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Fun facts to know and share about health care.

03 Sep

I could write about the moral obligation of using taxpayer money to offer health care to citizens rather than to spend it on invading foreign countries.  I could talk about the waste of building super-duper expensive embassies and military installations around the globe, or about the awful way we fund corporate robbery of taxpayer money through the handing out of contracts to big corporations and bailouts of the financial industries.  I might mention how the insurance and pharmaceutical companies bribe Congress to get the “reform” they want.  I could enter into a discussion of free markets and capitalism, but that would just be silly; if we lived in a truly free market society, we wouldn’t have handed Wall Street over 13 trillion bucks and counting, we would have tuition-paid private schools rather than public schools and when you needed to call a cop, you’d get a bill in the mail later from some company called Xe.   I might bring up de-regulation, but it should be obvious to any resident of any state which de-regulated its electric companies how well de-regulation works.  Not to mention how well it worked with the financial industry.  I could even bring up Jesus, who famously said that the way to heaven was to take care of the sick and poor.

But I decided to stick with numbers, because numbers is what I do all day.  So here are some numbers.

Fact 1. “There are 47 million uninsured Americans now”.  That is an incorrect number.  That number is from 2 years ago, before the financial meltdown, before so many people lost their homes and their savings and their jobs.  The correct figure is well over 50 million.  That number will increase rapidly in the next two years as the US continues to shed jobs and the housing and commercial real estate market continue to fall.  As more and more people have to take part-time work at minimum wage  (and thus, by the way, not be counted as part of the unemployed numbers put out by the government), they will also lose their health insurance and will add to the number of the uninsured.  I would not be surprised to see the number rise to 100 million in two years if some sort of public option is not included in the reform bill that eventually goes through.  Part of that will be caused by my second fun number fact.

Fact 2.  Insurance companies have been raising their rates by the double digits in the past couple of years.  They are, unfortunately, allowed to increase their rates at will, as they are exempt from anti-trust laws which keep other industries from such onerous rate increases.   Some people have seen their monthly premiums go up by 70 % or 80% in a single year, and even businesses with multiple insured in a package deal have had their premiums raised by at least 20 – 25% each year.   The average family policy currently costs about $5000 to $8000 per year.  Let’s use the lower figure.  Let’s also use the lower figure for the rate of increase.  If you have a policy that costs $5000/year and the insurance company increases your premium by 20%/year, within eight years, your family policy will cost you $21,500 per year.  This does not include co-pays and deductibles.  Let that soak in.  It’s a good number to know and keep in mind if you are one of those who “loves” his policy and his insurance company and wants to keep it at all costs.   Because this will be your cost.  You may not love them so much in a couple of years.  You may, in fact, be screaming in a couple of years about the fact that Congress didn’t rein in the insurance companies when they had the chance.  And if you have a good job now in a company that pays your premiums for you, I think you had better consider what that kind of cost will do to your company.  Will it continue to cover the premiums for you?  Will it have to lay off employees so a select few can have insurance?  Perhaps employees will have to forgo raises entirely, forever, in order for the company to provide insurance for anyone at all.

Fact 3.   The largest insurance and pharmaceutical companies in the US pay 0 to 3% in income tax on their profits, because of peculiar corporate loopholes built into the tax system and allowed by Congress.  You, on the other hand, doubtless pay more than 3% in taxes on your income.  Yet these companies are the ones that Obama and Congress chose to invite to the table when it came time to think about health care reform.  The companies that pay little to no taxes get to choose how Congress will spend tax dollars.  That’s all I need to say about that.

Fact 4.  “Health care reform will cost 1 trillion dollars over a ten year period”.  This is another incorrect number.  The government accounting office based this estimate on the Kennedy health-care bill, which did NOT include a public option.  When asked to recalculate the cost based on a model that had a true government-run, Medicare-style public option, the accounting office showed that the public option would SAVE 400 BILLION DOLLARS.  The true cost would be about 600 billion over ten years, or 60 billion a year. We are spending close to that much in Iraq and Afghanistan each year.  What a choice – recklessly invade a foreign country and keep military operations going for years, or use the money to take care of your own citizens.  How to decide?  One would think the media would be at least willing to present the correct number so as to instigate real discussion, but weirdly,  this number has been held from the public view.  (Might it have something to do with the health insurance industry bribing Congress to keep the private for-profit companies running the show?  Inquiring minds want to know.)  As a cost comparison – a comparison tellingly left out by politicians and the media alike – Americans currently spend over 1 trillion dollars a year on health insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles.  Another 2 trillion is spent out of pocket for medical procedures either not covered by insurance, or by people who simply have no insurance.  Compare the costs.  Which would you rather pay?

I have other numbers, but this will suffice for now.  This gives you 4 fast facts to know and share.

Update, 11/15/09:

The insurance company my employer uses just announced the new rates for the coming year.  The premiums will be 78% higher this year than last.  As I work for a very small company, the increase cannot be absorbed by the company, and the increase will come directly out of my pocket.  I am, in effect, getting a pay decrease – a large one –  directly attributable to the cost of insurance premiums.  I suspect that many people will be finding the same is true where they work as well, and yet I will not be surprised to hear quite a few of my fellow citizens repeat the claims that a public option or a Medicare-for-all style plan would be the one that is “too expensive”.

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