I’ve said it many times before, and repeated that assertion on my show this morning.

I got a bill in the mail yesterday from a collection agency.  Not from the imaging clinic where I had a thyroid ultrasound done in May, but from a collection agency.

Honestly, when I got the bill for $504.60, I couldn’t imagine what it was for. It certainly couldn’t be for  that simple ultrasound that took all of 10 minutes with a lab technician who was able to show me on the machine that my thyroid had completely atrophied.

But when I went online to MyUHC.com to check my claims, I found out that it, indeed, was what the bill was for.

I guess I’m fortunate enough to have health insurance through a part-time employer.  For that luxury, I get to pay over $1000 a month, and $2000 toward my “deductible” before the insurance company pays one red cent.  So, why on earth would I subject myself to that kind of debt?  Because if I didn’t, I’d be screwed even more, and not in a good way.

That $504.60 bill I got yesterday?  If I didn’t have insurance, that bill would have been for $841.00. You see, because I pay the monthly premiums extortion fees, I get the privilege of paying the amount they charge the insurance company  (the “network” fee).

A better example of this comes from last year.  On July 11, 2010, I broke the 5th metatarsal bone of my right foot.  It was a clean break and surgery was recommended.  Because I had insurance, my cost for the surgery was $1,085.70 – the remainder of the $2000 deductible that I had not yet paid.  The insurance company paid the difference – $2,748.30, bringing the total paid for said surgery to $3834.00.

But the total amount the hospital billed for the surgery was a whopping $21,500.39.  The insurance company gets a $17,666.39 discount?  Seriously?

If I didn’t have insurance pay the monthly extortion fee, I would have been charged $21,500.39 for the same surgery that the insurance company extortionists are charged only $3834?  If the hospital can afford to do this surgery and only charge the insurance company $3934, why can’t they charge everyone that amount?  Or are they overcharging the rest of us so that they can give the insurance company extortionists incredibly low rates in order to keep their business?

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure that one out – a good thing, as we couldn’t afford the brain surgeon’s out of network fees.

By the way, even after paying the $504.60 for the ultrasound I had in May, I’m still $691.94 away from having my insurance company actually cover any of my medical bills this year.  I have 3 1/2 months to go before it starts all over again.

Can you say Medicare for All?

Which Way Will He Go?

This morning on the show, I also played the new game show “Which Way Will He Go?” in which we guess whether President Obama will actually do the right thing by the American people and prove he’s really a Democrat, or if he’ll finally jump the austerity shark and adopt the right wing talking points as policy.

The two sides are represented by the Financial Times of London and the Wall St. Journal.  I know, neither of them give you much confidence, but that’s what we have to work with today.

On Tuesday, Financial Times published a story with the sickening headline, “Obama to Propose Medicare and Medicaid Cuts“.  Follow the link to read the whole thing, but here’s the most important part of the story:

Barack Obama is expected to lay out a plan next week that would cut several hundred billion dollars from Medicare and Medicaid, the large government healthcare schemes for the elderly and the poor, as part of a pitch to cut future deficits by more than $1,500bn.

Senior White House officials said the US president would base a detailed blueprint for fiscal reform, which is to be delivered on Monday, on an earlier speech he delivered in April on deficit reduction.

In the other corner, we have the Wall St. Journal, truly lacking  in credibility since the takeover by Murdoch’s NewsCorp.  But in this case, I hope their reporting is true.  This morning, the headline read, “Obama Plan Won’t Include Changes to Social Security,” and included these (somewhat) more encouraging  (but not by much) words:  (if that link doesn’t work due to the WSJ paywall, just google the headline together with Laura Meckler, one of the writers and click on that link)

President Barack Obama’s new deficit-reduction proposal will leave out changes to Social Security, and may exclude any increase in the Medicare eligibility age, people familiar with the discussions said Wednesday.

“As the president has consistently said, he does not believe that Social Security is a driver of our near- and medium-term deficits,” White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said in a statement.

Changing the inflation formula so Social Security benefits grow more slowly and raising the Medicare eligibility age were ideas Mr. Obama had been willing to accept this summer, when he was trying to strike a deficit-reduction deal with House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio)…

Instead of raising the Medicare eligibility age, the White House is considering recommending cuts to providers and possibly increasing premiums for wealthier recipients, people familiar with the discussions say. It’s also possible the president would propose changing the inflation calculation for other government programs, which currently use the same measure as Social Security does. The White House declined to comment on those discussions.

I don’t know about you, but to me, both read with little optimism that Medicare and Medicaid won’t be cut.

The word Reform has now come to mean Destroy.  Entitlement Reform means they want to gut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and to hear President Obama say that he will work on Medicare Reform is a huge red flag for me.

Here’s the Medicare Reform I’d be happy with:

  • Open it to everyone! Allow anyone who wants to buy in to be able to. Rates would be based on age and income.
  • Ensure that prescription drug prices will come down by negotiating with the pharmaceuticals on prices based on Medicare enrollment
  • Ensure that prices for tests/procedures come down by negotiating with providers for those services based on Medicare enrollment
  • Fix the fee-for-service system we now have to a results-based fee system

I’m sure there’s more… but those are suggestions coming from a layman who knows next to nothing about the medical industry.  But if we really want to fix the health care system in this country, we need to stop thinking of it as an industry and more as a public service.  Get the profit our of our health care!

Today on the Show

It was a busy show. In addition to ranting about what I’ve just written, I spoke with a few great guests.

Alice Kim is one of the people behind a website encouraging educators to take some time this week to Teach Troy Davis. Thanks to the compassion-less audience at last week’s GOP Deather debate who applauded Brian Williams’ question to Rick Perry at the mention of the executions of 234 prisoners in Texas, our nation is finally talking about Capital Punishment.

We’re learning about Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed by Texas even after evidence was uncovered that cast serious doubt on his guilt – and then intentionally covered up by the state.   We’re signing petitions to keep Troy Davis from being executed by Georgia, who’s still planning to kill him on Wednesday – despite new evidence suggesting that eyewitness testimony used to convict him may be flawed.

Unfortunately, the discussion came too late to save Steven Michael Woods, Jr, who was killed by the state of Texas just two days ago…. convicted of capital murder under the insane Law of Parties, which states that a person can be criminally responsible for the actions of another if he or she aids and abets, or conspires with the principal.  Woods didn’t kill anyone; he was guilty of being in the car of someone who did murder two people and drove the car that helped him get away.  He didn’t kill anyone.

We’re also probably too late to save Duane Buck.  Texas is set to execute him later today after a jury was convinced that he was more apt to be violent again because of his race.

Unfortunately, the list goes on and on and on and on….

We’re not only killing people, but we’re also killing the planet (while the deathers deny there’s anything wrong with any of it).  Peter Sales joined me for a fascinating discussion this morning based on his new book, Our Dying Planet: An Ecologist’s View of the Crisis We Face.

And comedian John Fugelsang helped me end my broadcast week with a lively and, at times, funny discussion of all the things I’ve written about here, plus music and more!

Thanks for reading this far… Now click the player at the top of the post, if you haven’t already done so, and listen to the show!  I’ll talk to you Monday, radio or not!