George Graham

Billions Are at Stake in America’s Health Care War

lobbyistWhen one side spends $1.4 million a day to win a war, it stands to reason that the booty at stake must be really worth fighting for. And that’s how much the health care industry is currently spending on lobbying to block meaningful reform of America’s health insurance system. The industry is so desperate that health care providers have offered to give up $155 billion of their revenue. The question is: in exchange for what?

My guess is that it is in exchange for Congress abandoning proposals for a government-run health care program that would compete with private insurance providers. A lot of people are making a lot of money by exploiting the sick and the dying in America, and they aren’t about to give that up without a hell of a fight. They are prepared to say or do anything to stop the so-called “government option” from being implemented.

I won’t go over the various arguments pro and con. The fact that the industry is so scared of a government-run program speaks for itself. Obviously, the private insurers think they are going to lose lots of money if such a plan is implemented. So where do you think that money would go? Sure, with a government option, some of it might be frittered away in bureaucratic incompetence; but that’s happening now – in spades!

Here’s an example:

Under Medicare, I am eligible for subsidized diabetic testing supplies. But the government doesn’t just buy the supplies in bulk, saving huge sums of money, and ship it out to us diabetics. That would be too simple. Instead, private companies send us the supplies and bill Medicare – or our insurance companies, which in turn are subsidized by Medicare. When I belonged to a program called Evercare, I got the supplies from a company called Edgepark Medical Supplies, and I used to get copies of the bills they sent Evercare. These bills were always in the hundreds of dollars. I wondered how a few test strips could be so expensive, but if that’s the way it worked…

I found out that an insurance program called Quality Health Plans (Silver) offered much lower co-payments for my prescriptions than Evercare, and I switched to that program at the beginning of this year.  It turned out that QHP wasn’t about to pay the hundreds of dollars charged by companies like Edgepark. Instead, I was directed to go to my neighborhood pharmacy, pick up a cheap blood glucose monitor and buy the strips there. I found that CVS offered True Track monitors free of charge. I guess they figured on making their money through selling the strips. The bottom line was that I had to pay $10 for the monitor and a month’s supply of strips. QHP only had to pay a few dollars – not hundreds. So how could Evercare afford to pay out so much money? And why did Edgepark charge so much? And how much tax money is being wasted on the diabetic supplies boondoggle in America?

The existing system is so convoluted that billions are falling through the cracks, impossible to keep track of. There’s Medicare and Medicaid, veterans’ programs and prescription plans, all with layers of bureaucracy that boggle the mind. Then there are the employers’ programs and various charities, good and bad.

Most Americans seem unaware (or uncaring) about the way in which charities operate. Charitable contributions are tax exempt, which means at least some of the money that charities get would have gone to the government in taxes. When I was a newspaper editor, I tried repeatedly to expose the salaries and perks that executives receive at charities. But the assigned reporters consistently hit a stone wall. However, you can guess at what’s going on by thinking back to some of the scandals at institutions like the Red Cross (www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/07/29/eveningnews/main516700.shtml).

Obviously, the current system is a web of corruption, intrigue, incompetence and waste. Why do you think the United States spends more money on health care than any other country, yet nearly 50 million Americans must go without health insurance? Why do you think General Motors spends more on health care than on steel and Starbucks spends more on health care than on coffee? Why do you think medical-related debts are the number one reason for personal bankruptcy in America?

With millions of dollars to gain, you can be sure that a lot of Washington politicians – Democrats as well as Republicans –  will line up on the side of the health care profiteers. But surely American voters will realize they’re being betrayed. They won’t let Congress get away with a sell-out this time. I am confident they will support President Obama when he finally tires of the “bipartisan” charade and says, “Enough!”

About the author

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com