Can Socialized Healthcare Work in the U.S.?

014To begin with:  According to a publication entitled  “Household Income: 2013”, a publication of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. CENSUS BUREAU, census.gov :  “…the 2013 U.S. median household income was $52,250.”  

Let’s continue by taking a look at real figures connected with medical/health expenses;  below are the figures, according to “FierceHealthPayer”, for the annual compensation for just three health insurance CEO’s for 2014:

Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini: $15 million
Bertolini’s 2014 base salary was $996,169, according to Aetna’s SEC filing. He also earned nearly $1.7 million in non-equity incentive plan compensation, nearly $400,000 in other compensation and close to $12 million in stock and option awards. Bertolini earned more than twice as much in 2013–$30.7 million–thanks to nearly $28 million in stocks and options…

Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish: $13.5 million
Swedish received a base salary of $1.25 million in 2014, according to Anthem’s SEC filing. In addition, he earned more than $2.1 million in non-equity incentive plan compensation, about $140,000 in other compensation and $10 million in stock and option awards. Swedish earned nearly $17 million in 2013…

Cigna CEO David Cordani: $14.5 milion
The Cigna SEC filing indicated that Cordani received a base salary of $1.125 million in 2014, along with $1.9 million in non-equity incentive plan compensation, about $240,000 in other compensation and $11 million in stock and option awards. This compares to $12.9 million in 2012 and $13.5 million in 2013…”

To see more on health insurance CEO compensation, go to:   

http://www.fiercehealthpayer.com/story/top-health-insurance-ceo-pay-exceeds-10-million-2014/2015-04-10

Even on a much smaller level the salaries are astronomical relative to those of the vast majority of the population.  In Washington State for instance, According to the Washington State Office of Financial Management the median household income in the state for 2013 was estimated at $57,554.

In comparison;  “In 2012, the 10 highest-paid hospital and health system CEOs, presidents and administrators in Washington state received roughly $18.9 million in cumulative compensation.”  Source:

http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/compensation-issues/10-highest-paid-hospital-and-health-system-ceos-in-washington.html  

And these extremely exorbitant salaries, which come from extremely exorbitant charges and fees by the relative companies, are not uncommon in other medical/health related companies.  For Instance, according to “FiercePharma” the top paid pharmaceutical company CEO for 2012’s pay was: 41.97 million.  Source:  

http://www.fiercepharma.com/special-reports/top-20-highest-paid-biopharma-ceos

According to “FierceMedicalDevices”, the salary for the top paid Medical Device Industry CEO for 2011 was 26.7 million.  Source:

http://www.fiercemedicaldevices.com/special-reports/top-10-medical-devices-ceo-salaries-2011/top-10-medical-devices-ceo-salaries-2011

I think you’re getting the point.  If you can find the word “medical” or “health” in a company’s name or if their product falls into a “medical” or “health” related category, you may well find their CEO’s salary is many times above the median, even for household income.

However, to get an even clearer picture of the dynamics in play here are a couple other related facts.

The leading cause of personal bankruptcies in the United States is unpaid medical bills.  Source:

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/health/2014/03/26/medical-bankruptcy/

In an article published on 9/19/2013, it is reported on Credit.com that “…75% of people who filed for bankruptcy because of medical debts had health insurance.”  Source:

https://www.credit.com/debt/medical-bill-nightmares/

The picture that these figures paint for most of us is a nightmarish one.  For one thing medical care is something that none of us want to go without.  We are especially vulnerable when we are seeking medical care for ourselves or someone we love for a life-threatening illness or after an injury.  We can seek medical care or…we can go live a life possibly disabled or deformed, or we can simply die.  The latter is the unspoken (usually if not always) threat that provides the leverage for medical insurance companies, hospitals and other providers/suppliers to charge, literally, extortionate prices.

Way too many of our healthcare dollars are being siphoned off for “profit” rather than serving to provide healthcare.  It is a sad truth that the exorbitant profiteering that is going on around most anything “medical” can and does result in medical bills that are so oppressive that in the big picture their negative effect can easily outweigh and may obliterate any good done by the services or products purchased.   

