For-Profit Insanity is Killing Americans

Despite what you might hear on Fox So-Called News, Obamacare really is working. Uninsured rates are dropping, premiums are a lot lower than expected, and in the states that have expanded Medicaid, hundreds of thousands of working Americans now have access to free, I repeat, free healthcare.

Everywhere you look, there’s good news to be found about healthcare reform. Even so, for-profit insurance companies and for-profit hospitals are still finding new ways to screw people over.

For example, since insurance companies are now banned from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, they’re now trying to make money off sick people by charging them higher co-pays for drugs that they used to get for close to nothing. This practice has very real consequences for public health. As one expert told Talking
Points Memo, "There's very strong evidence...that even a $1 difference in out-of-pocket expenditures changes Americans' behavior [regarding their use of medical services].” In other words, when drugs cost more, people don’t buy them and therefore don’t get healthy.

But making sick people pay more for their drugs isn’t the only way the for-profit health industry is trying make a quick buck these days.

One other scam it’s come up with is a practice called “drive-by doctoring,” where patients are charged for services they didn’t ask for and for doctors they didn’t know they needed to see. Hospitals have gotten so good at “drive-by doctoring” that most patients don’t even know it’s happening to them.

As The New York Times reported this weekend, "The phenomenon can take many forms. In some instances, a patient may be lying on a gurney in the emergency room or in a hospital bed, unaware that all of the people in white coats or scrubs who turn up at the bedside will charge for their services. At times, a fully trained physician is called in when a resident or a nurse, who would not charge, would have sufficed. Services that were once included in the daily hospital rate are now often provided by contractors, and even many emergency rooms are staffed by out-of-network physicians who bill separately."

If there’s an example of everything that’s wrong with the American healthcare system, drive-by doctoring is it. Healthcare should be about taking care of people and helping them get better - not about ripping them off. But here in the U.S., ripping people off is the dominant business model.

And while Obamacare has outlawed some of the worst behaviors of this business model, it will never totally prevent for-profit hospitals or insurance companies from screwing over their patients and customers. That’s because, for all the good things it does, Obamacare still lets hospitals and health insurance companies operate on a for-profit basis. And that is just absolutely insane.

Think of it this way: When you create a company and register it as either a non-profit corporation or a for-profit corporation, you are defining up-front what is and what is not important to that corporation.

When a hospital or health insurance company is set up as a for-profit corporation, they're saying that its first and primary purpose is to make money. If, on the other hand, it was registered it as a non-profit corporation, then its main purpose is to actually help people, money be damned. Obviously, not-for-profit corporations, like all corporations, have their problems. But when it comes to healthcare, they really are the way to go.

As long as we stick with our failed for-profit model, people like UnitedHealthCare CEO Stephen J. Hemsley will sit pretty on their $700 million in unexercised stock options and everyday people will get stuck with medical bills they’ll never be able to pay. This is just insane, and it needs to end now.

It’s time for America to abandon its experiment with for-profit healthcare and follow the lead of countries like Switzerland, Sweden, and Canada that have either required health insurance companies to be non-profits or have done away with health insurance companies altogether and replaced them with a national single-payer system.

The fact of the matter is that the whole American healthcare system is mind-bogglingly corrupt and needs to be reformed from the top to the bottom. Obamacare is a great start, but we could do a whole lot better. We should end the for-profit cancer in this part of our society once and for all and require hospitals and insurance companies to put people over profits by operating on an exclusively non-profit basis.

It’s as simple as that.


BMetcalfe's picture
BMetcalfe 8 years 27 weeks ago

I'd love to believe that For-Profit Healthcare will soon be a bad memory. The politicians won't allow that. Lobbyists are far too powerful. Hospitals will cry out that they can't afford to hire all or more full-time doctors and nurses because their profit isn't large enough. Politicians already know from where their campaign dollars are coming, and although a few of them aren't totally corrupt, yet, the re-election campaigns frighten the beejeezuz out of all of them. Americans have already let For-Profit-Healthcare go too far in the wrong direction. It would take all non-politically involved voters to get a Bill to the House... and if the next two years is anything like what we've had for the past 8, nothing will get done until a Republican First Family moves into the White House, or until we have a Democratically controlled House and Senate again. The only thing people can do is VOTE to ensure that the Congress & Senate are run by Democrats for at least the next two years. I am in no way confident Americans have the will to do that.

harmonious1's picture
harmonious1 8 years 27 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?

