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Health Care Lottery

A comic and commentary from Ed Stein:

© Ed Stein

Surprise! Health insurance went up again this year , at many times the inflation rate. A family of four now must spend more than $15,000 for health insurance. By the time deductibles and co-pays are factored in, who but the rich can afford it if they aren’t getting it from their employer? Other countries have managed to provide health care for all their citizens at an affordable cost, but we steadfastly refuse to follow their examples. Obama’s reforms will help, assuming they survive the onslaught from Republicans and get a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court (big ifs) , but even his remake of our national health care won’t come close to solving all the problems. The truth is, the only answer is universal coverage and a single payer, but we won’t get there in this political climate. Instead, we will see more and more people unable to buy insurance, either because they’re rejected by insurers or because they can’t afford it. We’ll see more medical bankruptcies, more medical home foreclosures, more unnecessary deaths, and we’ll hear more absurd rhetoric about the evils of Obamacare, about how the free market will magically provide what the free market hasn’t so far, about the (imagined) horrors of the Canadian and British and French health care systems (all of which provide better care at a much lower cost than the U.S.), but we won’t see any change until people are angry enough to take to the streets. Until then, there will be much more pain and suffering in a country that can’t think straight and can’t seem to solve anything.



  1. Jeff wrote:

    Interesting cartoon and discussion. I think that if Single Payer works for VT, which is trying to get a waiver from the government to try it out right now, it would show people how all the “facts” being thrown around about it are wrong. VT is a great test drive for Single Payer, too, because the population is not very diverse, it’s a healthy state to begin with, and the population is very low and easy to track with studies.

    Nationally, I think SP would be a great option, but it will certainly be open to much more criticism. After all, it means ending the monopoly that insurance companies currently have on how much we pay. I agree that Obama’s plan helps us by instituting a strong competitor against the insurance companies that can’t be bought out, but the politics being played with people’s lives for the benefit of power and the wealth is astounding.

    Friday, September 30, 2011 at 5:44 am | Permalink
  2. PatriotSGT wrote:

    I’ve been reading on the healthcare issue, this blog, other sources, my own reasoning. The arguments make sense from the left, but the implementation doesn’t. We need affordable health care for all. Everyone should have access to quality. We have lots of healthcare in this country and we have some of the finest in the world, but the problem is the delivery and that the best isn’t available to everyone.
    Given our current economic situation and the growing problem with current government healthcare systems like Medicare and Medicaid is they are insufficiently funded, although HHS is now the biggest recipient of funding dollars. We can’t simply defund the rest of the government to provide healthcare and there are an estimated 30 million people without healthcare who probably also can’t afford it. Even in a best case scenario where the cost for a family of 4 is cut in half to 7500 per year they won’t be able to afford the cost and the taxpayer will need to foot the bill. We are running annual trillion+ dollar deficits and the debt is approaching the credit limit. Taxing the wealthy an extra 4% will raise only, by congressional estimates, 70 billion per year and that still leaves us with trillion dollar deficits.
    So, if we want to properly fund “healthcare for all” we need a real solution. More to the point a real funding solution. We can’t absorb the cost of 30 million people, plain and simple. We need a new payroll tax like SS and Medicare. We also need to redo the tax code. raising wealthy rates by 4% does nothing to solve the problem, we p#@$ that down the drain on making a few bad investment decisions. We need to eliminate the loopholes and tax break incentives, but that brings pain for all, but more so for the wealthy.
    I and many would be willing to chip in more, but not until Washington, and the White House show my tax dollars some respect. I work hard for every dollar and just like todays share holders in a company I have no say in how my dollars are spent. Big brother just gives it away not too dissimilar to severance pay and compensation packages for poorly performing CEOs.
    Trim the spending, put the fiscal house in order, enact a payroll tax for healthcare that actually funds it, then ask me for more money.

    Oh and while your at it, since jobs are the #1 priority, if my tax dollars are used to rebuild infrastructure, I want every single one of my dollars to go to an American. Don’t use my tax dollars to employ some foreign worker in a foreign land when you could be employing an American.

