Healthcare: Let's Have People over Profits Once And For All

There are some things in this world that shouldn’t be turned into profit-making machines, and healthcare is definitely one of them. Believe it or not, there was a time in America when in almost every state health insurance companies and hospitals were required to be non-profits. Back then, Americans could actually get the healthcare and treatment they needed at affordable prices. But then Ronald Reagan came to Washington, and you guessed it, everything changed.

Suddenly, there was money to be made off of healthcare in America, and a lot of it. Banksters realized that these once-nonprofit hospitals, health insurers, and nursing homes had the potential to become absolute gold mines. Former Senator Bill Frist's family, for example, made billions in the 1980s and 1990s privatizing formerly county and city hospitals, slashing salaries, busting unions, and raising prices.

Slowly but surely, corporations and the wealthy elite took over our healthcare system, and have left us with a healthcare nightmare. That’s why according to a new study by a prominent think-tank, the United States ranks dead last in a review of healthcare in the industrialized world. For the fifth time in a row, the U.S. has been ranked last in the Commonwealth Fund’s annual review of healthcare in developed nations.

The review looked at healthcare access, efficiency and equity in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.K. and the U.S. Of the nations included in the review, the United States had the highest percentage of citizens who didn't get medical care because they couldn’t afford it.

A staggering 37% of Americans said they didn’t get a prescription, see a doctor, or seek out other medical care, because they were worried about the costs. On the flip side, just four percent of people in the United Kingdom said they skipped out on healthcare because of cost concerns. So why such a large disparity?

The United Kingdom has universal health care. In fact, every country the Commonwealth Fund looked at has universal healthcare, except the U.S. The U.S. is the ONLY free-market country in the world without a universal healthcare system, and - not coincidentally - the only one with such a large involvement of for-profit companies in the healthcare marketplace.

Countries with universal nonprofit healthcare don’t have millions of people struggling to afford healthcare. And they don’t have millions of people skipping out on prescriptions because they cost too much money. From Switzerland to Italy, and Norway to France, healthcare is considered a basic human right. No one questions the notion that everyone, no matter who they are, is entitled to lifesaving and affordable healthcare.

But the differences in healthcare outcomes in the U.S. and in Europe go beyond just universal healthcare. You see, healthcare isn’t a profit-making machine in Europe the way it is in the U.S.

In fact, in Switzerland, not only is there universal healthcare, but health insurers are FORBIDDEN from making a profit on basic health insurance coverage, because the Swiss realize, and accept, that healthcare and ballooning profits don’t go together. They realize that profit incentives have to be removed if a healthcare system is going to work for everyone.

Since it went into effect, Obamacare has done tremendous things for healthcare in America. It’s allowed millions of Americans to get the healthcare and treatment they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. An April Gallup study found that as many as 9.9 million Americans have gotten new health insurance under Obamacare, and more than 4 percent of Americans have gotten health insurance for the first time in their lives.

But Obamacare is just one piece of the puzzle. If we truly want to have a healthcare system that works for all, than we need to go back to the days before Reagan, when healthcare wasn’t a cash cow for Wall Street bankers. Unless we take Wall Street’s skin out of the game, healthcare in America will never work for everyone. It’s time to put people over profits once and for all, and require hospitals and health insurance companies to once again become non-profits.


Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 34 weeks ago

Thom, this healthcare system sucked even before Reagan. It's only gotten worse. But even when it was nonprofit, it wasn't universal. I'm the same age as you and for my entire adult life, I don't recall a time when it didn't suck. - Aliceinwonderland

stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 8 years 34 weeks ago

Reagon was a Ferengi; probably the Grand Negus himself.

harmonious1's picture
harmonious1 8 years 34 weeks ago

Health Care as a Right not as a profitable Business

For Republicans, helping the 99% to access health care is secondary to greater profits to the private corporate insurance companies and keeping the 1% in luxury. Over 50 bills have been passed by House Republicans to repeal the PPACA while ignoring bills which would scuttle “Obamacare” such as one which would open Medicare to all.