Kend's picture
Kend 8 years 27 weeks ago

"free health care" Thom, it is far from free. Someone is paying for it. I think if you would have just told the truth about ACA that you would find a way to charge the one who are doing well more to help the ones with out the means everyone would be on board but to sell it private companies can't deliver good health care for a fair price is just wrong there is excellant healthcare in the US. Ten years from now you will be all be bitching because your taxes are too high in stead of you health insurance being too high. Same poop different pile.

Oh by the way Canada does not have a national single payer system or non profit insurance companies. My health care provider in Canada does very well on the profit charts. .

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 27 weeks ago
Quote Kend:Ten years from now you will be all be bitching because your taxes are too high in stead of you health insurance being too high. Same poop different pile.

Kend ~ Perhaps so! Still, I'd rather be "bitching" about paying something I can afford then to be "bitching" about being in debt, penniless, homeless, and living out of a box under a freeway offramp because I made the mistake of getting sick in the USA.

Kend's picture
Kend 8 years 27 weeks ago

Marc I would rather live under a bridge then die because my government is broke and can't give me the health care I require to live like we have here. I happens here and we are far better off financially as a nation then America.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 27 weeks ago

Thank you Thom, for bringing up one of my favorite topics: the healthscare extortion racket!! As I said in an earlier thread, my husband and I have benefitted enormously from the ACA; we are among the lucky ones who now have free healthcare via Medicaid. But the ACA still doesn’t come close to fixing the extortion problem, because it hasn’t put those extortionists out of business.

When Obama first ran for prez, he received huge campaign contributions from the healthscare extortionists. And I remember thinking: uh-oh. So here we are, folks, still stuck with that "uniquely American" healthscare extortion racket! Whoopie!!

There’s a moral to this story. Whenever you’re tempted to vote for any candidate (especially a presidential candidate!), you need to first find out who’s funding that candidate’s campaign. Nothing else will provide a more accurate picture of where that candidate’s loyalties actually lie. - AIW

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 27 weeks ago
Quote Kend:Marc I would rather live under a bridge then die because my government is broke and can't give me the health care I require to live like we have here.

Kend ~ For a dead man, you sure do talk a lot.

dollymajig's picture
dollymajig 8 years 27 weeks ago

Kend: That's what our current healthcare system can do,

Kend, your taxes for single payer will be less than the taxes, aka 'premiums' you are paying to keep some insurance executive in his mansion.

Kend's picture
Kend 8 years 27 weeks ago

DAnne I am one of the lucky few that made it so far.

Dolly what is the difference if my taxes go to a insurance executive or in a politicians pocket it is all the same.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 8 years 27 weeks ago

You won't see anybody in the countries with not for profit healthcare.....screaming to switch to a for profit system. That's how simple I think it is.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 27 weeks ago

Kend ~ If you like our system so much, why don't you move down here. Wouldn't you just love to get sick here and send your tax dollars to some millionaire insurance executive instead of some big bad politician. Put your money where your mouth is.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 27 weeks ago

HAH! That'll be the day... - AIW

RFord's picture
RFord 8 years 27 weeks ago

It's a constant battle for the administrator of my health care plan to keep the medical industry from ripping off our health care funds. I'm a retired union plumber. The way our health care plan works is the employers contribute money per hour for working members. Retirees have to pay out of their own pockets, but less per month than working members because it's the right thing to do. Apprentices contributions are less than working members too, to give them a lower wage package so employers will hire them. Everyone's coverage is the same. The difference is made up by the higher contributions of journeyman plumbers, and the journeymen are ok with this because it's the right thing to do. Our previous administrator would simply pay the bills when they came in and not question the amounts charged, costing our group fund a lot of money. We switched to an administrator called Southern Benefits, who works for many unions in the south. When they told us about a bill they got for a pacemaker costing $50,000 and how they called the hospital and asked, "How can you charge $50,000 fora part that cost $5.000?" and got them to reduce the charge , we were sold and switched to Southern Benefits. Now they do this kind of thing for us every day, scutinizing every bill and getting overcharges reduced. Hospitals, doctors and pharmacutical companies are some of the biggest rip-off artist in the United States and the sad part is they get away with it most of the time. It's no wonder health care cost are so high in The United States and why we rank so low in the world in health care.

