By Richard Gale and Gary Null PhD
Back when the COVID War was fully launched in 2020, we noted back in July of that year that the sweeping occurrence of COVID-19 infections has contributed to a loss of jobs, careers, regular education for our children and has adversely impacted the health of otherwise healthy people.
But for tens of millions of Americans who have lost their health insurance or have not been covered, the situation is more dire. One illness, one infectious disease, could push them over the edge into insolvency and bankruptcy. Now is the opportune time to change course, bail out all Americans and cease providing taxpayer gifts to Wall Street, the rich and powerful.
The fundamental problem with Obamacare, and the proposed combination of a Green New Deal and Medicare for All, is that both leave the unconscionable profit making in the system. The medical lobbies, insurance and hospital industries and Big Pharma assure that if you are hospitalized with COVID-19 and don’t have insurance, you will receive a bill for tens of thousands of dollars. There is no power in the U.S. at this moment that would prevent these private industries from foregoing a $3.5 trillion windfall profit annually.
Therefore the Democrats who claim they want universal healthcare want it only on the condition that the existing system is not upended. Yet that is exactly what is demanded at this moment.
The onslaught of misinformation from the corporatist wings of both political parties and media biases against universal healthcare are obviously confusing the electorate. This confusion leaves citizens bewildered about how they will pay their bills unless a fundamental overhaul of medical insurance is undertaken.
More important, what will happen if you are diagnosed with a serious illness and are not fully covered? What are your chances of joining the ranks of the 530,000 families that file bankruptcy annually for medical reasons?
According to a study published last year by the American Journal of Public Health, 66.5 percent of bankruptcies are medically-related. In the past, it was rare for people to go bankrupt because they did not have accessible medical care. There was a time in the U.S. when medicine carried a higher standard of ethics.
The Hippocratic Oath was respected and no one was denied medical care because they could not afford it. But that was in the past. Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which Biden continues to believe is a successful piece of legislation, has done little to mitigate the increasing financial burden on individuals and families. In fact, the quality of healthcare has steadily declined.
Now with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are witnessing patients forced to pay out of pocket enormous bills for diagnostic testing, ER visits, hospitalization and treatments. If you are returning to the country from overseas, you may be forced to pay for the time spent in quarantine even if you test negative for the virus. And the pharmaceutical and insurance industries are already capitalizing on this disaster.
The Democrat Party’s full throttle assault to undermine the legitimacy of Bernie Sanders’ campaign was orchestrated by the insurance and medical industrial complex, which has influenced unbridled bias across the media waves. The goal is to effectively sustain Obama’s failed healthcare efforts.
After listening to dozens of commentators on CNN, MSNBC, Fox, and the pseudo-health journalists at the New York Times, and Washington Post, the false impression was created to perceive Bernie as only offering free stuff to everyone and at enormous cost to taxpayers.
No one truly knows how much a national universal program would cost. Forecasts for a 10-year period range roughly between $13 trillion and $48 trillion. One thing is certain. The math is simple. It would be extremely expensive and for it to succeed dramatic infrastructural changes would need to be made throughout the entire healthcare system and how medicine is conventionally practiced. That conversation is long overdue.
However, perhaps this is the wrong argument because it is based upon the Democratic Party’s deep seated cognitive dissonance to protect the vested interests of Wall Street’s financial community, Biden’s allegiance to the credit lending industry, the military industrial complex, and the pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries.
In effect, the entirety of corporate America and the deep state, its lobbyists and oligarchic billionaires, and their sounding board in the mainstream media, are on one side of the scale while the urgent humanitarian medical needs of average citizens are on the other.
All that weighs on the side of Medicare for All are the educated adults, unionists, working people, and those who understand climate change and the need for a comprehensive and equitable healthcare system. This still remains to be a revolution that must take place across the nation. So, how does such a revolution get launched?
First, Medicare for All is doable and affordable. In fact, it can potentially save $1.7 trillion a year by removing from the equation unnecessary and unconscionable profit to private insurance providers, the drug makers and the large mega-hospital networks.
There is no reason for having so many levels of bureaucracy between direct medical care and the patient. Every industry directly involved in providing treatment and care would continue to profit. But it would be a reasonable profit. Instead we have a medical lobby that is excessively greedy and eager to take advantage of loopholes in order to milk the system for whatever it is worth.
