A neighbor sympathized when she learned my husband is receiving treatment for bladder cancer. “I had bladder cancer and the BCG treatments ten years ago.”
“You’ve done well,” I said. “George had treatment five years ago, but the doctor told us bladder cancer always returns. You’ve had no sign of tumors since then?”
“Well, I don’t know. I have no health insurance and the exam is more than I can afford—let alone the treatments.”
My neighbor is in her 40s. Her husband was injured over a year ago and has not been able to work since. She has worked a couple of part time jobs but has found nothing permanent, nothing that offers health insurance. How do we justify providing health care coverage for retirees but not for young people with families?
George’s hospital charges an uninsured person $874 for each BCG injection. Our insurance company negotiates a price of $332.83 for each. That’s a huge discount to the insurance company. Does it really cost the hospital $541.17 less to inject an insured person? Yes, I know hospitals have to pick up the cost for unpaid bills—and they do pass those costs on to everyone else. Still, I wonder why voters don’t demand a single payer health care system that cuts the insurance middle man out.
According to World Health Organization data, the U.S. spent 15.4% of GDP on health care in 2006—far more than other developed nations. Still, we have millions of uninsured citizens—like my neighbor who must forego seeing a doctor until she reaches emergency room status.
WHO statistics also tell us the average life span in the US is 78 years—compared to 80+ for citizens of the UK, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, and Canada. It appears Americans spend more and get less for our health care dollars than any other country. Policies like these explain a lot about our economy.
Certainly, Obamacare or Romneycare (depending on which party you belong to) is no panacea. It builds health care around the most expensive, least productive piece of the pie—health insurance companies. Will we be better off scrapping it and starting over as Gov. Romney and other right-wing Republicans urge? Not likely since the insurance industry (as they did in 2008) will donate heavily to candidates of both parties in order to keep the dominant seat at the discussion. If the Affordable Health Care Plan is repealed, my neighbor will have no hope of health care insurance unless she finds a good job.
Way to go, USA.