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What Does “Do No Harm” Mean?

by Ed Raymond | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Gadfly | August 30th, 2020

Yes, America Is Truly Exceptional In The Healthcare Business!
In 1833 conservative German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck created the first universal healthcare system in the world because he recognized it was the job of government to protect all Germans. In addition to the Insurance Bill of 1883, he passed the Accident Insurance Bill of 1884, and the Old Age and Disability Bill 0f 1889. Imagine that, a German conservative passing all that socialistic crap! In fact, over the years, many European countries followed his lead.

During WW II, conservative Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain, who would have had a stroke if anyone called him a socialist, endorsed a universal healthcare plan in a speech to the Royal Academy of Physicians: “The discoveries of healing science must be the inheritance of all. That is clear. Disease must be attacked, whether it is in the poorest or the richest man or woman simply on the ground it is the enemy; and it must be attacked just as in the same way as the fire brigade will give its full assistance to the humblest cottage as readily as to the most important mansion. Our policy is to create a national health service in order to ensure that everybody in the country, irrespective of means, age, sex, or occupation, shall have opportunities to benefit from the best and most up-to-date medical and allied services available.” Can you imagine Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of the most fake “conservatives” in the Divided States of America, mouthing those words? The British National Health Service plan was finally passed by the Labor Party in 1948. It only took 65 years after von Bismarck’s efforts.

Why Have We Failed To Pass A Universal Healthcare Program For 137 Years?
Yes, we are an exceptional country. We are the only developed country without a universal healthcare plan. Instead of providing healthcare as described by von Bismarck and Churchill, we have allowed the “free market” to gouge the sick and the dying—and the well—for generations, creating $100 million-a-year insurance executives, $13 billion families in the “legal” drug cartels, and many-billion-dollar “non-profit” hospital chains. Are doctors still taking the Hippocratic oath of “do no harm” when 550,000 Americans file bankruptcy every year because of obscene medical charge lists?

Here is a short history of the numerous and interminable attempts to get universal coverage for Americans. In 1935 FDR passed the Social Security Act that von Bismarck passed in 1889—but thought adding universal healthcare would be too much at that time because of the Great Depression. The cries of “SOCIALIZED MEDICINE!” by the Republicans surfaced in 1948 when Harry Truman tried to pass a national non-profit health insurance program after his rather surprise victory over Tom Dewey. Harry called it “simple Christianity”, but the Republicans remained heathens and atheists. Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 expressed interest in a universal plan because of military veterans, but couldn’t bring his political party around. Richard Nixon and JFK were no-shows.

LBJ, one of the most effective politicians to ever hold the presidency, passed Medicare that Truman had pushed. In fact, he went to Kansas to sign the bill in Harry’s presence. Actually Ted Kennedy came up with the first Medicare-for-All bill and introduced it in the Senate. Tricky Dick fought the proposal. Jimmy Carter then promised a a national universal plan in his political platform but then ran into fossil fuel and Iran hostage problems.

And then came Ronald Reagan, whose “shining city on a hill” did not include residents with pre-existing conditions, mental or physical disabilities, or usual or exotic diseases. Ronnie was a poor “B” movie actor who played a president on TV, endorsing the free markets and tax cuts to make more millionaires. His favorite phrase? “Socialized medicine!” Next came First Lady Hillary Clinton tasked by Bill to do healthcare “reform.” She formed the Jackson Hole Study Group, known for its number of corporate lobbyists supported by doctors, insurance companies, and hospital chains. Many of the participants had second homes at Jackson Hole, a playground for the rich. Hillary’s bill came to 1,342 pages. It was rejected for its complexity and failure to control costs.

Bush ‘41 went to war in the Gulf and Iraq, said “Read my lips, no new taxes,” provoked a recession, and never mentioned healthcare. Bush ’43 attacked Iraq, passed a big tax cut, and then caused a “huge” recession, and never mentioned healthcare.. They had only three interests: low taxes, fat wallets, and Kennebunkport.

Then came Obamacare. It didn’t cut obscene costs but it did force insurance companies to actually cover those who were sick and dying instead of the healthy. But it still left 20 million Americans without health insurance and a bureaucracy that costs 20% of every healthcare dollar to administer. Medicare-for-All will cost less than two percent. We currently have 900 health insurance companies in the U.S. The average health insurance CEO salary in 2019 was $18 million. Their combined salaries would pay for 800,000 family insurance policies or about 11,000 heart transplants. David Wichmann’s total compensation in 2019 as CEO of United Health Group was $52,421,104. That would take care of a lot of stitches.

