Thursday, September 24, 2009


I spoke with a friend yesterday who is ill. They have an undefined serious debilitating illness that has caused them to lose their job and in that process lose their health coverage.

Under Cobra, the system that allows workers to continue with their health plan by making their own payments, it's costing my friend fourteen hundred—one thousand four hundred—dollars A MONTH to continue health care coverage for themselves and their family.

Not only is this adding to the general stress of the ways in which the Great Recession has hit this family, and causing greater stress which in turn I am sure contributes to the health issues, but my friend and the doctors involved have to find ways around looking for some obvious causes that may be long term and therefore the health plan may not cover!

My friend and their family is what this country calls "middle class"—a term rejected in the 1960s by my radical friends of that time as meaningless. They used to say (and as I've said here before): "If the ruling class rules and the working class works, what does the middle class do, middle?"

No, what we have in this country—very much like many so-called "developing countries" or what used to be called "the third world" or more honestly in my boyhood, "poor countries"—is a ruling class of overseers, the one percent who control as much or more of this country's wealth as the bottom 95%—yep, you read that correctly—and their minions who do their bidding or more importantly do what is in the interest of that one percent—i.e. the managers of corporations, the media managers and their minions, and most of the politicians in DC and various state capitols.

Just talking to my friend got me so riled up about this stupid so-called "healthcare system" in this country I could go on a tirade for days, let alone one blog post. But I think this quote from a post on Huffington yesterday by Robert Creamer sums it up pretty obviously:

"We spend $7,290 per person and end up in 37th place. They [the French] spend only $3,601 and they are number one. That's just not right.
On the average, Frenchmen live almost three years longer than the average American. That's infuriating.
What's more, every legal resident of France is covered by health insurance, and in the U.S. 46 million people are uninsured. When someone in France goes to the hospital, everything except a small co-payment is covered - it's that simple.
The government doesn't deliver health care in France. Private doctors and hospitals do most of that. It just provides health insurance for everyone.

[For the whole article go here.]

How simple. How successful. How too democratic and in the spirit of equality and justice for all. Not in the USA! Oh no. Here it's "every man [and woman and child] for themselves" and what's the wealthiest one percent is theirs and what's ours is theirs too, and we can die trying to fix it, because their minions ain't giving up access to their small chunk of that wealth for our sakes.

[And here's another Huff Post article that answers the GOP criticisms of "the public option" in a pretty original way.]


Butch in Waukegan said...

Just got done listening to a Le Show podcast from a few weeks ago.

Harry read life expectancy rankings from the CIA Factbook. Portugal ranks number 48th, Albania ranks 51st. The USA is ranked 50th.

USA! USA! We’re number 50!! Free enterprise!!! Free enterprise!!!

JIm said...

The French system is good but not necessarily better than the US system. Comparisons are difficult because different criteria are used to measure the two systems. As an example, the higher murder rate of the US and excellent cancer survival rate of the US are not taken into account. The French have universal coverage but not universal access. French economic growth suffers under the high cost structure.

September 10, 2009
Give Me Liberty... or Give Me Health Care?
By Andrew Foy and Brenton Stransky

Much has been made in the recent weeks and months about the French health care system, which was ranked first by the World Health Organization (WHO), as a model for US health care reform.
Individual premiums are funded primarily through payroll taxes. Health insurance benefits and provider reimbursement rates are all set by the government and most health care services require substantial copayments. French consumers pay 13 percent of health care costs out of pocket. Ninety-two (92%) percent of French residents purchase complementary private insurance because many health care services are not covered, and because many providers refuse to accept the fee schedules imposed by the insurance funds.

Unfortunately, these statistics are heavily influenced by differences in reporting (i.e., the US reports infant death in any infant delivered where France only includes infants who meet certain criteria) and differences in factors not related to health care quality (i.e., homicide rates and deaths from motor vehicle accidents bring down the life expectancy in the US compared to France)
Notably, up-to-date cancer survival rates are absent ... this is an area where the United States excels.

French consumers pay 13 percent of health care costs out of pocket and many health care services are not covered by government insurance funds. This has led to a robust, largely unregulated private health insurance system ...
In this sense, the French have a two-tiered system -- a common complaint leveled against the US.

Like France, individuals in the US without insurance or without generous benefits may be limited to what outpatient treatments and testing modalities they can access.

The government restricts access for certain testing and treatment modalities to limit costs (i.e., according to the OECD, France has 1/8th the number of MRI machines and 1/4th the number of CT scanners per 100,000 people compared to the US). (i.e., the average French doctor makes $55K/year compared to $146k/year for primary care physicians and $271K for specialists in the US).
French health care system is tort-adverse. It is very difficult to sue your doctor in France... defensive medicine accounts for 200-500 billion dollars of wasteful spending annually.

The French system leverages payroll (13.25%) and social contribution (5.25%) taxes to subsidize their government insurance funds. ..individuals and families in France purchase supplemental private insurance. ..take a heavy toll on many middle class French families and beyond who contribute a significantly higher percentage of their total income

in short, as government spending and tax revenue increase, economic production goes down, which has a negative impact on all members of society.

..French health care system; as we stated, the French system provides high quality care. Our intention was to clarify the advantages and disadvantages of the French system recognizing that one's view will be significantly influenced by ideology.

Anonymous said...

It still awes me that until some people are personally affected by our horribly broken health care system, they will continue to parrot the talking points made by Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh. Or, in this case, quote some obscure article citing why the French health care system is not better than ours.

Since Michael indirectly referenced my situation in his blog today, I feel compelled to respond to the post with complete first hand knowledge of what we, Americans, are dealing with.