But Medicare is flawed and retains health care as a profit making business even though it may limit some costs. Profit making hospitals and exorbitant fees for specialists remain. Consider the morality and lack of compassion of profiting excessively from the unfortunate sick and injured. There is a functioning American alternative which could open health care to all and considerably reduce costs, now the highest in the world, to a more reasonable level and achieve much improved results for the nation’s health and well being. Open and expand the VA to all residents. Nationalize hospitals and health clinics by federal purchase. If the feds can afford to bail out the financial and auto industries, and flush trillions of dollars down the toilet for militarism and wars which have been questionable benefit, we can do this by rearranging priorities. Sickness or injury are greater threats than terrorism or enemy attack. We can start by providing free training to qualified and committed medical students as they do in poor Cuba. This is needed to provide service without long waiting for medical services. It is likely that this reform will lower costs drastically while providing service we Americans, the richest nation in the world, deserve. Why should America be satisfied with less?

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 34 weeks ago

Aliceinwonderland ~ You make a strong point; however, health care in this country during the late sixties to early seventies was so much better that I think you are over generalizing a bit. Back in the sixties I remember once having what was called a "house call." Doctors used to actually come to your house to treat you when you were sick in bed. Despite the inconvenience I remember the bill was only $25. Of course that was a lot of money back then; yet, today, it is only half of some of the copays. By the way, a house call might seem like a luxury; however, I personally know of two automobile accidents that were caused by friends of mine who had no choice but to drive themselves while medicated into emergency. Luckily no one was hurt in either accident. I can only guess that there are a huge number of such preventable accidents that happen as a result of the loss of house calls.

I also remember the first insurance plans. My father got ours through his work and covered our entire family for about $125/month. These first plans had no copay. You had a card that you showed whenever you needed to be seen and everything was covered. This was the closest this country ever came to single payer; and, it didn't last long. By the late seventies copays were introduced. The first were $1, to cover processing your card. By the time Raygun got into office--like Thom said--the copays jumped up to $5 and the premiums started liftoff. Shortly thereafter everything started to deteriorate at an accelerated pace.

Now, an emergency room copay can run anywhere from $50-$500 dollars. Some insurances don't cover ambulance rides and they charge ridiculous amounts. One 10 minute ride can sock you for $5K. Now, insurance companies pick and chose what they want to cover and what they don't. They have spending limits, out-of-pocket costs, and deductibles. This was never a part of the original insurance systems. The original insurance systems worked well because they were more non profit than anything else; however, clearly not enough.

It is imperative that we remember that short moment in time around 1970 when insurance companies in this country demonstrated how easy it would be to set up single payer healthcare for all and how well it would have worked. If we actually had single payer instead of for profit health insurance back then it never would have self destructed like our healthcare system of today has. If we had single payer health care back then, the healthcare crisis of today would have never happened. That system back then did suck--mostly because it wasn't universal--however it is the closest this country ever came to a functional healthcare system--aside of Medicare. Before we ditch everything about our healthcare industry let us remember we once had 1)Affordable provider rates ,2)Affordable insurance premiums, 3)No copays or uncovered services, and 4)Housecalls {Better services} We need to demand more for our money and not less. To do that we need to start with improving the services we used to have; and not the ones that we have been conditioned to accept.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 34 weeks ago

Marc, despite my eariler post, we are basically in agreement. I just don't happen to think this whole problem began with Reagan. As I recall, it was sometime after Nixon's presidency that things started going downhill. Prior to that, in the fifties and sixties while I was growing up, medical bills were no big deal. I've mentioned this a number of times since I started posting here. I highly suspect it was Nixon who first injected the profit motive into healthcare. Reagan only made the problem worse.

Back in the 1970s I was on MediCal, and I remember how much work it was staying on MediCal. My eligibility was constantly being scrutinized. However MediCal saved my butt more than once, picking up the tab for several hospital stays along with smaller expenses. I wonder what MediCal is like today, or if it even exists anymore. - AIW

BMetcalfe's picture
BMetcalfe 8 years 34 weeks ago

I had a PPO for many years that was not only affordable, but comprehensive. Then WellPoint bought the company, and the rates immediately doubled. Three years later, when I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis... OMG! The rates seemed to double every 6 months. By the time I qualified for MediCare, just my personal policy was over $2800+ every 60 days. And, those last few months prior to Medicare, so many of my prescriptions and diagnostic tests were either not covered anymore at all, or the 40% I had to cover financially could have paid another family's rent each month.

