Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Who Says We Don’t Have Socialized Medicine

Who says we don’t have socialized medicine in America. We have it, just not the way the rest of the world does it. You see in other countries the citizenry are covered by national healthcare, in America it is the corporations that are being covered by Medicaid and Medicare. I have never been able to understand how with the massive buying power of the federal government I can get better prices than they can. If anyone still believes that Washington is not teeming with thieves, stories like these should dispel any doubts. Everyone wants to cut government spending so long as it doesn’t affect them, so what if the country is going broke. Everyone agrees that the costs of Medicaid and Medicare are skyrocketing and that the system is on the brink of disaster and rather than businesses joining with the rest of America in trying to reduce the costs and solve the problem, we get this instead.

Despite enormous buying power, Medicare pays far more. Rather than buy oxygen equipment outright, Medicare rents it for 36 months before patients take ownership, and pays for a variety of services that critics say are often unnecessary.

The total cost to taxpayers and patients is as much as $8,280, or more than double what somebody might spend at a drugstore.

The high expense of oxygen equipment — which cost Medicare over $1.8 billion last year — is hardly an anomaly.[1]

The politician’s answer to our spiraling health care costs is to reduce the rolls and the services for the patients, instead of reducing the prices of the suppliers. The sad thing about all of this is that it is not new or secret, everyone on Capitol Hill knows that this price gouging is going on. In the prescription drug bill it was actually legislated into it that the American public would have to pay the highest prices available and could not use the tremendous buying power to negotiate lower prices. There is something seriously wrong with our government and our programs and the solution is not to shut them down or privatize them it is for the government to exert the control they were elected to do.

The wingnuts will point to this story and say this is why we need to get government out of healthcare, instead of dealing with the real issue which is the profiteering of their corporate benefactors. Why is government healthcare good enough for the government, but not good enough for the rest of America? If government healthcare is so awful why aren’t the Congress passing legislation for them to opt out? The truth is that it is hypocritical for them to denounce the same system that they use for themselves. It is hypocritical for them to want to cut people and services, instead of cutting the gouging that is taking place.

Welfare only seems to be good for the corporations, it is okay for companies to bill the government for millions of dollars of overcharges, but it is a national outrage for a single mother to get a few hundred dollars a month for her children. The people of this country have allowed the wingnuts to define the agenda and to demonize the long history of charity that is fundamentally a part of America.

Other companies that sell medical equipment have also flourished. More than 114,000 home medical equipment suppliers billed Medicare last year, according to HME News, an industry newsletter. Over 1,500 of them collected more than $1 million. One of the largest oxygen equipment suppliers, the publicly traded Lincare, collected over $789 million from Medicare last year, according to corporate filings.

Large private investment firms have also jumped in. Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, a $16 billion private equity group, has invested in numerous companies that profit from Medicare. One of its executives is Thomas A. Scully, who ran Medicare for almost three years, until 2003.

The government’s overall bill for Medicare soared last year to an average of $8,568 per beneficiary, up from $5,522 in 1999, an increase that outpaces inflation by 34 percent.

The problem is not as the wingnuts have framed it that too many people are being helped and they are undeserving, the problem is that there are too many companies lining their pockets with government money. The rise in cost for these programs is not primarily due to increased participation, but due to increased cost per patient. These costs are a direct result of a lack of oversight by the government. The reason wingnuts want to keep the government small and remove government oversight agencies is so they can pilfer the public without fear or conscious. The fewer inspectors and overseers the less chance of getting caught. The sad part is that they have managed to convince enough of the public to buy into their false logic.

Today you have poor and middle-class people spouting wingnut talking points, seemingly unaware that it is them who will be hurt by the cuts they are screaming for. I don’t know how they did it, but the 30 years of concentrated effort has been paying dividends for the conservatives. Before long you will have the middle-class calling for an end to Social Security to save a few tax dollars. There is socialism in America, though it’s only reserved for the wealthy.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/30/business/30golden.html?hp
[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/30/business/30golden.html?hp

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