    Friday, September 30, 2011 at 7:29 am | Permalink
  3. Iron Knee wrote:

    PSgt, while I agree with much of what you say, I just want to point out that the real issue here is just the cost of healthcare. As a consumer of health care, I don’t really care if my money goes to pay health insurance premiums that pay for health care or to taxes that pay for health care. I just care how much I pay for health care. And I currently pay far too much in our screwed up system.

    Also, Jeff, in fairness, I want to point out that not all other countries that have reasonable health care system are single payer (although a good number of them are). I personally prefer single payer, but there are countries (like Japan and Switzerland) that do not have single payer and yet manage to keep costs down. So I do not want to rule out Obama’s general strategy as something that could possibly work — it is not true to say that *only* single payer will work.

    On the other hand, a short health care reform bill that simply says we will extend Medicare to cover everyone (and allow Medicare to negotiate for better prices) would be far simpler than even the reformed system we got with Obamacare whose bill is thousands of pages long.

    Friday, September 30, 2011 at 8:44 am | Permalink
  4. Jake wrote:

    Iron Knee, I agree with your point that the real issue is the cost of health care, but in order to get costs down, we can’t just hand everything to medicare and say go negotiate.

    Health care costs are so astronomically high because of all the regulations we have on anything health related. I’ve worked on projects that were going to be certified by the FDA before, and the amount of paperwork required is dwarfed only by that of the aviation industry (another overly high cost industry).

    If we really want to get affordable health care, we need to be OK with drugs and equipment that may only work 99.9% of the time instead of the currently required 99.9999%. Those last few digits of precision require an enormous cost that I think our system could definitely do without.

    Friday, September 30, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink
  5. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    So it would be cheaper if we were willing to let a few people die?

    Friday, September 30, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink
  6. IL-08 wrote:

    Patriotsgt, I think you’ve been watching too much of Billo the Clown and his tirades about imaginary sixteen dollar muffins. Yes there is waste in the government (and in business) and everyone should do everything they can to minimize and eliminate waste. Bad investments get made by government and most everyone else (want to buy some Webvan stock, I have a bunch) However to stick ones nose in the air and profess that they won’t pay more taxes until all government waste is eliminated is pointless and childish. On top of this argument, the same people saying they won’t pay more taxes unless waste is eliminated are the same people fighting desperately against any cuts to the defense budget, arguably the greatest contributor to waste the world has ever seen. Complaining about government waste goes back to the days of Washington and is only used when one side has no real argument.

    The other argument that drives me crazy is that the deficit is too big to actually do something about health care, when doing something right about healthcare will lower cost and eventually reduce deficits.

    How can infrastructure spending go to workers in foreign lands? And if it is cheaper to spend the tax dollars in a foreign land to get the same good or service, wouldn’t spending them in America be wasteful? That logic works for corporations, should it work for the government also? Really I don’t know.

    Friday, September 30, 2011 at 9:43 am | Permalink
  7. Jeff wrote:

    @1032 ever heard of the hedonistic calculus? If it maximizes the happiness of a dozen people if one person dies, then that person should die. Better hope the GOP doesn’t know about this little philosophical mantra, or we might be in trouble whenever we go see a doctor.

    Friday, September 30, 2011 at 9:55 am | Permalink
  8. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Il-08 on the infrastructure spending just google the new SanFran Oakland bridge being built by the chinese (there are also others). Also, in case you don’t know the DOD is part of government and the POTUS is the Commander in Chief. He can cut waste there, and i encourage him to do so. I’ve often advocated we need to scale down our military, we don’t need 10’s of 1000’s of troops in Germany or Korea, or 1000’s in countless other places. We have the worlds largest navy, but it doesn’t need to be bigger then the next 17 largest navies combined. I’m good with that (we can end the 3 wars as well). Still the HHS in the last 2 years has gotten more money then DOD. Medicare fraud is a thriving business. If we simplified our tax code, got rid of all the deductions, had a flat tax we wouldn’t need a multibillion dollar IRS either. There are tons of ways to slim and trim the government. When they get fit, start billing me for the debt and we’ll pay it down together.
    1032 – thats just ridiculous

    Friday, September 30, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Permalink
  9. IL-08 wrote:

    PatriotSgt, I took a look at the bay bridge, I see what you are talking about. But wouldn’t it be wasteful to pay a higher amount to an American company to do the same ironwork? Its saving your tax dollars.