True, MediCare isn't perfect. I was shocked a few years back to learn that my mom had four teeth that needed to be pulled, but her Access Policy (Medicare Supplement) only covered pulling 1 tooth every quarter. So we ended up paying for a dentist in another AZ city to pull all 4 at once. She also had to have colon surgery several years prior to MediCare and Access, so when the time came for her yearly colonoscopy, none of her insurances would cover the anesthesia she so desperately needed so she could tolerate it. We had to pay $750 every 6 months just for her anesthesia. But having MediCare or the Affordable Care Act is far better than going without being able to even think about seeing a physician when someone feels ill.

It ALL needs to be improved. We need to go back to NON-POFIT healthcare.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 34 weeks ago

Aliceinwonderland ~ Yes! I think you are so right about Nixon. So many of the major problems we blame on Raygun actually originated with Nixon--like the War on Drugs. Raygun steals the show; however, by far, Nixon did much more harm to this country. Look at all the people who perished in Vietnam because of the man. Look at all the civil strife he cultivated in this country. Fathers and sons were at each other's throats because of that man. If you say our healthcare problems originated with Tricky Dick you'll get no argument from me.

JohnLemessurier's picture
JohnLemessurier 8 years 34 weeks ago

Right! I remember in the late fifties in Queens NY (I was 11 years old) a Doctor making housecalls for $5.00 a call. In the late 60's, early 70's health insurance coverage was automatic (at a good price) with employment in large companies. Outside of that, without insurance it was affordable. Reaganomics did screw it, and just about everything else, up. I lived in Toronto Canada during the 70's and their Health Insurance Plan worked superbly, until now when I have heard that the Conservative influence in their government is trying their best to screw it up.


Kend's picture
Kend 8 years 34 weeks ago

Of course health was cheap in the sixties. It sucked. in the 60 you where lucky to live to 70. Now the average is about 80. Health care companies didn't have to pay for Pet scans, MRI's, insulin pumps, laser eye surgery or heart and lung transplant s because they weren't invented yet. Health care costs have partly skyrocketed because the care has advanced so much.

One of the reasons there is so many advances in health care is because there is so much money in it. If there was no money in it greedy right wingers would be investing it somewhere else.

the stories I hear about health care costs on here scare the hell out of me. Why is it that only a few of the 40 million that didn't have health care joined Obama care is it still too expensive?

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 8 years 34 weeks ago

"There are some things in this world that shouldn't be turned into profit making machines and healthcare is defintely one of them." Add education and energy to the list of definites. With socialized energy we'd already be totally green.

ScottFromOz 8 years 34 weeks ago

How much profit can be extracted from a dying man trying to stay alive? The American health care system is witness to how profitable it can be...and they still want MORE.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 34 weeks ago

Kend says "Of course health was cheap in the sixties. It sucked. You were - ['were' not 'where', Kend!] - lucky to live to 70." In Canada? I don't know about Canada, Kend, but that statement doesn't apply to the U.S. during the sixties. Lots of people here lived well past seventy. I saw it with my own eyes, because I was here back then. Were you here in the sixties, Kend?

There is only one reason the cost of healthcare has become a problem for Americans. It became unaffordable because our government allowed a private insurance industry to hijack it and turn it into a cash commodity. And that, along with the ignorance of people like you, is what scares the hell out of me. - AIW

douglas m 8 years 34 weeks ago

You can make a $100,000 a year for thirty years at your job

and get sick and spend a month in the ICU


I used to flip houses and we (the banks took them/we bought them to resell)

unfortunely took them from normal people not bums.

Tell me again how this is the best country.

As long as united states people dont unite, they win. Not us.

Kend's picture
Kend 8 years 34 weeks ago

Alice I was using American stats but it was the same here in Canada then but things have changed since. Because of our "free" health care, cleaner air, and a lot less guns just to name a few we live a little longer. Health care is by far the biggest reason but we don't have near the poverty you have. Those huge projects packed with thousands of people full of drugs and guns can't be good for life expectancy. Yes you have to change your health care system but jobs would go a long way as well. Low cost health care doesn't help a bullet Through the heart, smog or poor food and water.