RichardofJeffersonCity's picture
RichardofJeffer... 8 years 27 weeks ago

Kend, The US is rank 37 in the world in health care and Cuba is ranks 39, just two spots below. The US spends 17 percent of GDP on health care compared to Cuba that spends 10 percent. 10 percent of the Cuban GDP isn’t even a fraction of a percentage point of American GDP. Cuba is able to maintain a health care system that compares to the US, the wealthiest country in the world, with an economy crippled by US lead sanctions for over 40 years.

Do you not see a fundamental problem there? How can you justify a system with the highest cost and the worst outcomes, among industrialized countries? Obama system, didn’t real do anything in my opinion, other than grant more public subsidies to private insurance companies and correct a couple basic issues. The Obama health care plan was a horrible idea in the early 90’s; when the Republicans introduced it, as a counter to the Clinton nationalized health care plan.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 27 weeks ago

Richard, why is Cuba's healthcare ranked below ours? In Cuba healthcare is part of the commons and everyone is covered. Hardly the situation here.

RichardofJeffersonCity's picture
RichardofJeffer... 8 years 27 weeks ago

AIW, First, I don’t want to leave the impression I support communism; it’s a seriously flawed system with its own storied history of human rights violation. With that said, I was wanting to make a principled point about the health care system in the US. Whatever anybody may think of the Cuban system of government, it is an extraordinary accomplishment for their health care system to rival that of the US.

Why Cuba’s health care is not well beyond the US comes down to money; Cuba does not have the resource to build a modern medical infrastructure like the US; like I said before they’ve been over 40 year US lead sanction that has crippled Cuba’s economy. Cubans still drive around in cars from the 50’s, which is a testament, to their resourcefulness, and the outright shameful nature of US foreign policy toward the island nation off the coast of Florida.

I have little doubt if Cuba was able to modernize their medical facilitates; Cuba would be the model of the world in health care. Cuban doctors are world renown for their willingness to do tough work and work in horrible conditions. Their system is comparable to the US out shear necessity due to the death grip the US has had on this tiny country.

The US can’t allow Cuba to succeed in any endeavor, whether it be, medical, industrial or any other aspect, because that would be admitting to the world two things: Communism persevered in the face of overwhelming odds, and defiance against US doctrine can be achieved. The mafia Don does not allow anybody to slide on this principle, because if one person (nation) thinks they can get away with it, then everybody might start to undermine the system of control. – The analogy is from Noam Chomsky; I find it very fitting and accurate.

I was hoping from my initial post that somebody would start to think, how Cuba a third world nation, with limited resource in the world market would be able to have a health care system that rivals the world’s wealthiest nation. I try not to spell things out, so people can make their own conclusion. I just ask a reasonable question and follow it with information, which, I believe will lead people to critically thinking about why things are like they are here in the US and around the world.

geochand's picture
geochand 8 years 27 weeks ago

"hundreds of thousands of working Americans now have access to free, I repeat, free healthcare"..........oh really.....FREE???? Believe it or not it IS paid for. Not by the government.....but by the workers of America. I'm amazed that the Unions aren't all over this. Their members are taking home less money every week because they are forced to subsidize those who do not pay for their own insurance. Any chance I can get them to pay for my car insurance?

douglas m 8 years 27 weeks ago

Until we change how our politicians get paid and elected and reelected we as a race are dying. Doesnt really matter the issue but health care is perfect a example.

Public servants that dont serve the public only who gives them enough

Unlimited Contribution Campaign Funds to get reelected is what really matters to them.

Its obvious because big business wins, and when Cuba of all places has comparable health care and consequences more importantly if you dont pay you lose your everything !!!

WE ARE SLAVES to our LAZINESS AND UNWILLINGNESS TO GET INVOLVED AS A UNITED PEOPLE plain and simple to big business as long as we dont have fair representation.

And America bends over and says nothing but wonders what is on TV tonight.

How do you feel sorry Lazy People who will not lift a finger.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 27 weeks ago

Richard, thank you for that. And I happen to be a big fan of Noam Chomsky’s.

