Tuesday, December 12, 2017
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Make America Sick Again


Radio Adelaide

Note: This article does not necessarily represent the views of the NWYJ, only the views of the author

The Senate will likely vote on the revised American Health Care Act soon. This mainly Republican-backed bill will take millions of health insurance, and won’t solve the problems of millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans.

A Congressional Budget Office report found that the AHCA would throw 24 million people off insurance. [1] This is at a time when almost 1 in 10 Americans is uninsured, and that is down from pre-Obamacare times. Due to the increased risk of death without insurance, almost 50,000 people die each year because of lack of insurance. [2] [3]

This is in direct contrast to many representatives’ claims that “the US has great healthcare”. Our healthcare system is not the best under Obamacare, and it certainly won’t get better under TrumpCare/AHCA with millions of­­­­ additional people thrown off insurance. Few in the government have even seemed to notice Singlepayer [12] as an option, often criticizing it as “too expensive”.

However, many of you may spot in the CBO study, that the AHCA would save $337 billion. ­­­­Many may argue that at a time when the deficit is expanding and the US government is bankrupt, it is necessary for the government to lower spending.

However, is this worth throwing off millions of people from insurance and endangering them? Is it worth abolishing social programs that allow poor people to get by? I think not.

The ACA, or Obamacare, while more expensive, came with a set of tax hikes on the rich, and their repeal also means the repeal of those taxes. [4]

In addition, these Conservatives bemoaning the cost of Obamacare (somewhat offset by tax increases on the rich) are the same ones who supported wars in the Middle East. Most Republicans supported the Iraq War, along with many Democrats, resulting in a costly foreign invasion and power vacuum. Many republicans also support increased defense budget. [5] Republicans seem to only care about “balancing the budget” if it means decreasing or eliminating the safety net that millions of Americans rely on.

Estimates by a Harvard Working paper found that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars alone have cost “Somewhere between $4 to $6 trillion. “ A study by Neta C. Crawford of the Watson Insitute found that the cost of wars up to 2016 has been $4.8 Trillion, for the US alone. She goes on to write, in that same study that “No set of numbers can convey the human toll of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or how they have spilled into the neighboring states of Syria and Pakistan, and come home to the US and its allies in the form of wounded veterans contractors.”[6] In 2015, the Department of Defense cost the American Taxpayer $600 Billion, and under President Militaristic Trump, this will likely only increase. [7][8]Dividing that number by (24 x 365 x 60) gives us a rate of well over $1 million dollars a minute.

“Social Programs are a burden on the debt”

2015 Government spending. Ink Annotations by the author. (NationalPrioritiesProject)

 

What could we get instead of wasteful military spending? For slightly less than the annual Military spending, we could get ALL of the following:

  • 8 Million more adults on low income healthcare
  • 8 Million more children on  low income healthcare
  • 9 Million University scholarships
  • 4 Million additional Veterans on VA healthcare
  • 2 Million new infrastructure jobs
  • 900,000 new clean energy jobs
  • Over 800,000 more elementary school teachers

[9]

But the ramifications of such a military disarmament? While many hardline Conservatives claim that such an action would endanger the world to Russia, China…etc, that’s simply false. The US spends several times more on military than any other country. For example, the US spends almost 10 times as much as big scary Russia. [22] Spending more on military will only further provoke war and raise tension between countries. Let me remind you of this: the Cold War did not end because the US and USSR increased military spending, it ended because both sides were willing to come forward to the table and broker de-armament acts.

And for all his claims that he’ll “Put America first”, Donald Trump seems woefully un-America first. Not a single person who put “America First” would ignore the people at home while engaging in unjustified military spending and unprovoked bombing abroad. As many protesters have pointed out of our government, “Why is there always money for war but never for education?” [10]

In fact, even Sen. Bernie Sanders’ infrastructure plan pales in comparison to defense spending. Sanders’ Infrastructure plan calls for the government to “invest $1 trillion over five years to modernize our infrastructure.” That averages out to 200 billion a year, not half of the DOD’s budget. In addition, such expenditure isn’t without good reason, something seen tragically when levees in New Orleans collapsed in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina.

