So … what’s this here single-payer health care thing all about anyway?

Published on Online Journal, by Warren Pease, Jan 4, 2008.

But first, a moment of silence: A teenaged girl died a couple of weeks ago because Cigna HealthCare, a for-profit medical insurance provider, did exactly what it’s compelled to do by law: it chose to maximize its profits by refusing to pay for a liver transplant for 17-year-old Nataline Sarkisyan, whose doctors warned that she would certainly die without the organ replacement.

And they were correct. She did in fact die, just hours after Cigna relented and agreed to cover the costs of the procedure after all. This, too, was a move intended to maximize profits, since the terrible PR that news of its denial of coverage generated could have affected Cigna’s bottom line as well, as could damages awarded as the result of a wrongful death suit. So it wasn’t a rekindling of the human spirit on Cigna’s part that caused the company to reverse its position; that was the result of a serious internal disaster management campaign, run by corporate lawyers and high-level spinmeisters, designed to reduce the impact on Cigna’s image and minimize the company’s financial exposure.

By law, the only obligation of a publicly owned, for-profit US corporation is maximizing return for its shareholders. That’s it. Nothing about good corporate citizenship, the public good, saving lives or anything else that isn’t related to jacking up the price per share and maintaining a reasonable price-earnings (P/E) ratio.

If Cigna had been operating outside the rules, perhaps we could simply discipline that one company, levy stiff fines, jail a couple of high-ranking execs and serve notice to the rest of the industry that such behavior won’t be tolerated. But that’s not the case. Cigna was following the rules. The problem is that the rules are insane. That’s why this profit-driven disaster of a medical system must be replaced …

… The big con: we’ve already got national health care but the peasants don’t get to use it:

Perhaps the most galling stat of all: A Harvard Medical School study showed that, back in 1999, the US taxpayer shouldered the burden for just under 60 percent of all medical costs nationwide by being forced to fund health care for federal, state and local government employees. That included programs such as the federal employees health plan and those for state and local employees as well (through state, local and property taxes); the Cadillac coverage our fine representatives and Senators enjoy (which they say we can’t have); the costs of covering ER expenses for those without insurance; the costs of running the Medicare program; and the state and local costs of various Medicaid programs.

That 60 percent represented $2,604 per capita at the time, which means government spending per-person on health care in the US was higher than total per capita health care expenditures in any other country in the world – including those with single-payer, universal-access national health care systems. So we’re paying for national health care; we’re just not getting it.

This must end; single-payer is the answer, a well-funded Medicare system is the model, greed is the obstacle. Eliminate profits as a factor in life and death decisions, run the entire system based on serving human needs rather than those of shareholders and CEOs, and the profiteers will go elsewhere for their money. (full text).

(Comments? Email the author, and let’s talk about why these parasites can’t seem to find honest work).

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