In all the health care reform talk, I keep hearing claims about the horrors of universal health care that are just flat not true. I’ve lived in a country with universal health care, and the claims made by politicians and TV bobble-heads that patients have to go through some “government bureaucrat” to get treatment are ludicrous. Even if they were true, “government bureaucrats” couldn’t make decisions more draconian than the employees of insurance companies do now. I know about that, too. When my leg was broken in an accident, my insurance company denied coverage for subsequent surgery on the grounds that the broken leg was a “pre-existing condition.” They argued that because I’d had polio thirty years earlier, the broken leg was just an outcome of polio.
If our health care system was better than those of countries with universal health care, I would sympathize with fears that it would cost too much or result in poorer health for Americans. But the fact is that the United States pays almost twice as much per person for health care than any other first-class nation, but in quality of care we rank with third-world countries. As many babies die here as in Venezuela, for example, and we lead the world in heart disease and cancer.
In 2008, the heads of three major U.S. insurance companies earned $11.4 million, $17.4 million, and $29.7 million. Think of that: one person running an insurance company made nearly $30 million dollars in one year. To be paid that much money for one year’s work, his company had to have made many more times that in profits. No company makes that much profit by trying to help sick people get well, and the companies are desperate to hold on to their profits and inflated salaries. It’s worth it to them to make large contributions to politicians who will vote against what is an extremely modest health care reform bill. They’ll also pay big bucks to TV and radio bobble-heads to rant and rave and scare people into thinking there’s something sinister about providing health care to everybody.
Bottom line is that members of Congress already have universal health care, and they’ll have it even if they deny it to the rest of us. They know perfectly well we would pay half as much for it and get better health care. Their real fear is that insurance companies would quit paying them for their votes.