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Health Care or Wealth Care: A Response to a Comment

January 12, 2010
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In response to a comment about why many people area against a public option – While any public program will have to be funded somehow, the notion that it will only be cheaper for low-income individuals or families is not as clear-cut as it seems. Under the current system most health care and treatment is priced out of the range of affordability for most people in this country. The only mechanism that makes healthcare feasible under the private system is buying health insurance from a private provider. When these insurance costs and the accompanying deductibles in most plans are factored into the equation, a single-payer system will result in a lowering of cost across the board as far as what most people will being paying for their health care. Think of it this way; any increases in taxes to cover the national system will more than be offset individually by the resulting abolishment of the private insurance system. (I use abolishment here only in a loose sense; presumably private health insurance would still be available to those who want it, it just wouldn’t be the necessity it is today for most to ensure access to care.)

There is another deeper reason behind this hesitation, and indeed fear, on the part many to see the government running a universal healthcare program, namely the belief that government is inherently wasteful and not as efficient as a private entity. There are problems with this line of thinking. Firstly, while in is not apparent that a private corporation can run programs more effectively than public ones (although this indeed seems to be a fairly widespread belief), it is apparent that in a capitalist market society private corporations engage in competition with one another for market share. It is this competition that leads to the logic of profit, i.e. in order to be competitive against other corporations that are offering the same product there is a need to generate more profit so as to reinvest into lowering costs, reinvesting in new means of production (machines, tools, and materials) and expanding the operation, with the eventual goal of establishing dominance in the market. Those corporations that fail to generate profits on relative levels to those of there competitors eventually fail to be competitive in the market.

This basically is what is behind the belief that private enterprise is more efficient: that inevitably the logic of competition and profit will drive corporations to offer a product that is better and cost less to produce than its competitors. Take away this competition,so the argument goes, and what you will have is a bloated bureaucratic structure that is not ‘cost-efficient’.

Here is where we come the crux of the issue; when offering insurance the goal of the insurance company is to offer the best plan in order to get the most people to buy, but it is not the goal to actually pay out on claims. This results in a LOSS of potential profits for the insurance company. The reason insurance companies provide a viable model is because they know that proportionally most people who buy insurance will not file a claim, therefor the more people they can sell insurance to the more profits there are to reap. While this holds true in more traditional fields of insurance such as homeowner, life, auto, etc. when it comes to health care most people are going to want and need to take advantage of seeking medical assistance or advice often, perhaps multiple times a year. (This is why there is a national debate about health care and not, say, auto insurance. No one is arguing we implement a single-payer auto insurance program!). And this is the problem for the private health insurance providers, in order to realize profits they have to deny many claims on all sorts of ground, such as the infamous pre-existing condition. Because what the health insurance providers sell is not health care, but rather health insurance.

The reason the single-payer system needs to be implemented is because under the current system corporate profit is placed above human need; indeed, it necessarily has to be. The logic of profit does not take into account the social realities of providing the basics of human needs. To ensure that everyone has access to health care regardless of of any other factor besides the fact that they are a human being it is necessary to put a system in place that garuntees that access. Private enterprise may be more efficent in producing car tires, but it fails miserably when the goal is to provide for human needs. It might result in some waste, but the trade-off is that everyone gets covered and can see a medical professional whenever they need to even if they have no means of paying for it.

The private hospitals, health insurance providers, and pharmaceutical companies seem to be doing just fine for themselves currently. There is certainly enough money in the system in order to get everyone covered AND to lower cost across the board. In providing basic human needs we need to take competition out of the picture so as to eliminate the logic of profit. When the driving force of the enterprise is no longer centered on profit, but rather providing necessary care, everyone wins. (Except the super rich, but fuck them anyways). Until this shift of focus takes place we can expect people to be marginalized at the expense of maintaining the corporate line.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 12, 2010 06:50

    thanks for the post ,,, it give me some idea… about whether the insurance company is only after your money or of your health too.

  2. January 13, 2010 23:02

    yes, the whole problem is corporate profit. We need a system that cares about the people’s health needs, not how to make the most money off of them…

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