average is $7,000 per person, per year in health care costs.(In Nashville that number is more than $8,000)
- Our overall quality of health is somewhere on par with Cuba.
How can anyone say with a straight face that our health care system isn't in need of a complete overhaul?
Profit-driven models: Hospitals push doctors to administer expensive testing when it's not absolutely necessary. Doctors are also pressured to do this because of tort liability.
Expensive drugs: Drug companies claim price controls would deter research and development. That is a lie. Unlike Joe Wilson's claim, it actually is. The top five drug companies made $222 billion in 2005. Only $32 billion was spent on research and development. More than $70 billion was spent on marketing and administration.
Care shortage: The profit-driven business model in health care has
changed priorities. Specialists like neurosurgeons are paid a king's
ransom. The front line in prevention, the family practitioner, makes a
quarter of what these guys make. Instead of rewarding the family doctor
for preventing illness on the front end, we're rewarding specialists on
the back end for performing bypasses and inserting stints.
costs: One of the biggest contributors to the obscene cost of health
care is private insurance and administration (those who deal with the
mountains of paperwork created by all the different insurance
providers). It is suggested that by going to a single-payer system, 25
percent in insurance and administrative costs would be eliminated.
The video poses an interesting question, and I'm not sure what the answer is: What does our health care system say about our society?
We've long prided ourselves for our individualism. Our economy is based
on the ascendancy of the individual. Hard work pays dividends
(sometimes). But can we apply that model to health care? Are we really
a society that isn't concerned at all with the community? Of course the
Teabaggers would find a similar root word in communism. But are we a nation only of self-interested individuals?