Is it fair to place total blame on President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul legislation, “The Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act” (i.e., ObamaCare), for the outrageous cost of both health care insurance and medical treatment as both Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and the Republican propaganda machine (i.e., the Fox News Network) are so to quick to do? To blame the high cost of health insurance and treatment on the president’s attempt at giving all Americans affordable health insurance is a little like placing all blame on Santa Claus for the hideous gift you received last Christmas. The rapid growth of health care spending has increased at a slower rate during the past two years than any other time over the past five decades.
As a nation, Americans pay twice as much yet receive half the health care benefits as that of all other developed countries. Life expectancy in the United States ranks number fifty in the world. With health care costs having risen more than one hundred and thirty percent between 1999 and 2009, it is this fact that is at the core of the problem. From 2000 to 2009, profits for the ten largest insurance companies had increased two hundred and fifty percent, ten times faster than the rate of inflation. Since 2008, the five largest health insurance companies had a combined profit of $12.2 billion, up fifty-six percent.
Part of the problem with our health care system is that doctors now routinely own the very clinics and labs in which they refer their patients for treatment and tests. The Institute of Medicine estimates that unnecessary medical care costs this country more than two hundred billion dollars a year. From 1996 through 2010, the number of ultrasounds performed has doubled, the number of CT scans has tripled and the number of MRIs has quadrupled. Chemotherapy has been found to work on only three to five percent of the patients who undergo it, thus ninety-five percent receive no actual benefit but get both the toxicity poisoning and the bills.
The Institute of Medicine has also estimated that seventy-five billion dollars in insurance fraud is committed every year and nearly two hundred billion dollars are wasted each year in excessive administration costs. Then there is the cost of our prescription medication. Americans pay twice what Canadians do for the very same drugs. It wasn’t all that long ago that local news was reporting on the busloads of senior citizens driving up to Canada to get their meds. So many, that the FDA issued a report informing us of the hazards of taking medication purchased across the border, despite the fact that the very same pharmaceutical companies were manufacturing them.
With nearly fifty million Americans without health insurance, these uninsured people receive their health care via hospital emergency rooms, which compounds the problem in that this is the most expensive method of receiving treatment. President Obama should be given credit for trying to insure all citizens have adequate health care. As a nation, we should be ashamed of this statistic.
Steven H. Spring