The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

February 27, 2013

Health care system is killing us

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The Daily Star

---- — We don’t make it a practice to urge folks to look at what’s in another publication, but the latest issue of Time Magazine, which explores the ridiculous and obscene gouging of the American public by the health care industry, is absolutely vital reading.

The special report is quite long, but fascinating. If you don’t care to buy the magazine, the story is available online for free at http://healthland.time.com/2013/02/20/bitter-pill-why-medical-bills-are-killing-us.

Whenever reform is discussed, people who are content with the current system like to brag that the United States has the finest health care system in the world. That, of course, depends upon how you judge such things.

It’s probably true if you have a lot of money and don’t care how much it might cost to take advantage of the latest innovations in equipment and technology offered in our hospitals.

However, did you know that 60 percent of personal bankruptcy filings in this country are related to medical bills?

The article also reveals that according to the McKinsey & Co. consulting firm, Americans spend more on health care than the next 10 biggest-spending countries combined.

Americans will spend about $2.8 trillion on health care this year. That’s almost 20 percent of our gross domestic product on health care for results no better and often worse than other countries that spend much, much less.

Did you know that Congress forces Medicare to pay 25 percent to 75 percent more on such medical devices as canes and wheelchairs than they would cost at Walmart?

Why? Because Congress — many members of both parties — is bought and paid for, which is more than we can say about all the debt our citizens are piling up each day because of overpricing of such common items as tissues, and unnecessary CT scans and other tests.

The Center for Responsive Politics reports that the pharmaceutical and health-care-product industries, along with organizations representing doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, health services and HMOs, have spent $5.36 billion since 1998 on lobbying in Washington.

Put into perspective, during that time frame, the defense and aerospace industries spent $1.53 billion, and the oil and gas industry $1.3 billion.

Part of the cost, to be sure, is related to hospitals trying not to get sued.

“We use the CT scan because it’s a great defense,” said one hospital CEO. “For example, if anyone has fallen or done anything around their head — hell, if they even say the word ‘head’ — we do it to be safe. We can’t be sued for doing too much.”

Or, apparently, for charging too much … way too much.