This country’s mean-spirited, abusive policies towards Cuba make me ashamed to be an American. As Chomsky explains it, the U.S.’s only real case against Cuba is that Cuba puts the welfare of her people first. Can’t have that! Maybe it’s a threat to the U.S. because it makes us look bad, as well it should.

Seems the U.S. is becoming a third world nation very quickly, in every way except for it’s obscene military industrial complex. Every time I hear President Obama make reference to “our interests” abroad, I could throw up. Corporate interests is all it is. Meanwhile our infrastructure is crumbling, our social safety net is vanishing while people continue to die from medical neglect.

Like you, Richard, I’m very distrustful of communism. I know little about it but have had the general impression it’s authoritarian by design. However I am, unapologetically, a socialist. And I believe capitalism to be the root of all evil. - AIW

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 27 weeks ago

Geo, I'm sorry you're so outraged by some of us getting free healthcare. I think we all should be getting that. Your resentment illustrates the divisive nature of a status quo that fails to treat all Americans equally in that regard. Instead of bitching about state-subsidized healthcare for poor folks, people like you should be fighting for a single payer system. And by the way, if we had single payer your car insurance would be a fraction of what you're having to pay for it now. Your anger is misdirected; try channeling it into something more constructive. - AIW

RichardofJeffersonCity's picture
RichardofJeffer... 8 years 27 weeks ago

AIW, I agree with your overall assessment and I’m fan of socialist ideology; admittedly, I follow closer to anarchist traditions, but there is a lot of overlap between both socialism and anarchism. Noam Chomsky is one the most awesome people on the plant; I trust Prof. Chomsky wild guess over a “fact” coming from the White House any day.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 27 weeks ago

The real problem with our healthcare is that it is not run by the government. The real problem behind that is all the sick glut of defense contractors that are sucking up the windfall of tax revenue that would handsomely pay for the best healthcare system in the world without raising taxes 1 cent. When you look for the reason we can't afford a life giving service like single-payer health care in this country, look no further than the life taking service of the military industrial complex that is--as warned by President Eisenhower--robbing all of us blind with it's "acquisition of unwarranted influence."

In my opinion, our health care crisis is just part of the smoke screen that allows the military industrial complex to rip us off. After all, isn't that why Ike stated in his farewell address that a bomber costs the price of a hospital. Think about it folks! Think about this: Right now, we are launching our hospitals at ISIS in Syria. Think about that real good!

RFord's picture
RFord 8 years 27 weeks ago

geochand, union do not oppose Medicaid because it's the right thing to do.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 8 years 27 weeks ago

Just a warning for those who have signed on with Obamacare...when you reach the age of 65 and get on to is not easy to cancel with your health care provider. They'll keep sending you bills for the premiums even after you have tried to cancel with them. When you call them by phone, after waiting 45 minutes to get a human on the line, the health care provider will tell you that they can't cancel you...that you have to terminate with your state's "marketplace" which in the case of the people I know, that have this problem that live in California, is called "Covered California". I don't know if other people have had this problem with other healthcare providers but in the case my friends... theirs is Blue Shield of California....the ones who have been in the news lately about buying expensive sports stadium spectator boxes for their top execs. But, my friends did cancel with Covered California...twice. And they have sent emails to both BS and CC and have never gotten a reply. Something has got to be screwed up with their on-line web site if one can cancel twice and still be getting bills for 3 months...or, it's a racket rigged to scam people. Once they get their claws in you it's hard to get them out. My friends have not paid those bills because they believe that if they do, they will just continue to be sent more bills after that...never being cancelled (terminated).

They have even gone to their local Social Services office and the Social Security office but neither one could help them.

I've tried to search the internet about this and one thing I've read was that it is illegal to have the subsidized ACA insurance (Obamacare) and Medicare at the same time. You can have both but you will have to pay the entire cost of premiums including what the government had been paying for the subsidized Obamacare you will have to pay the full price of the premiums. Most people will probably want to drop Obamacare and go with only Medicare or go with a Medicare Supplemental insurance. And for most cases, Medicare is all that is needed anyway. Paying insurance companies in addition to Medicare, for most people, is just a waste of money...unless you have special circumstances....according to articles I've read from studies done written about in major newspaper articles. According to the articles I've read, only about one third of those eligible for Medicare decides to get Supplemental Medicare insurance.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 8 years 27 weeks ago

Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert talk about "drive-by" doctoring on today's show on RT.

