Compare and Contrast; Single-Payer edition

Your humble WordPress denizen here. I’m slowing my output lately. Call it mental exhaustion, mostly. Plus some minor physical infirmity as the years pile on along with mounting doubts about the here and now. Not that I’m staring into any void. Well, maybe there is a sense of that. I try to distract myself with low, medium and an occasional high culture shiny object. That’s for the mental therapy. Physically, I’m still active for an aging Boomer, having played a lot of tennis this spring and summer season, and peddling the Trek as much as weather permitted, at times peddling more miles to get to a bike trail than miles spent on that trail itself in some cases. I’m not saying I do 40-50 miles on a whim, but I do more than lolligag along atop my 27 speed two-wheeler. 20-25 miles, maybe. An occasional 30-miler. No sweat. And it frees my mind. Endorphins, eh?

Right now, it’s not exactly tennis or bike weather in the Chicago area, but if creeping climate collapse turns a Midwest winter into a medium-to-light weight jacket needed at most situation, yours truly will at least get some benefit out of the inexorable descent into the environmental apocalypse seemingly foretold by those who study it closely. Give me 50s and sun and it’s off to the courts or the trails occasionally. Make the best of the rest of what’s left…

To keep healthy enough to bike on and on and rush the net now and then, I depend on a fairly healthy diet and, as every-so-often needed, my health care provider. You may be wondering, do I mean Aetna, United Health Group, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Humana or Cigna? No, none of those or their lessor competitors. Keep guessing. Give up? Okay it’s the Department of Veterans Affairs. One can qualify for this healthcare provider if he or she has served in our military, and received an honorable discharge. Having served our country during the Vietnam era, and after six years of service (2 active, 4 reserve) I got that honorable discharge. Thus, I qualified for the V.A. program. I am fortunate to not have any significant service-related disabilities, but our bodies (as alluded to above) are designed to fall apart one way or another. Kinda like any new car you might buy, it was created to ultimately go the the junkyard. BMW. Benz? Audi. Rolls Royce. No matter. Built-in obsolescence, as that saying goes. We humans don’t have, a la The Terminator, a hyper-alloy combat chassis. But I think you can order one from Amazon…

Now you might be wondering, where the hell is this going? Do I have a point to make? Well, yes I do.

The 2020 campaign for President and others who may write and pass legislation to address the needs of we the people is less than a year away. I consider it the most important national election in my lifetime, hands down. One of the hot campaign issues is healthcare. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren both are insisting that a so-called single-payer healthcare plan (a.k.a “Medicare for All’) is the way to go. Of course, most of the current office holders of either Donkey and especially the Elephant affiliation have either snickered at, or flat-out denounced this single-payer format as financially unfeasible, impossible or at best an idea that needs much compromising. As in let’s make healthcare more affordable, sure, but let’s not take away the insurance providers who the vast majority of those with healthcare coverage are beholden to. Such as those companies noted above.

You may have heard that–factually–single-payer healthcare is in place in most–if not all–other industrialized, modern economies around the world. Here, where capitalism is king, the insurance companies essentially get to make money–tons and tons of it–off our built-to-eventually-break- down chassis, beseiged by any number of diminishments.

As a temporary antedote to this unavoidable endgame we have medical science. From a really bad cold to cancer, modern medicine can help, short or long term. Of course, one can depend on a strong immune system and embrace the notion that either the body heals itself or the body dies, but maybe a trip to the doctor would be more practical. With caveat emptor in both cases, to be sure.

I recently underwent a colonoscopy. At the Veteran’s hospital. Ugh! Nasty experience. But it is a procedure meant to screen for colon cancer. I looked up the average cost of a colonoscopy in the context of our for-profit system: $3,081. Sure that cost can be mitigated by having that insurance policy. However, an insurance policy has a monthly premium, sometime hundreds of dollars a month. Plus a deductible. And a co-pay. So, maybe a really good insurance policy will let the colonoscopy patient settle the bill for $500 out-of-pocket, maybe even much less, after the numbers are crunched. But that monthly premium isn’t going anywhere. It represents the “skim” in this sinister system that allows some insurance company CEOs to haul down millions of dollars in compensation. Each year. Tens of millions in the case of United Healthcare, whose CEO, with bonus and stock options “earned” over $21 million last year.

