Health Care Watch: From Robin Hood to Robbing the Hood

Since 2004 the US health care system has consistently ranked last among high income countries, according to a report in The New England Journal of Medicine. For example, “its population is sicker and has higher mortality than those of other high-income countries” and “the rate of death from conditions that can be managed and treated effectively is far higher than in other high-income countries.”

Three reasons are given: Too many people simply can’t afford US health care; there’s too much bureaucratic “hassle” for those that can afford it, and; the system marginalizes the poor, the less-educated, and those of a certain “race or ethnic background” (read: African-Americans & Hispanics). The common thread is “these three features disproportionately affect the quality of care for populations with higher health risks due to lower income, lower educational level, or minority status.”

 

NEJM

NEJM

 

Yet the Journal goes on to argue optimistically that the “United States could achieve the best-performing health care system in the world by undertaking coordinated efforts that address each of these challenges.” And we should begin, the Journal says, by expanding the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid eligibility.

But the government has a better idea: repeal the ACA and thus eliminate Medicaid expansion. Which would, according to the Congressional Budget Office (1) increase the number of uninsured by 18 million in the first year of the repeal (2) increase that number to 32 million by 2026 (3) immediately hike insurance premiums by 20 – 25% for those able to afford private coverage, and (4) further raise those premiums by 50% by 2026.

Hmm, that seems like a strange way to move the US from the bottom right on the graph to the top left, as the Journal says we’re quite capable of doing. Oh, wait a minute, what was it President Obama (and pretty much everyone else) said about the real reason for the repeal?

The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. … Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family—this bill will do you harm.

 

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