You can make a lot of money off sick people

W.J. Astore

America’s true national health care plan

When I was teaching college in Pennsylvania, I had a colleague whose car sported a telling bumper sticker: “Our national health care plan: Don’t get sick.” As true as that is, I think America’s real health care plan can be summed up by a corporate motto of my own coining: You can make a lot of money off sick people.

This came to mind today as my wife returned from a routine medical appointment. She overheard a lady complaining to a clerk that she didn’t understand her health insurance and why her latest procedure hadn’t been covered. Meanwhile, my wife noticed a sign about Medicare at the office, something about a new requirement that medical professionals were apologizing for in advance. And so it goes in the land of the free …

If you’re an American and 100% pleased with your medical care, you are a rare bird indeed. It’s an incredibly complex “system” with its own logic driven by the need to make money, whether off drugs or surgical procedures or whatever. I’ve talked to doctors and they tell me they’re typically allotted fifteen minutes per patient. They have to see a certain number of patients per hour, creating billable actions in the computer tablets they increasingly carry around with them, to fulfill quotas and to stay in business.

A heart specialist I was seeing, a truly sympathetic and knowledgable doctor, got fed up with all the emphasis on billing and money and took another position at a different hospital where he could do more research. At his practice, I noted new computer monitors in the examination rooms featuring videos that advertised drugs to lower cholesterol, improve blood pressure, and the like, along with pamphlets featuring shiny happy people taking various drugs related to heart and blood care. Honestly, I felt good for my doctor that he was going to a better job for him even as I felt bad for all his patients, myself included.

A big reason I supported Bernie Sanders was his seemingly empathetic and principled call for affordable health care for all, some kind of national plan that would deemphasize the profit motive, ending the tragic reality that some Americans have to choose between their own health and bankruptcy. Naturally, the Democratic Party, in league with big Pharma, health insurers (they should be called health deniers for their business model that seeks to deny claims whenever possible), and other corporate forces, threw their considerable financial support behind corporate tools like Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.

He promised a public option. I guess he forgot about it.

Speaking of Biden, he of course promised a public (government) option on the campaign trail, only to renege on that promise once he became president. Biden, a tired corporate hack, will never go to bat for affordable health care, which is no endorsement of his Republican opponents. Their “plan” consists of encouraging bake sales and go-fund-me appeals along with vague hints of Scrooge-like notions: If you can’t afford your health care, you had best die to decrease the surplus population.

Are there no prisons, no workhouses?

The health of our society, in a sense, is the aggregate of the health of 333 million of us. Americans are increasingly sick, obese, depressed, tense, even suicidal. And it seems the first question some “providers” ask here is: How can I make money off this?

P.S. I kid you not. I just got an email from Amazon saying that “Your new pharmacy is here.” I feel happier and healthier already!

4 thoughts on “You can make a lot of money off sick people

  1. It’s telling that pretty much every story I read about something bad happening to someone includes a mention of a GoFundMe page. So many people in this ‘rich’ nation are one trip to the hospital away from bankruptcy. There’s always another couple billion for the war department, but never for the people that actually need it. Heaven for bid we have that there socialized medicine. That’s just commie stuff.

    Capitalism is great at one thing, milking the cattle for every dime they are worth. While they haven’t quite figured out how to make us pay for the conception part (the old fashion way that is), pretty much every moment of our lives afterwards is making someone money. Even the old are stuffed into retirement homes where they are kept alive for as long as possible to get those checks. No dying with dignity for you! And speaking of death, well, there is a whole industry for that too. I particularly love the invites from the local funeral home that promise a free spaghetti dinner while I learn about all the great options they offer to get just a little more cash out of my corpse.

    Biden, a man of the people right there. Yep, Senator MBNA:

    https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2019/11/biden-bankruptcy-president/

    “Bankruptcy cases made huge gobs of money for Delaware’s legal industry. When reformers introduced language that would force companies to file for bankruptcy in the states where they were actually based—a clause dubbed “the Delaware killer”—Biden used his leverage to defeat it. Ultimately, Biden ended up securing funding for four more bankruptcy judges in Delaware.

    Over time, Biden’s exertions on the bankruptcy bill began to shape his national reputation. “His energetic work on behalf of the credit card companies has earned him the affection of the banking industry and protected him from any well-funded challengers for his Senate seat,” Warren wrote in the Harvard Women’s Law Journal. “This important part of Senator Biden’s legislative work also appears to be missing from his Web site and publicity releases.”

    He is a corporatist through and through. Always has been.

    God money’s not looking for the cure
    God money’s not concerned about the sick among the pure
    God money, let’s go dancing on the backs of the bruised
    God money’s not one to choose

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  2. The single most important question that needs to be asked and answered by proponents of a national, universal health care system in America is: “Who is going to pay for it, and how?”

    Paying for such a system will require either: 1] an increase in federal taxes; or 2] a decrease in federal spending in some area outside of health care; or 3] some combination of both. A fourth alternative is to not worry about who is going to pay for it and how, and simply pile the new expenditures on to America’s current $31.8 trillion national, sovereign Debt, and its $187.6 trillion in Unfunded Liabilities [Social Security, Medicare Parts A, B, and D, Federal Debt held by the Public, and Federal Employee and Veterans Benefits]. Source: https://usdebtclock.org/ .

    An obvious candidate for a reduction in spending as a way to pay for universal health care is, of course, America’s national “defense” and “surveillance/security/safety” budgets. What does anybody reading this figure that the odds are of that happening any time soon, what with Cold War II getting hotter every day?

    If sufficient federal program budgets aren’t cut, then which individuals, families, organizations, and institutions will have to pay increased taxes to make up the shortfall, so as to keep the Debt and Unfunded Liabilities from increasing even more than they already are?

    These are the sort of questions that our “leaders” ~ the elected politicians, entrenched bureaucrats, and anointed appointees ~ do not like to be asked, let alone be required to answer. But at some point, they will be asked because they must be; even if none of those folks have an answer.

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    1. I would shift what I fork out each paycheck to the for-profit system (and the high deductible) to taxes that pay for universal healthcare. That aside, I think there is potential for a lot of savings if the costs are standardized. It’s stupid that I have to call around looking for in-network doctors and who has the cheaper cost for a given service. Such a waste.

      And yes, we need to shift the federal budget away from MIC welfare to spending our tax dollars on us. It’s part of a larger set of reforms that need to happen if this country is to survive.

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  3. It is truly terrible. It works when you are healthy. One interesting thing that I noticed when my husband got ill was that the doctors billing company at the ER would send us thousands of dollars in bills, knowing fully well that we had an HMO and that surprise billing is now a thing of the past, it’s regulated and illegal. I had to call about each bill while I watched my husband decline and die, such unnecessary burden on us. I think they do come across folks who don’t know their rights and double bill each patient ( they are supposed to bill the clinics directly, which then bills the insurance) just in case someone will fall for it.

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