Gator Girl 8 years 34 weeks ago

Here in Ocala, FL our last non-profit hospital- Munroe Regional Hospital - has been leased out to CHS which is the larges corporate holder of hospitals/healthcare in the world. First, for about 3 months it was taken over by HMA - which was not better, but the ink was not dry on those papers before it was then in CHS's hands. The changes started immediately. On one floor there were no longer any technicians or aides so nurses have not only all of their nursing duties (difficult enough in a specialty floor) but now they also have to chart their own patients, do all the work the tech's and aides did and there are less nurse to patient ratio in that unit. A perfect recipe for mistakes and errors which could lead to incorrect or non-care for patients, missed or incorrect medications and burn out for those nurses. All because the taxpayers did not want to back a $.05 tax increase to keep the not-for profit hospital - the best in the area going. But then the voters in Ocala, FL/Marion County, FL area are mostly moneyed and you can bet your sweet ass they have some type of financial ties to one or both of the area hospitals. Sad in that Munroe was the first hospital in this county and has a long and storied history of treating those who could not pay and where people were taken regardless of circumstances with money. My husband and I have had occasion to be admitted there on several occasions - as happens as you get older - and we could not have received better, more efficient, safe and professional care by all of the staff and technicians. From walking in the door to exit after release not one incident or bad experience.

Directly across the street - literally you can walk across a crosswalk to both hospitals - is ANOTHER for-pfofit hospital - Ocala Regional Medical Center. Have been admitted there only once and do not want to go back. It is under the auspices of HCA and gained status of the only Trauma Center in the area - without proper application processes which is now under litigation. Not a place I would want to go but if you are in an accident or suffer an incident and must be rushed to a hospital under "trauma" circumstances that is where the EMT's take you - or you are lifeflighted if necessary.

Munroe Regional Hospital's patients and staff are the losers in the take over of the other hospital by CHS but so far it has been the hospital my doctor told me to go to and NOT to go to Ocala Regional Medical Center.

A sad state of affairs but one which is happening all over the area and I do not see any end to it.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 34 weeks ago

AIW -- Don't forget the greedy, private AMA.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 34 weeks ago

Another note on the for profit health care system. I'm sure most of you already know that these for profit insurance plans mandate that you sign away your rights to sue in court for malpractice. If not be aware that there is good reason for this. First of all by reducing their legal costs they increase their profits. Secondly, by not having to worry about legal issues they are free to cut corners on care in ways that endanger patients without fear of reprisal; thus, also increasing profits. Take it from someone who has already almost lost two people over unnecessary bumbling incompetence, who are very near and dear to him, this system is a rip off and extremely dangerous. The sad fact of the matter is that by the time most people learn this lesson it is too late.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 34 weeks ago

Don't worry Chuck; I hate the AMA with a bloody passion. They're all about money, not medicine or health. The AMA has marginalized and shot down every cancer cure to have come along over the past century. - AIW

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 34 weeks ago

Gator Girl, thanks for sharing all that. What an eye opener! - AIW

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 34 weeks ago

DAM -- I do not think you should call it incompetence. They are very competent in making a profit, their only goal.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 34 weeks ago

OK Chuck, I get your point about incompetence in this context. How about evil incarnate? Or healthcare extortion? - AIW

Tom1945 8 years 33 weeks ago

I would like to respectfully point out that if one wants to vilify somebody (e.g. Richard Nixon) your case is weakened by criticizing in areas where it is undeserved. In this case I am referring to the comment by DAnneMarc, "Look at all the people who perished in Vietnam because of the man." That comment, if it needed to be stated, should have been directed at LBJ.

Although not a single American life should have been lost there, up to the death of JFK, there had been about 200 American deaths in Vietnam. It was LBJ that bought into (or helped create) the rather ridiculous Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Although passed by both Houses of Congress, one cannot dismiss the impact of LBJ in passing the Resolution. And that was just the beginning.

In consequence, there were in excess of 36,000 Americans killed in Vietnam during LBJ's watch. During Nixon's watch there were about 21,000 lives lost--a frightful amount to be sure but over half of these were during his first year in office--and the annual death count was near zero by the time he resigned.

Nixon had many, many faults and Johnson achieved so much good in pushing through the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But to put that unhappy period of American history to the former and ignore the same because of the latter does a great disservice to the truth.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 33 weeks ago

AIW -- I hope DAM remembers to use your words. -- c8

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 33 weeks ago

Tom1945 -- When we blame Nixon, we are blaming his blowing up of the peace talks in the fall of 1968. I wonder how those death tolls would be if we blamed Nixon on the deaths of everyone after Sept 1968?

