Medical, insurance industries, Congress colluding in extortion

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Our ongoing healthcare discussion seems to revolve exclusively around insurance coverage — who gets it, who doesn’t, and how much it’ll cost. The current tunnel-visioned approach requires people to become insurance customers, and insurance companies are profit-driven corporations. They don’t care about our health, they care about profit. We’re nothing to them but marks in a ledger.

Hang on to your seat — I, proud Liberal and Barack Obama devotee, have a criticism of Obamacare: Requiring all Americans to purchase medical insurance, whether they can afford it or not, is the equivalent of funneling business — and profit — into insurance corporations.


Sure, it’s like car insurance — everyone must buy it. However, if you can’t afford car insurance, you can choose not to own a car. If you can’t afford health insurance, you can’t choose to not live in a body. The extortion is baked in.

Of course, there’s perpetual motion to this extortion, because one of the things insurance companies do with all this profit is to lobby politicians and donate to their reelection campaigns to guarantee that they’ll continue to do their bidding.

Our healthcare system needs a complete paradigm shift. The focus must be what’s best and reasonable for all Americans rather than propping up the cash-flow alliance between the insurance companies and Congress. For starters, how about scrutinizing the other hog at the trough: the medical industry. The medical industry is supported by the insurance industry in gouging patients.

I’ve seen it myself. How about the $40 I was charged for two Tylenol tablets after having a baby? I could buy a lifetime supply of Tylenol for less. Of course, the insurance company paid for it, but it still bugged me. Then there was the biopsy of a varicose vein that was removed (about $150, if I recall). I questioned this, and was told it’s “procedure” to biopsy anything removed from our bodies. What did they expect to find in my vein? Cancer? Alzheimer’s? A puppy? Of course, the insurance company paid for it.

Many vein procedures later, I needed new compression hose one day, no change in size or my condition, and in the past, no problem. I’d arrange to pick them up and that was that. Then one day, I was informed I’d need an appointment at the vascular surgeon’s office to get new hose. That’s a $40 co-pay for basically nothing and, of course, the insurance paid the rest.

It’s a pretty cozy arrangement. The medical and insurance industries openly collude to boost each other’s massive profits, and Congress cements that unholy alliance by forcing Americans to purchase insurance to fund it. Extortion!

To be clear, while I have an issue with the medical industry, on the human level, I absolutely adore my doctor at UC Davis. She’s razor-sharp, inquisitive and innovative, and I willingly, confidently place my life in her hands. I trust her completely. Not so much, my insurance company. Before I can get the treatment she recommends — an MRI or physical therapy, for example — I can’t have it until we play “Mother May I” with the insurance company. So, rather than my bright, brilliant doc making my healthcare decisions, some sad, tired 20-something insurance agent with zero medical education or experience has the final say. It’s not merely infuriating, it’s downright perverse!

And yet, the grind toward solving our healthcare issue by increasing insurance coverage — not investigating price-gouging in the medical industry facilitated by collusion with the insurance industry — goes on. Why? Because politicians vote based upon what benefits them personally. And health industry lobbyists benefit them immensely.

We need to forge a new path in an entirely different direction. How about funding for more community clinics with sliding-scale pay and no insurance requirement? And requiring a federally subsidized community clinic in every county in every state? Hell yeah, that’s expensive and complicated and cumbersome. But it would be ultimately more affordable for patients, and it cuts insurance companies out of the cash loop, forcing them to compete for our business rather than our government furnishing them with customers.

The insurance industry is just like the airline industry — we have no other options, and they have us over a barrel and they know it. And they’re going to do to us what people do when they have others over a barrel. Without lube.

Had the Republican healthcare bill passed, because I’m over 50, my insurance premium would have increased five-fold. That’s more than my whole paycheck! I’m sure I’m not the only one. And yet… Republicans didn’t see this as a problem.

I soothed my fears over what Republicans might do next by reminding myself that, today, I still have insurance with Western Health Advantage through my employer, which allows me to see my wonderful doc. Well, that rug was ripped out from under me. WHA and UC Davis have parted ways, citing irreconcilable differences. The prospect of being unable to see my doctor anymore seized me with anxiety.

In a fit of desperation, I fired off an email to UC Davis Chief Medical Officer Dr. J. Douglas Kirk, and shamed him for putting profit over people. I implored him to revisit this decision, as it was UCD that dumped WHA, not vice versa. I reminded him that doctors take a “Do no harm” oath, and informed him that he is doing me and many others enormous harm by canceling our insurance coverage. Did he reply? No. Does he care? Pssshh. He’s got his. As do our politicians. If we live or die — it has no effect on their comfy lives.

The medical-insurance conglomerate has us by the hair, splayed over their corporate collusion barrel, and is having its way with us, while our so-called representatives whistle and look the other way, and finger the corporate lobby money in their pockets for comfort.

Talk about sick.

What’s the cure? Single-payer healthcare.

Will we get it? No. Because… money, man.

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