A true single payer plan, which is what the V.A. healthcare format is, has no “middle man” skimming money from those using its services. No monthly premiums. No deductibles. There is a co-pay, based on service-related health issues and/or income levels. Thus, some vets get totally cost free care while others, like myself, have a calculated co-pay. That colonoscopy procedure that averages over 3K cost me $74. The V.A., unlike private healthcare providers, is permitted to negotiate drug prices, too. Recall the Epi-pen (for those who may have a severe allergic reaction) outrage not long ago when one drug company arbitrarily jacked up the price for a 2-pen pack from about $100 to $600? I get Epi’s from the V.A. for $16 a set.

Sure there are far fewer vets than in the general population, but so what? Liz and Bernie argue that whatever the cost to our government to provide such a single- payer system would be financed by–finally!– taxing mega corporations and bizillionares their fare share, along with the significant savings accrued by not having bloated insurance companies and their minions of paper-pushing drones keeping track of that skim, and all the billing layers, or in some cases, finding ways of denying coverage for pricey procedures or long-term care (the outrageous “pre-existing condition” loop hole). The government (as in the V.A. system) would negotiate for cheaper drug prices, a huge factor in many people’s lives. Life and death in some cases. Pay for vitally needed meds or skip dinners. Insurance companies exist to make profits, first and foremost. They are not interested in anyone’s health. It’s an expensive, immoral, and at times deadly charade. If someone can afford top-tier insurance, then they don’t feel the pinch that millions of others, with bargain-basement, lesser policies, do.

You can be sure the naysayers against any single payer plan will rant about socialized healthcare!! Plus the cost (a false dilemma, as just presented) and how most Americans want to keep their insurance policies. Really? Okay, let them (those with the $ to afford to get sick, even really sick) keep enriching those CEOs. Others, listening to the naysayers who prefer the current for-profit system now and forever, get to file bankruptcy as a side effect of their diagnosis. Also, our mainstream corporate media will gladly assist in the demonization of a system that works in those other countries that guarantee healthcare for every one of their citizens, from cradle to grave (or urn). Fear appeals, the go-to that tends to lull lazy Americans into really bad, awful, absurd, dangerously stupid choices.

Given what happened in 2016, I’d say there’s not a likelihood of enough voters thinking past the propaganda and programmed pessimism that is part and parcel our profit-mongering, PAC-driven model of governance. And that applies to many other issues, from the environment, to education, to immigration and other issues-at-large.

I hope I’m being too pessimistic. But my eyes are wide open–for better or worse.

If 2020 results in more of the same political dysfunction–now bordering on outright tin pot dictatorial bluster, autocracy and insipient fascistic characteristics, then I can always get emotional support by getting psychiatric care, at the V.A. For a mere pittance. Single-payer style.

That is, if the VA isn’t privatized, as many of the Wall Street, marinated-in- corporate-donations office holders want so greedily, likely wet-dreaming its implementation. Along with Medicare, and social security, making it a ménage-a-trois wet dream. But we get the government we ask for. Look around.

Thus in 2020, dystopia or deliverance awaits. Eyes wide shut or…

… Where’s my very low cost, single-payer provided benzodiazepines?

About jharrin4

mass communication/speech instructor at College of DuPage and Triton College in suburban Chicago. Army veteran of the Viet Nam era.
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2 Responses to Compare and Contrast; Single-Payer edition

  1. “Insurance companies exist to make profits, first and foremost.”
    CEOs took home nearly 11% more money on average every year since 2010 — far outstripping the wage growth of nearly all Americans. But the analysis also reveals that the pay packages for the country’s influential health care executives don’t give them incentives to control health care spending.
    UnitedHealth’s Stephen Hemsley, meanwhile, earned $17.8 million in 2016, a jump up from the $14.5 million he was paid the year prior. The lowest compensated executive in the group was WellCare’s Ken Burdick, who collected $9.3 million last year, compared to $7.8 million in 2015.

    GOP politicians have started to attack Warren over her Medicare for All plan. [Looks like McConnell can lie just as easily as the Orange Swamp Monster, whom he worships.]

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor Tuesday that Warren’s proposal was “breathtaking.”“In order to take away employer-sponsored insurance from 180 million Americans, Democrats want to kill American jobs and bring the economy to a screeching halt.”


  2. Single payer or bust. The climate, healthcare, everything in fact hangs in the balance as the 2020 election approaches. Would that the prescriptive “Go West young man” still applied, but there are no new frontiers, because there is no Planet B.

    Liked by 1 person

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