But we can only have a viable Medicare for All after we seriously look at what it costs to treat a patient and make efforts to reduce the exorbitant waste that has been programmed into our current system.
How is it that a hospital can charge $787 for an adult and $393 for a child for a one dollar bag of intravenous saline solution, plus an additional $127 to administer it?
Americans spend more on prescription medications than any other developed nation, as drug prices can soar ten times the rate of inflation.
Daraprim, for example, which is prescribed to fight one of the world’s most common parasitical infections that causes toxoplasmosis, can cost $45,000 per month, or $750 for a single pill that costs $13.50 to manufacture.
When we consider the costs for treating COVID-19, the figures get even more outrageous. An average Medicare payment for a common respiratory infection is about $13,300, and over $40,000 for an infection requiring a ventilator. That was in 2017, and the average costs have increased 20 percent or more in less than three years. Average out of pocket costs for being hospitalized for pneumonia is $1,300 and much higher for those covered by small business insurance.
Cases of uninsured people being treated for COVID-19 have received medical bills upwards to $35,000 and conservatively there are 28 million uninsured citizens in the U.S. at this moment and rising as unemployment increases. Consequently only 1 in 7 Americans polled would not seek COVID-19 treatment because of the cost.
Based upon earlier figures between 2012-2015, about $2.6 trillion can be saved by removing bureaucratic waste and profiteering. This includes $275 billion on private insurance paperwork, $55.6 billion on liability insurance, $471 billion for insurance billing, $140 billion for medical fraud (2016), $210 billion for unnecessary medical testing, and $190 billion for wasteful administrative services. Back in 2016, the British Medical Journal reported that medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States. As a result over $1 trillion is spent on avoidable medical errors.
Universal healthcare will not break the economy. What is breaking the economy is our current broken medical system. Universal, quality care is easily within reach, but only after the health of the population is given preference over the healthcare system’s vulture capitalists. Then Americans will no longer have to worry about bankruptcy, which further contributes to the stresses associated with ill health, because they cannot afford the treatments or medications without putting themselves and their family into perpetual debt.
Second, providing universal health care does not guarantee that patients will receive quality care. If we are truly honest with ourselves and ask whether the U.S. has the best medical care available, the answer should be a resounding no. American emergency medicine is exemplary as is specialized surgery. However, chronic care for treating heart disease, cancer, diabetes, pain management and neurological and mental health conditions has been a dismal failure.
More physicians need to be brought into the system without the anxiety of paying off enormous school debt and being forced to work to exhaustion. We would be wise to make medical education free in return for young doctors committing themselves to charging reasonable fees if they wish to remain within the system. If a doctor prefers to gouge patients, that is their right to do so outside of the national system.
Finally, the U.S. lags far behind in implementing a national preventative program. Very little has been done to prevent diseases shown to be directly related to life-style, diet and toxic conditions in our environment.
A viable prevention program would begin by supporting and mandating holistic health programs in our schools beginning with grade school. Why does offering school courses in “How to be Healthy” seem absurd when it has been shown repeatedly in the scientific peer-review literature and efforts in other advanced nations to avoid preventable illnesses and further reduce medical costs? But in order to launch a comprehensive preventative program at a national scale, only respected educated health consumers should be in charge.
Entities representing private corporate interests should be prohibited since they are responsible for the medical disasters that now demand for universal healthcare. If Obamacare and the current corporate medical establishment were truly effective, there would be no discussion about Medicare for All. Hence this program would save nearly $2 trillion a year and help prevent tens of millions of diseases.
The nation would be much healthier if comprehensive measures were taken to prevent disease in the first place. During the past three years we have sent, on multiple occasions, suggestions for implementing a Medicare for All to the Sanders’ campaign and leading Democrats in Congress. But not a single person has responded. What does that tell us about the sincerity and commitment of those who profess universal healthcare but get their funding and marching orders from the drug industry?
Richard Gale is the Executive Producer of the Progressive Radio Network and a former Senior Research Analyst in the biotechnology and genomic industries.
Dr. Gary Null is the host of the nation’s longest running public radio program on alternative and nutritional health and a multi-award-winning documentary film director, including The War on Health, Poverty Inc and Plant Codes.