Headline: How Much Does Gall Bladder Surgery Cost? $5,865 Or $94,897
For over 65 years of my life I have had an ever-increasing interest in the cost of healthcare because a family with seven very active children consumes a lot of it, starting with the costs of birthing. While growing up on a poor farm, I didn’t see a doctor until a dentist filled cavities for me while going through Marine Corps boot camp. Later, getting a $100 bill for two stitches in a young daughter’s finger concentrated my mind on costs. We have had the usual share of broken legs, broken collarbones, two sons with celiac disease, various other diseases, two hip replacements, bone transplants, one knee replacement, and two knee operations, just to name just a few encounters with those who take the Hippocratic oath: “Do no harm.” Over the years the doctors have done no harm. In fact the repair rate has been superb. I have also spent 28 years on both sides of the table negotiating salaries, health insurance, and fringe benefits for over 1,000 teachers and employees. One gains a little knowledge in the resulting arguments. The real harm comes from a profit-driven “system” which doesn’t work for the health consumer. It works for the investor.

Corky had to have gall bladder removal surgery about six months ago. She said: “This pain is ten times worse than having a baby.” The surgery took place during COVID-19 so I couldn’t go to the hospital with her. So I went to the computer to check out the surgery. I found it takes between 1-2 hours and is not very complicated. I was intrigued by a 2014 headline on Google about the cost: “How Much Does Gall Bladder Surgery Cost? $5,865 to $94,897.” I wonder what it would be today. Unusual range, but this is the U.S.A “system.” I probably don’t have copies of all the bills yet going to Medicare and our insurance company, but at this moment her surgery cost well over $1,000 dollars for every ‘awake” hour spread over a day and one-half: (1) Emergency room-$2,595, (2) Cardiology, echocardiology, electrocardiogram-$2,938, (3) Drugs-$743, (4) IV therapy-$908, (5) Laboratory fees-$1,081, (6) Medical supplies-$1,499.42, (7) Operating room services-$9,689, ( 8) Imaging services-$1,528, (9) Diagnostic radiology-$330, (10) Recovery room-$2,192, (11) Treatment or observation-$1,692.80. That’s about $30,000 so far. I don’t think I have the surgeon’s bill yet. The surgeon called me and said it “went well.” There are about 600,000 gall bladder operations each year. Even if I don’t see any more bills, it certainly went well for the hospital’s profit line.

I hope I end up better than 35-year-old Justin Evans of Bonney, Washington who has Premera Blue Cross insurance through his machine and fabrication shop employer. His emergency gall bladder surgery took only 13 hours of hospital time from emergency room to discharge. His hospital bill was $44,000--but did not include ultrasound. X-ray, anesthesiologist, surgeon fees, or other charges yet! His out-of-pocket expenses at the moment are $6,104.64. Maybe his bill will hit the $90,000 range.

Why Bloomberg Ranks The Divided States 50th In Healthcare Coverage
If you can afford it, an American pays twice as much for healthcare as any other person in the world. But most Americans can’t afford it. Consequently, Americans living in the richest ZIP codes live to be 93 on average and those living in the poorest ZIP codes live to be 61. Brits, Canadians, and Australians on average live to be almost 82 while Americans live to be 78.5. To break it down by Republican red states and Democratic blue, Americans in red states live to be 76.5 and those in blue states live to be 81. Although we still have 30 million uninsured (Due to COVID-19 we temporarily have about 60 million), all of the blue states have approved Medicaid coverage for the poor under Obamacare while most of the red states have not. Americans in some of the uncovered red states are now revolting against their Trumplican legislatures (Read about the most recent one, Missouri) who banned it. Bloomberg is one of the most credible research firms in the world.

A brother and sister who lived in LA for most of their lives always went to Mexico for all medical and dental needs. An Austin, Texas medical facility charges $6,550 for a complete gall bladder surgery. The medical Tourism Corporation based in the U.S. guarantees gall bladder surgery in several foreign countries for $4,600 to $6,000, including trips from and to local airports!

At the Democratic National Convention, 1,069 delegates voted to reject the Democratic platform because it did not contain Medicare-for-All. In order to move to universal care we must put the head of the Trumpism cult in the basket below the Big Razor. The only way to solve the greatest economic inequality in the world, we must get millions of young people presently imprisoned in their parent’s basements by student debt to the polls to vote for Medicare-for-All. The evidence is overwhelming that our “system” is sucking the poor Ninety Percent dry. Since January, Big Pharma has raised the prices of 245 drugs, including 61 used in the treatment of COVID-19. Insurance and drug companies eat up 20% of all money spent on healthcare with administrative paperwork, excessive advertising, sale commissions, lavish executive and CEO salaries, and excessive profits. None of that will change with Joe Biden’s government option. Health insurance companies do not heal or treat anyone. Let’s close them down and retrain their workers to actually treat and heal people. The latest poll says 69% of registered voters support Medicare-for-All. Meanwhile, with their heads in the sand or somewhere, the Democratic National Committee voted down an amendment supporting Medicare-for-All in the party platform 125-36, proving they are out of touch with the voters—and the country.

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