Yet, Republicans don’t seem to want to do anything. Pres. Trump’s budget contains drastic cuts for Departments of Labor, Education, Corps of Engineers, and the EPA, and huge increases on useless and wasteful spending. If Republicans want to “balance the budget”, a good first step would be military expenditures. However, they’re mostly unwilling to endorse Sen. Sanders’ plan, suggesting that they really don’t care about reducing debts. [11]

Alternatives to the current US system and the AHCA include Singlepayer, which is both cheaper, and insures more people (everyone). However, most politicians don’t seem to consider it even an option, with most deriding it as “impossible”, or “communist”. [12]

According to the CommonWealthFund, The US spends the most of any industrialized country on healthcare

as a percent of GDP: 17%. Compare this with the next highest spender in the study, France, at 11.6%, and you’ll quickly realize that the US system is neither effective, or cheap. [13]

Source: Commonwealth Fund

Ink Annotations by the Author

The chart above shows Health Care Spending as GDP percentage. Interesting how many countries with Universal healthcare actually spend less than the US, and in fact many of those countries do have single payer healthcare. In addition, of those countries on the chart (excluding the US) only Germany has less than 99% Govt. healthcare coverage (88.9%) because of its multi-payer system. [14] As we can see, the complaint that “It costs too much” is simply false.

Not only does the US spend the most on healthcare, its current system means that many people go without care. A 2013 study by HealthAffairs found that “more than one-third (37%) of U.S. adults went without recommended care, did not see a doctor when they were sick, or failed to fill prescriptions because of costs, compared with as few as 4 percent to 6 percent in the United Kingdom and Sweden. This is mostly due to issues with the current system such as the government’s inability negotiate lower prices, and administrative costs. [15] [23]

This is a snip from the article comparing wait times for healthcare.

Source: HealthAffairs

Ink Annotations by the Author

Better than US

As you can see, most countries do much better in terms of wait times and responsiveness for standard care, and it’s only in terms of seeing specialists that the US does well. Long wait times can be partially alleviated by long periods of paid leave. For example, Sweden has a full year of paid leave at 80% pay, given that a doctor confirms the illness within the first seven days of leave. [16]

The advantages of a universal system are clear. Contrary to popular belief, Canadians do not flock to the US for care. Canadians sent to bordering US states represented only .23% of hospitalizations that occurred in bordering provinces. [17] And while the cited study also mentions long waiting times reported by Canadians (also reported by US citizens),

1). The graph above shows that this issue is NOT an issue with Universal/Singlepayer

2). The paper also went on to conclude that “Also, more Americans report problems with obtaining referrals and cost of care as obstacles to seeing specialists [13].”[18]

But, these cost-related issues aren’t apparent to the rich. They easily have the money to spend on it. The rich can easily afford to spend thousands on healthcare, but most can’t. Healthcare has a hand in over half of all bankruptcies, and the AHCA will do nothing but worsen it, and the death toll related to those without health insurance. [19][20][21]

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/13/us/politics/affordable-care-act-health-congressional-budget-office.html

[2] http://www.pnhp.org/excessdeaths/health-insurance-and-mortality-in-US-adults.pdf

[3] https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2016/demo/p60-257.html

[4] https://www.forbes.com/sites/anthonynitti/2016/12/15/obamacare-repeal-results-in-tax-cuts-for-the-rich-tax-increases-and-lost-insurance-for-the-rest/#504bf3c24cdf

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq_Resolution#United_States_House_of_Representatives

[6] http://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/files/cow/imce/papers/2016/Costs%20of%20War%20through%202016%20FINAL%20final%20v2.pdf

[7] http://www.afcea.org/content/?q=house-committee-passes-600-billion-2015-dod-spending

[8] https://www.nationalpriorities.org/campaigns/military-spending-united-states/

[9] https://www.nationalpriorities.org/interactive-data/trade-offs/

[10] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/11/14/republicans-may-get-the-defense-spending-they-dreamed-of-under-president-trump/?utm_term=.0fdc63db10d8

[11] https://www.forbes.com/sites/charlestiefer/2016/11/09/president-trump-is-likely-to-boost-u-s-military-spending-by-500-billion-to-1-trillion/#290e8c186024

[12] http://www.pnhp.org/facts/what-is-single-payer

[13] http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2015/oct/us-health-care-from-a-global-perspective

[14] http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/social-issues-migration-health/data/oecd-health-statistics/oecd-health-data-social-protection_data-00544-en

[15] http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/early/2013/11/12/hlthaff.2013.0879.full.pdf+html?ijkey=7LvT

The CommonWealth Fund has summarized the article here:

http://www.commonwealthfund.org/Publications/In-the-Literature/2013/Nov/Access-Affordability-and-Insurance.aspx

[16] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sick_leave#Sweden

[17] https://www.amsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/WaitingTimes_primer.pdf

[18] http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/22/3/7.full

This is the “[13]” source within the quote.

[19] http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/suppl/2005/01/28/hlthaff.w5.63.DC1

[20] https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2009/06/bankruptcy_medical_costs.html

[21] http://www.snopes.com/643000-bankruptcies-in-the-u-s-every-year-due-to-medical-bills/

[22] https://www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/Trends-world-military-expenditure-2016.pdf

[23] http://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/080615/6-reasons-healthcare-so-expensive-us.asp?=myfinance-layout-no-ads