So how can socialized healthcare help this situation?

Single-payer healthcare would give us, the consumer, via our government a strong, commanding seat at the administrative table and any related bargaining tables when it comes to medical, healthcare and related prices. It would do away with the private, for profit medical insurance companies.   Of course a lot depends upon the motives and honesty of those who ultimately occupy the positions of management within the system.   Corruption can rear it’s ugly head within any type of system. There is still public awareness and policing needed.  In our current system merely relying upon human compassion or people within the insurance, medical/healthcare industries acting upon the “Golden Rule” hasn’t been working so well.  Within a single-payer system, having a public agency responsible for negotiating and enforcing prices, the public’s job of oversight would be much easier than the confusing, convoluted, apparently unrestrained situation we have now.

This is not to say that all the people who work within the medical/healthcare industries are greedy, heartless, monsters (I’m not so sure about the health insurance industry).  There are many, many sincere, dedicated doctors, nurses, and other providers who themselves aren’t happy with the current situation.  To get to the causes of the problem we have to look to the capitalist system that is currently in place around healthcare.  Years ago we threw open the doors of our health insurance systems and hospitals to profiteers.  A result of that action is that more of our health care dollars are going to into the pockets of administrators, investors, and other individuals not involved with the actual provision of healthcare.

So does all this mean we would expect doctors and other trained, educated providers/related workers to work for minimum wage?  No.  Go to this website and take a look at physicians’ salaries worldwide in 2009:  

https://www.credit.com/debt/medical-bill-nightmares/  

Can and does socialized healthcare work?  Can and does socialized healthcare provide quality care?  Yes.  I can state that with assurance because I’ve seen it first hand.  I have seen cases of real people, real situations in a country with socialized medicine in which the outcomes were much more positive for the consumers involved than they would have been in the U.S.  One situation I’ve witnessed is of a husband and wife who were both totally disabled by what was diagnosed as Alzheimer’s.   Both ultimately needed years of 24 hr. institutional care, and they did not lose their home to medical/healthcare related expenses.  Nor did they have to worry about losing their needed care due to an inability to keep up insurance payments.  Imagine cancer patients, Alzheimer’s patients not having to worry about medical expenses.

The money to support socialized healthcare is usually collected through taxation.  Would our taxes go up?  Yes.  But we would no longer have health insurance premiums to worry about.  Considering the exorbitantly high medical insurance costs we’ve been paying in the U.S., the tax increase may well be, actually should be, a savings by comparison.  If the tax increase is more than, or even the same as, the current level of medical insurance premiums then we can know we’re being overcharged somewhere.  And we will have a system in place to address that grievance.

Socialized medicine would provide a strong consumer union for us to influence medical costs.  I saw a picture recently of what appeared to be a union worker holding a sign that read:  “With a union we bargain, without a union we beg.”  That is the truth of it.

Follow-up:

In the past 24 hours, in the area I live in, an elderly man took his Alzheimer’s stricken wife’s life then took his own.    I happen to know that this couple was impoverished from medical and care costs.  In many (most?) situations like this the caretaker dies first due to the stresses of caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s/dementia.

Compare this reality to the one above about the couple who lived in a country with socialized medicine.  The current system of medical insurance in the U.S. is barbaric.  It is not motivated by any desire to see people receive medical care when needed.  It is not motivated by a desire to protect the material well-being of the average citizen.  It is motivated by levels of avarice that are absolutely obscene.  And when people take huge amounts of the money others are striving to offer up to provide medical care for themselves and their loved ones, at the same time denying needed medical care and other greatly needed services to the people they’re feeding off of, well, that requires an insensitivity that begs the question of whether or not those in taking that money are human.

So, can socialized healthcare work in the U.S.?  Of course it can.  But only if we, as a people, get tired enough of having our healthcare dollars ripped off by greedy, politically connected manipulators.  The future is ours to create and we can create one with health care for all…if we want.

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