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From Disaster to Chaos to Savage

Gadfly | April 15th, 2023

By Ed Raymond

Why Do Hospitals Charge $1,000 to $3,800 for CT Scans? Only the Shadow Knows!

When I typed this headline about healthcare costs, I thought of the old radio program “Shadow,” which kept us spellbound as we milked cows. The introductory lines got our immediate attention: “Who knows what lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” The conclusion of the 325 radio suspense programs ended with this truth: “The weed of crime bears bitter fruit! Crime does not pay….The Shadow knows!”

It’s too bad the guys who screw victims through health insurance, medical bill padding, charge lists, and thievery do not have to face Lamont Cranston, the hero who played the Shadow. He used a normal voice when not detecting crime, but when closing on a criminal, his voice became sinister with a powerful quality. He then would become invisible to miscreants.

We desperately need the Shadow to clean up the horrible mess of medical billing which results in 100 million Americans owing thousands for medical care. They end up dying early. More than 500,000 Americans file bankruptcy every year because of medical bills.

Eighty years ago President Harry Truman tried to pass a universal care health bill similar to England’s National Health Service, a universal care model. Even conservative Prime Minister Winston Churchill believed the English people required it after surviving World War II.

But Truman faced the Republican Party, which believed healthcare is a privilege, not a right. Soon we had Reagan’s knights yelling “Socialized Medicine!” from the decks of their skyscraper mansions and Big Sky vacation homes.

Noam Chomsky Has Come Up with a New Term for Our Form of Disaster Capitalism

Recently our 94-year-old Philosopher-King Noam Chomsky has named our form of capitalism “savage” because of the way the owners of Congress and the Oval Office treat our poor and what is left of the middle-class.

Chomsky came up with the new name of “Savage Capitalism” from the Trump type called “Chaos Capitalism” and from the previous George W. Bush capitalism often described as “Disaster.”

Economists called Bush’s capitalism a disaster for the poor and middle-class because Wall Street bankers created subprime mortgages and then sold them out the bank’s back door to investors, who then foreclosed on eight million Americans and created a recession that in one month lost 800,000 jobs. No banker went to jail for fraud.

Then we had chaos capitalism created by the Know-Nothing Donald Trump and his congressional minions who gave the wealthy a huge tax cut that created more millionaires, billionaires – and paupers.

Chomsky is calling our latest capitalism “savage” because he believes global warming is irreversible. His conclusion – and he is not often wrong: “It’s often said that the rich countries have created the disaster, chaos and savagery, and the poor countries are its victims, but it’s actually a little more nuanced than that. It’s the rich in the rich countries who have created the disaster and everyone else, including the poor in the rich countries face the problem.”

We Are Going to Have a Chaotic Savage Healthcare Disaster in 2023

In 2020, the government declared two emergencies because of COVID-19, a national emergency and a public health emergency. It waived or modified requirements in Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs (CHIP), and in private health insurance.

If you think losing a million Americans to COVID-19 while leading the industrialized world in the rate of COVID-19 deaths was chaotic, wait until we get through the next decade.

Because of the end of these special measures and no attempt by Congress to keep them in force longer, this is going to happen:

(1) Between five and 14 million will lose Medicaid coverage,

(2) Thirty million are uninsured and 50 million are underinsured, and

(3) The number of medical bankruptcies will exceed 500,000 a year because medical costs have gone up about 15% in two years.

As a country we spend $4 trillion a year on healthcare or close to 20% of the Gross National Product (GNP). The average American spends more than $12,500 on healthcare while the citizens of many countries with universal care spend about half that. As examples, Germany, which technically has had universal care since Bismarck, spends $7,382 per citizen, France spends $5,468, and Canada $5,905.

The Divided States of America, in all healthcare aspects, is consistently ranked at the bottom of the 37 countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). That’s a big “ouch.”

We average 68,000 deaths a year because so many citizens are uninsured or underinsured. It’s been estimated that 330,000 citizens died during the pandemic because they didn’t go to a doctor in time. That’s “savage.”

Our healthcare system does not serve the public. It serves the hospital chains, the medical insurance companies, the drug companies, and some doctor associations that pay millions to lobbyists (some say one lobbyist for every Congressman) to block any healthcare reform and gut any confining regulations.

In 2020, 178 CEOs of major healthcare companies got average raises of 31% totaling $3.2 billion in compensation. The CEO of Moderna, the company that developed a COVID vaccine, got a $928 million golden parachute after the company received $2.5 billion for vaccine from the Trump administration. During “savage” times there’s lotsa money to be made!

Life Expectancy Can Be Lively or Deadly Just a Few Blocks Away

If you live in the wealthy suburbs around our center of power, Washington, D.C., you will live 33 more years on average than a resident of D.C. and die at 96.