    I agree with most everything else you’ve said, it is logical and makes perfect (common) sense, hence there is no chance any of it will really happen!!!! The only point I want to make is that waste, be it government or private or my kids at the dinner table, is a fact of life and not a reason to take your ball and go home.

    As for Obama cutting waste, last time I read the constitution (1971) it said that the congress decides how much money to spend and where to spend it.

    Friday, September 30, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink
  10. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    What exactly do you think that .0999% represents? A little less sparkle on the scalpels?

    Friday, September 30, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink
  11. PatriotSGT wrote:

    IL-08 I’d rather see us pay alittle more and call it “stimulus” and for a change let it create some real jobs, then send that money overseas and employ people in some other country. What message does it send to our workers? Your too expensive and/or your quality or technical expertise isn’t there? We need jobs now. I think any federal or state tax dollars shold buy 100% made in America. How can govt say we want jobs for American workers, then sub contract to the chinese? I had this conversation with my congressman who also said, he couldn’t believe that the US govt buys flags made in china. I told him to go write a law that prohibits that practice. Jeez are we that stupid.
    On the waste, I fully agree it is congress’ responsibility. However, the POTUS seems to chime in on everything else and if he made it a priotity, which he won’t and congress won’t (because how else could they funnel money to campaign donors), then since they are not that worried, but do want more of our money, they can just spend what they’ve got now. After we get the budget straight, or how about just start with a budget, then ask me for more specifically to to pay down our debt or strengthen SS, and wall it off so it can’t be spent on baloney. I’m in for that.

    Friday, September 30, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Permalink
  12. IL-08 wrote:

    I’m not disagreeing but you can’t argue both sides of the argument and expect consensus. Paying extra to Americans is wasteful, it is spending more tax dollars for a service than we should. Who gets to make the decision as to what is wasteful and what is patriotic??? Ones man’s savings is another man’s waste. You can ALWAYS make the argument that there is waste, so I’m not paying more taxes!!!

    As for me, I agree completely that we should have an affirmative action program for American workers and we should put in place incentives for the private sector to hire more American workers instead of giving them tax breaks to outsource American jobs. Everybody seems to agree with that, but it hasn’t been done, wonder why that is????

    Friday, September 30, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Permalink
  13. kshoe wrote:

    Paying “more” for infrastructure by hiring American workers has a compounded impact on our economy here. It may be “cheaper” to outsource infrastructure spending in the short term. But when you pay American workers, they take that money and pay their rent, and buy their groceries, etc. The money stays in the US economy.

    Saturday, October 1, 2011 at 9:49 am | Permalink
  14. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Il-08 – Your right on me arguing both sides. I just think if the government spends our tax dollars it should be on American workers and American products. I just don’t trust Washington to do the right thing with our money. I do want to give them any additional money until they show me they can be responsible.

    Have you noticed when shopping, its harder and harder to find anything “made in the USA”. Forget about clothes, I don’t think there are any or shoes for that matter. Food yes, but not all. Even at the Home Depot, for which I am a frequent shopper, you can hardly find things made here. I’d say that houses built after 2000 are mostly made with non US products, it’s just ridiculous.

    Saturday, October 1, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Permalink
  15. russell wrote:

    The market is already here. I have two doctors. One is for catastrophes and bills my small group insurance $270/visit. The other is my regular MD. He only accepts cash, charges $120/visit and doesn’t give squat to the insurance company without permission. The cash guy spends much more time with me and runs a nicer office.

    I have no dental plan, same dentist 23 years, paid cash. One orthodontist for my kid, paid cash. I seriously doubt they get better dentistry in England (talk to them, heck, look at their teeth).

    There are already two economies running side by side in direct care. We have let this get insane. One night in a regular hospital gets billed-out at $35K. But if you are check-in for non-essential plastic surgery in a private hospital, it’s like a night at the Hilton for $2K.

    Merge these phenomena and there’s your solution.

    Saturday, October 1, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Permalink
  16. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    Hate to break it to you guys but the only solution for spiraling health costs is direct price control. The health care market operates on limited supply vs infinite demand.

    Any other fix is just a band-aid, kicking the can further down the road.

    Saturday, October 1, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Permalink