This is almost a reason to just avoid going to any medical professional or hospital and just die. These criminal scammers know how much money you have in your bank accounts and will try to suck you dry with exorbitant billing for needless procedures or "drive-by" doctors who do nothing more than briefly show up with unscheduled needless appearances that you have never agreed to.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 8 years 27 weeks ago

You know, costs of hospitalization could be far cheaper if they still had "barracks" style wards with, say, 30 or more beds. And those beds don't have to be the fancy and expensive kind in most cases either. And they might only have one or two large screen TVs per ward rather than the single rooms with a TV in each room as is often the case now.

But, as far as I know or have ever seen, they have mostly private rooms or rooms with only 2 beds per room....or maybe 4 beds per room. People who can't afford, or choose not to pay for the more private rooms, or 2 bed or 4 bed rooms, would get put into the barracks style rooms. I'm sure many poor people would rather the barracks style rooms than no medical care at all. But, I think the reason why they don't have barracks style wards now is so that the people that make money off of hospitals... the stockholders... can justify charging the rates they do. By compartmentalizing into smaller units...the rooms...stuffed full of electronic gadgets and an expensive used to justify charging what they now charge. They've driven the costs way up so that most people cannot afford staying in a hospital for very long.

Maybe more people are considering getting their operations and hospitalization in places like Mexico or India where costs are not so jacked up as in the US. Some people take "Medical Vacations".

lifesize's picture
lifesize 8 years 27 weeks ago

obamacare is a miracle!; after decades, the guy got a program through. of course it's not perfect, but it's a great step. the reason the right is so zealous about killing it is that in a few years the program will be too popular to squash, like social security.

major change takes time, cultural movement. just as same-sex marriage came from the fringes intot he mainstream in not much more than a decade, so must the public re-learn respect for govt after decades of right-wing sniping.

let's not waste energy attacking obama for not being bernie sanders. and please let's not gripe about the slow pace of change; one of the traits of adulthood is learning to live with deferred gratification. heaven on earth, and workers' paradise, ain't on the horizon any time soon.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 27 weeks ago

Lifesize, your point about the slowness of change is legitimate. But there are plenty of reasons to attack Obama, which I and others have pinpointed here many times. The problem I have with the slowness of change, in the context of healthcare specifically, is that people are dying. I'm talking about people who do not have to die because the means to save them exists. I'm talking about people of all ages, including children. So I hope you will pardon us if our sense of urgency is a little more intense around the issue of healthcare. - AIW

Robindell's picture
Robindell 8 years 26 weeks ago

What is the point of being concerned with health care accessability when there is a highly generalized conspiracy theory against doctors? I think Thom should encourage his followeres to be somewhat more specific and careful in their criticisms of professionals. If there is a medical condition or illness that is not obvious on the surface, how would the condition be discovered if the physician did not order certain diagnostic tests? When unqualified people make blanket statements about something that is complex, i don't think that is at all helpful. Are there abuses in the medical profession? Are there any in the legal profession? No profession is 100% perfect. The fee-for-service basis of much of our medical system contributes to an incentive to do things that may not always be necessary. But doctors are highly trained people who are there to either rule out or discover medical problems that may need attention. Life is more complex and varied than certain members of this site sometimes understand or are willing to admit. People might consider complaining about the high cost of health care not only to elected officials, but to hospital administrators and to the dean of medical schools. I once wrote to the dean of the medical school at a state university in my state, which is the second largest medical school in the country. I complained about the large number of people who could not afford and did not have health coverage and therefore could not obtain medical services unless they went into debt. He wrote back and said that he was doing everything he knows to help facilitate health care, and that doctors who provide free health care may earn less than those physicians who do not, which may not be fair. Doctors probably have to pay back student loans which are even greater for medical schools than for people in other fields. Public officials generally do not have day-to-day experience dealing with people with illnesses and are not doctors or nurses. They have to be reminded that they have a lack of knowledge as to how serious, painful, and difficult even a relatively minor illness can be.

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