I think we all blame LBJ.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 33 weeks ago

Tom1945 ~ I agree that LBJ deserves much of the blame for Vietnam. For all we know he may have been largely involved in the assassination of JFK as well. He was no Saint. However, like Chuck just said, Nixon's covert dismantling of the peace talks in 1968 prolonged the war solely for political advantage. The war might have ended that year if it wasn't for the ambitions of tricky Dick. It was treason and collusion with the enemy; and, that was before he was even elected. Much more evil and despicable than what LBJ did--if that is even possible to imagine. Aside from that incredibly treasonous and unpunished act the man went on to show himself to be untrustworthy, crude, vulgar, dishonest, egocentric, and possessing a genuine disdain and contempt for everyone in our country outside of his own immediate circle. He was a psycho/sociopath who was only interested in power and self glory. Though what is known about LBJ is contemptible, Nixon's known history far exceeds that by also being criminally insane. He was a very useful idiot for corporate, organized crime, and military industrial interests. He also set a nasty precedent for that role in American politics. Nixon was the embodiment and test prototype of Eisenhower's warning about the unwanted 'influence of the military industrial complex'. The fact that the man was able to leave office without answering for any of the high crimes and offences that he committed has not only left an irreparable scar on this nation, it has also embolden other leaders to follow in his footsteps. Because Nixon was allowed to walk every crooked leader we have had since is a direct result. Every illegal war, incursion, overthrow, and military action committed or instigated by this nation since is a direct result. Ultimately, when the American people finally come to their senses, have had enough, and decide to take their country back from corporate corrupt leadership, every hardship and casualty from that last conflict will also be the direct responsibility of the administration of Richard (Dick) MIlhous Nixon and the generation that let him get away. You see, Nixon was the gift that keeps on giving, and we still have plenty more of it to share.

RACadmin 8 years 33 weeks ago

Bipartisan Meeting on Health Reform: Part 1,2,3,4, &5 From Thom Hartman himself...

Ken Linder's picture
Ken Linder 2 years 12 weeks ago

Dr Hartman. I love my unversal health care. I was born in the USA and moved to Australia when I was hired away 20 years ago. I applaud your efforts to reform the crazy US sytem.

In 2014 when I had a massive pulnomary embolism (polycythemia Ruba Vera) and fell dead on the kitchen floor, I got 45 minutes of CPR from my wife, and then got moved by ambulance and helicopter to the main public hospital in my state. I spent most of a month in the brain injury clinic at the RAH and then a week at the brain rehab unit at Hampstead. I didn't owe a cent. And yes I had a hypoxic brain injury that is still effecting me.

You do have one thing wrong though. The big difference between the USA and other nations is not weather or not there is for-profit insurance and/or for-profit medical care available. It is weather or not there is a public option that makes it so that those private insurers & private doctors and private hospitals are not the only game in town.

When they are not the only game in town, it becomes far less liklely that people will die from an inability to afford care, although it can still happen. Some medications are not covered under the Medicare system here, so you would have to import them under the special access sceme (which is very expensive to do).

At any rate, I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but your primary premise is incorrect. I have had private for-profit health insurance here in Australia. There are private doctors and private hospitals here too (not just members-only funds).

Private for-profit health insurance can be easly obtained (for a price of course) in : Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and Switzerland (and probably a lot of other nations - I am not an insurance expert. I just did a quick web search and a bit of reading).

We have several for-profit funds here in Australia (Bupa, NIB and others); a number of members-only not-for-profit funds; and a public Medicare system where the public hospitals are free (GP's and prescriptions are heavily heavily subsidized).

As a result you don't have to pay for that hernia surgery. But if a person does choose to go private (maybe they are are a hurry to get a non-critical thing done & don't feel like having a 6 month wait) then they can go private. And the price is nothing like in the USA.

When my wife had minor surgery last year we did it privatly to avoid a trip that would have an avoidable impact. We paid about $800 total for day surgery, including the price of the anathesiologist.... but then in Australia even those private doctors are subsidized by Medicare for a whole lot of common procedures.

Ambulance cover is still an oddball here. Some states include it; some only if you are on a government payment like disability, carers or an elder pension. They really need to make it a part of Medicare. I live in South Australia so I have to pay for my Ambulance cover. But if a person is on a disability pension as I am then the cost of ambulance cover is not very much. I pay about $100 a year for the family.

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