After having worked as a white-collar professional for the past 25 years (and paying into a 33% tax bracket for at least 20 years), never having had an illness more serious than the flu, and never missing a health insurance payment, my family will soon need to decide which we can afford to do in the upcoming months: pay our COBRA premium of $1,400 per month for basic medical coverage for a family of three, pay our heating bills or pay our mortgage, because I am now ill. Seriously ill.

My spouse is a small business owner and our family has depended upon my employer sponsored healthcare insurance all these years. Private insurance, at this point, will not pick me up because I have a pre-existing condition.

Of course, we can drain our 401k now (and pay the penalty) to make the COBRA payment and watch our life savings deplete then count on our Social Security checks to live on in another 10 years or so. Not to mention worrying about how to pay for our 11 year-old’s college education.

This is not intended to be a poor-me post. It’s a real life post. Forgive me if I don’t have the patience or grace to hear the GOP-just-say-no party line today. Jim, please take a break today and shut the f**k up. There are real people behind the stats.

RJ Eskow said...

If your friend has something like fibromyalgia, the problem is very different than it might be for other conditions. Conditions that are poorly understood could remain a problem even under a better system.

That said, the Huffington Post numbers are true and speak for themselves.

JIm said...

The post from the American Thinker is to clarify the diffences, advantages and disadvantages of the French system compared to the US system. Obviously real life experience as well as idiology will effect your thoughts on the current system and proposed changes to it. I wish you well.

Butch in Waukegan said...

Anonymous, I feel for you. I hope my original comment didn’t come off as a flippant attempt to ride my hobby horse. (Actually I’m in a similar, though not as dire, situation. I have a couple of weeks to make a decision to opt for COBRA.)

The whole healthcare debate exposes just how f’ed we are. The politicians run around yelling “the banks are failing! the banks are failing!” and without batting an eye shovel trillions of dollars to the too-big-too-fail corporations.

Yet, when it comes to the health and well being of the citizenry they are as stingy as hell. Priorities.

Ed Baker said...

hey don't worry about your 11 year old's college degree every one of these Morons in congress and running Big Business have multiple degrees:

MBA's and LLB's and MBA's and etc etc etc and just look what they have done..

besides she will get a very low interest Pell Grant and and other 35 year student loans... but only if you don't have a personal fund for her... she need only apply on her own...

as for SS (and Medicare)

gee I got both! charge for my Part B is about 30% of my monthly SS check of $425!

when your net worth gets down to under $2,000 and you got now property in your name

you will be able to get Medicade and get medical via the "c" students..

meanwhile get your boondoggle Swine Flu shot! for $50 ..

just make sure when you get the flu that they do a culture to REALLY identify they now do with the 3 million who are getting this 3-day virus and are gonna die!

that will solve the Health-careless Problem... fewer people shorter bread lines.

as soon as we get rid of the "poor people" we can replace them with the "middle class"

get your daughter interested in fixing necessary things like toilets (plumber), ecectricianing stuff, carpentry, splitting fire wood, stealing food from Safeway, etc..

this-all is just "pay-back" time for our 100's of years of greed and
telling fibs and embracing fantasies

Anonymous said...

ed you got it right. Who needs education. Who can afford education. Knowledge is of little value in asociety oblivious of any goal other than that of filling ones own pockets. We cannot serve God and Mammon. Poor Jesus, the Christians of today seemingly abhor his teachings.
It is very clear that these teachings are antithetical to the tenets of Capitalism.

AlamedaTom said...

Lal: Important post. Thanks. Instead of trying to explain and argue the obvious, this says it all:

~ Willy

JIm said...
Her doctors told her that they are growing and that she needs to get this operation quickly. She has no insurance. [...]

CANTOR: First of all I guess I would ask what the situation is in terms of income eligibility and the existing programs that are out there. Because if we look at the uninsured that are out there right now, there is probably 23, 24% of the uninsured that is already eligible for an existing government program [...] Beyond that, I know that there are programs, there are charitable organizations, there are hospitals here who do provide charity care if there’s an instance of indigency and the individual is not eligible for existing programs that there can be some cooperative effort. No one in this country, given who we are, should be sitting without an option to be addressed.

Lally said...

Tom, Thanks for that link. You're right. It says it all.

Anonymous said...


When a person is ill and can't afford health care, the issue ceases to be about ideology. It is a moral issue. And notice I didn't say "moral dilemma"; because it's an easy choice! You continue to show your morals.... Please take the earlier advice and be quiet.

- Miles

JIm said...

Alameda Tom,implied that Cantor had said something untoward. I just thought, if he was to be judged, the quote should be available.

JIm said...

Here are a couple of examples of the Democratic Party’s philosophy of government at work.

1-Minimum wage laws that lead to high unemployment of America’s youth
2- Michigan is a Democratic Party controlled state. Of course we have other examples in California with Democrats and a RHINO governor in control. New York and New Jersey and Pennsylvania are close behind.

The Democrats are about to expand their magic at the national level.

Young, unemployed and facing tough future
Last Updated: 4:45 AM, September 27, 2009
Posted: 1:34 AM, September 27, 2009

The unemployment rate for young Americans has exploded to 52.2 percent -- a post-World War II high, according to the Labor Dept. -- meaning millions of Americans are staring at the likelihood that their lifetime earning potential will be diminished and, combined with the predicted slow economic recovery, their transition into productive members of society could be put on hold for an extended period of time.
And worse, without a clear economic recovery plan aimed at creating entry-level jobs, the odds of many of these young adults -- aged 16 to 24, excluding students -- getting ....

Mich. stares down 2nd govt. shutdown in 3 years

Sep 26, 5:54 PM (ET)


LAINGSBURG, Mich. (AP) - Economically beleaguered Michigan aces a possible government shutdown - shuttering highway rest areas, state parks, construction projects and the state lottery - if lawmakers fail to reach a budget deal in the next few days.