Corky and I lived in suburban Parkfairfax, Virginia, just south of the Pentagon, for almost a year while I attended Marine Corps Officers Candidate School at Quantico. We served as live-in caretakers of a house owned by a Minnesota congressman one of my sisters worked for as a secretary.

In other words, we lived in a wealthy ZIP Code where residents would live to age 96 while their gardeners, cooks, and nannies would die at slightly over 60 because they could only afford to live in the District ghettos.

This sounds extreme – but it isn’t. The poorest ZIP Code in the country has residents who live 42 years less than the residents of the wealthiest ZIP Code. The reason? We have a political party that believes healthcare is a privilege, not a right.

If we look at life expectancy in the U.S., here is the data by race: Asian-83.5 years, Hispanic-77.7, White-76.4, Black-70.8, and American Indian/Alaskan-65.2. Any questions?

The average life expectancy of the Divided States of America is 76.1 years. Let’s take a look at some of the top countries in the world in life expectancy: Japan-85.03 years, Switzerland-84.25, Italy-84, Spain-84, Australia-84, Iceland-83.5, France-82.2, Canada-83, Norway-83, Finland-82.3.

Why do these countries have residents who live 6 to 9 years longer than Americans? It is called universal healthcare, and much of it is single payer healthcare.

The Globalization of Our Expensive Healthcare System

The U.S. has only 4% of the world’s population but we account for $4 trillion of the $8 trillion the world spends on healthcare. Our pharmaceutical products are used throughout the world. As an example, in 2020 we spent $533.5 billion on drugs and the top nine countries below in the top ten spent $399.9 billion. The drug industry earned almost 50% of its revenue from the rest of the world.

Device makers such as the pacemaker I wear earn 40% of their income from patients in the U.S. The high profit margins of both drugs and devices contribute up to 75% of the profits earned by companies.

As an example of outright thievery, the so-called miracle chronic myelogenous leukemia drug Gleevee saves about 90% of its patients, of whom before it was invented only 30% survived the disease for five years. The developer Novartis steadily increased its price even after the patent ran out, reaching an annual bill of $140,000 in the U.S. Canada priced it at $38,000 a year. India has now developed a generic that is available for $400 a year. Is that savage capitalism or is it criminal fraud or theft?

In 2000, a manufacturer called Intuitive Surgical Systems developed the first commercially successful DaVinci robotic surgery system. It sold for $2 million and service contracts for the system were sold separately. The company sold 6,000 units worldwide and American hospitals bought two-thirds of them.

Our hospitals and doctors are unrestricted in charging fees and services. American doctors are paid two to three times as much as European doctors and hospitals charge two to five times more than hospitals outside of the U.S..

Why does a drug company charge $1,000 for an insulin vial that costs only $10 to produce? Because it can. Why did a hospital charge $83,135.08 to remove an appendix? Because it could.

The State of California has decided to become a producer of insulin in order to cut costs. It plans to sell a 10 milliliter vial for $30 – which is exactly what it costs to make. California now pays drug companies $300 for the same size vial. Patients will be able to save up to $4,000 a year according to Governor Gavin Newsome.

Newsome adds: Eight million Californians owe $5,000 or more in medical bills, and one-half say they have skimped or skipped medical treatments because of cost.

The UK National Health Service pays $8 for an insulin vial which goes for $100 in the U.S.

American drug companies are infamous for the prices they charge. Here’s why the American people are suckers: For 17 of the 20 top-selling drugs worldwide, U.S. drug companies made more money from U.S. sales than from sales to all other countries in the rest of the world combined. For 11 of the 20 top-selling drugs world-wide, U.S. sales revenue was double or more the revenue for sales in the entire rest of the world.

A Warning: If Hemorrhoids Could Talk, They Would Sound Like Trump or DeSantis

Our Rube Goldberg system of healthcare won’t change until the Republican Party substitutes reality for the masses instead of cruelty.

We have two Republican leaders: Trump loves one person on Earth, himself, and DeSantis laughed while detainees at Gitmo, our Cuban illegal black torture chamber, were tortured by American military and “psychologists.”

We will not change until talk-show hosts like Hannity, Carlson, and Ingraham dump Trump, and the Forum’s Scott Hennen figures out that Trump is not a “friendly grandfather” while grabbing the pussies of 26 women who say he has assaulted them.

We will not change until DeSantis repeals his law that will turn his state into tombstones at the OK Corral Florida, by allowing citizens to carry and conceal without the bother of getting a permit or taking classes to learn about handling and storing a handgun.

The Shadow not only fought evil, he traveled the world and learned how to read thoughts from a Yogi priest and became a master of hypnotism, which allowed him to become invisible while solving crimes. I hope Cranston shows up in America soon to help eliminate the gun culture and establish single payer universal healthcare.

But Groucho Marx probably had it right: “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.” The Trumplicans are good at that.

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