Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The US health care system, a lesson in market failure

Health care per cap spending country comparison (OECD
by Richard Mellor

 "I owe the public nothing"
  JP Morgan

As public services are cut along with the public sector jobs that provide them, and the Obama administration prepares for four more years of privatization policies, the extremely wasteful and inefficient US health care system continues to drain the public purse.  The inefficiency of the private sector is not just laid bare when rescued in times of severe crisis like the recent bank bailout; capitalism survives on permanent welfare handouts through its daily fraud and plunder of society's wealth. It's very existence is based on exploited Labor of course.

The US health care industry from the providers to the drugmakers and manufacturers of medical devices, feeds heavily from the public trough.  US healthcare spending went from from 9% of GDP in 1980 to 16% of GDP in 2008 and an all time high of more than 18% by 2011. The much maligned (by the US media)  Canadian health care system which in 2006 was 10% of Canada's GDP and was 70% funded by the government while the US spent 15.3% in that year with 46% funded by the government.  A major difference with regard to taxpayer funding is that in the US where the system is a business and more market oriented, the fraud and plundering of state resources is rampant and the taxpayer picks up the tab for those who that the market abandons as well.

"Almost every estimate is that 30% of US medical spending is unnecessary, including fraud" says Elliot Fisher, a Dartmouth College medical professor and director of the Dartmouth Atlas on medical disparities. And a federal report published today and reported in the Wall Street Journal claims that hundreds of nursing homes had billed the taxpayer for skilled services that weren't performed.  "They're billing for therapy they don't provide or which the patient doesn't need" says Jodi Nudelman, a New York state official.

This investigation is just the tip of the iceberg and reveals some $1.5 billion in Medicare theft.  The theft is so rampant the capitalist class feels a need to curb some of the excesses. The Obama administration has recovered some $3 .7 billion in stolen taxpayer funds over the last three years. Coupled with this latest find that would build a few schools I think.  It's unlikely that anyone went to jail for such destructive anti-social activity, no three strikes for them, not even ten or twenty strikes for the perpetrators of such felonious activity.

Those (including some mislead workers) who argue that the market has the answer to all things should take note.  This fraud is a result of the market, it is built in to the system, a system based on theft and exploitation.  Despite these minor efforts on the part of the capitalist class to curb some of the excesses and make an example of some of their naughty boys in the aftermath of the crash and the anger that has resulted from it, they will not rectify this problem. Readers may remember that the responsibility for framing the rules and regulations for deep water drilling were handed over by government regulators to the energy companies themselves.  Then we had the BP spill.  While we would not opposes regulation, the capitalist class cannot make the system nice, make it human and nature friendly.

The opportunities for profit making in the US sickness industrial complex are considerable. More than two dozen pharmaceutical companies made more than $1 billion in profits in 2008 while one report by Health Care for America Now, says that America’s five biggest for-profit health insurance companies ended 2009 with a combined profit of $12.2 billion, an increase of 56 percent as 2.7 million people lost their private coverage. Isn't freedom swell?  And we know that most bankruptcies in the US are related to medical expenses.

The market driven US health care system murders more people than all the terrorist groups put together.  I commented on the recent meningitis outbreak another example of market failure with devastating results.  The death toll now stands at 32 with 438 people infected in 19 US states.  The perp was the New England Compounding Center which made the steroids that the victims took for their pain.  Now, the FDA has found that Ameridose, another drug mixing pharmacy has not the best manufacturing practices either and is guilty of numerous violations of US manufacturing standards.  FDA inspectors found microbial contamination and that sterile gowns and equipment weren't sterilized at all. "Insects were observed to be located" in areas where the finished products were packaged and stored and "At least one bird was observed" in the same area the FDA reports.
The FDA claims that complaints of fetal stress, a result of the company's childbirth drug weren't treated seriously.

It turns out that the founder of Ameridose is Barry Cadden, the president of New England Compounding Center responsible for the meningitis deaths. Cadden jumped ship and resigned from Ameridose right after the meningitis hit the news a month ago.  Ameridose hasn't been linked (yet) to the outbreak but we can see how they're all connected these folks. In fact, these are the people that are applauded by the Wall Street Journal, by Forbes Inc and by all the serious journals of capital.  These are the people we owe our existence to because they create profits, therefore jobs.  They also create starvation and misery throughout the world and a small outbreak of meningitis here and there. The entrepreneur is the the good guy in capitalist society, the paragon of virtue and epitome of success.  It's not that they are bad or good though, it's that the system of production, the means by which we produce the needs of society is hostile to a healthy human existence and a healthy planet. 

Now this doesn't come as too much as a surprise.  Most Americans are well aware of the corrupt and ruthless nature of the system, look how many people don't vote and stay clear of politics altogether.  Even those who vote, hate politicians.  The heads of organized Labor offer no explanation for this crisis other than greed in the abstract and the left has no significant influence in the working class whatsoever. The biggest problem is that people do not see a way out.  The occupy movement offered a glimmer of hope and received tremendous support for a while but lost steam under the influence of forces that relied on hidden and unelected leaders and tactics that excluded political action and any serious mass orientation to the working class.

The caring of human beings, of whole populations is a social need and should not be a business. Take the profit out of health care and we will have healthy people and not richer health care carers and other leeches in the sickness industrial complex. The top executives at the nation's five largest for-profit health insurance companies pulled in nearly $200 million in compensation in 2009

A step toward a healthier society and a real health care system would include:

Fully staffed free clinics providing no charge, basic health care in every neighborhood

Free Comprehensive health benefits with an emphasis on preventative care

Vision care, dental and hearing aids . Women’s health care including birth control, morning after pill, and abortion on demand.

Alternative therapies with proven medical benefit such as acupuncture and chiropractic care . Mental
health care with emphasis on counseling, not just prescribing pills

Take the profit out of medical research

Create a publicly owned, democratically controlled organization to do medical research, widening and democratizing the current role of the National Institute for Health . The direction of medical research and the function of care to be made by elected councils of researchers, health care employees, and community members: Unite and Empower Healthcare Workers

Create an industry-wide union of healthcare workers to include every worker in a hospital from the janitor to the surgeon . Improve working conditions for healthcare workers: wages, shift lengths, nurse-to-patient ratios . Free medical education: Nurses, technicians and doctors to serve the public without decades of debt .

Build a United Front direct action movement to drive the corporations and the profit motive out of this crucial social need and through this build an independent worker or Labor Party to strengthen the power of working people, the unions and community organizations*

*Much of this program comes from a Facts For Working People Health Care issue we published in March 2007. For a pdf of this issue send and e mail to we_know_whats_ up@yahoo.com

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