Stories that tell why we need single-payer

We continue to concentrate on the wrong thing — getting the uninsured into the present system — when we talk about health care reform.

Increasingly, those of us who are privileged to be in the system find that we can’t afford health care, either. The whole system is rotten, wasteful, too expensive and too inefficient. We pay more money to be sicker than folks in any other advanced nation.

There are a lot of problems with our system, but the biggest is the basic premise — employer-based health care through for-profit (and we’re talking for HUGE profits) private insurance companies.

If private health care coverage weren’t so expensive for all of us, the 1 in 7 who remain uncovered would be in it. But it is, and will be, expensive by definition. A profit has to be made.

A single-payer system is the logical way to go. It’s time we got logical about this monster that is now consuming 16 percent of our national economy.

I wrote this column — "‘Health care reform?’ Hush! You’ll anger the Insurance Gods!" — back in November because it’s time that people like me — in the top income quintile — started pointing out how unaffordable this wasteful system is for us, which means it’s worse for millions of others who are also in the system. An excerpt from that column:

    … I make more money than most people do here in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, and I live paycheck to paycheck, in large part because of the cost of being an extremely allergic asthmatic, and needing to do what it takes to keep enough oxygen pumping to my brain to enable me to work so I can keep paying my premiums and copays. My premiums in the coming year — we’re going to a new plan — will be $274.42 on every biweekly check, not counting dental or vision care. And I’m lucky to have it. I know that, compared to most, I’ve got a sweet deal!
    I’m in the top income quintile in the U.S. population, and we can’t afford cable TV, we’ve never taken a European vacation or done anything crazy like that, we haven’t bought a new car since 1986, and aside from the 401(k) I can’t touch until I retire (if I can ever afford to retire), we have no savings.
    Yet I will pay my $274.42 gladly, and I will thank the one true God in whom I actually do believe that I have that insurance, and that I am in an upper-income bracket so that I can just barely pay those premiums, and that neither my wife (a cancer survivor) nor I nor either of the two children (out of five) the gods still let me cover is nearly as unhealthy as the people I see whenever I visit a hospital…

On Jan. 6, we ran an op-ed piece from B.J. Welborn that told another middle-class story. An excerpt:

    But the picture is not always rosy. A recent experience made me realize that although I have a comfortable income and a good education, pay taxes and have an insurer pick up most of my health care costs, an overburdened and undermonitored health care system can leave me vulnerable and scared. Here’s my latest scare:
    Last year, an out-of-state company bought my husband’s firm in Columbia. We were forced to change our insurance. This change required baffling paperwork to keep my Gleevec coming, and though we tried valiantly to figure out the process, different people at the insurance company told us different things. The process dragged out; the clock was ticking for me. Soon, three weeks passed without my lifesaving drug. I wondered if anybody cared.
    I checked with my pharmacy and found it couldn’t order Gleevec from its supplier. I searched for Gleevec at other pharmacies. This drug, still in clinical trials, isn’t like a common antibiotic kept on drugstore shelves. I couldn’t find it. And even if I could find Gleevec, how would I pay for it? $3,000 this month, then $3,000 the next month?
    My anxiety mounted. When I washed my face, small blemishes bled, as they do when your blood can’t do its job. I was slipping through the cracks, and I was cracking up…
    The "what if" game is terrible. Millions play it, and one day, you or a
loved one could too. Anyone can get a chronic disease — diabetes, stroke,
mental illness, heart disease or cancer.
    Let’s face it: You, too, could slip through the cracks of our health care
system. So, it is up to you to make our potential leaders aware of what’s
really going on. It’s not just the poor and uninsured who are hurting, it’s
also millions of hard-working, middle-class Americans who foot the bill for
others’ health care…

Then, on Friday, Feb. 1, we had this letter to the editor:

Health coverage could make writer sick
    I am absolutely disgusted by the state of our nation’s health care.
    I am a college-educated woman with a bachelor’s degree, an employee of a prestigious university, but most important, a wife and a mother of young children.
    I live in fear that one of my family members will become seriously ill or simply require regular preventative care that my health insurance does not cover.
    For example, last year, I discovered that the health insurance for S.C. state employees does not cover routine pelvic exams, and without health insurance, that type of procedure can cost almost $200. And other medical procedures aren’t covered until after I meet the $350-per-person deductible.
    With one child in daycare and the costs of my children’s health care and regular childhood illnesses, I simply can’t afford to pay $200 or $350 or $550 for my own care. So I don’t go. And I hope that I don’t get sick.


That letter prompted this one on today’s page:

Health insurance costs leave little for care
    I read the letter “Health care coverage could make writer sick” by Martha Brown with interest.
    While wholly sympathetic to her concerns, I feel, by comparison to many of us, she would be embarrassed by how good she has it.
    As a provider for a healthy and active family of four, I am shackled with a monthly insurance bill in excess of $800. For this, we are provided with a policy that covers only 80 percent after a $1,000 deductible per person. It would appear that our policy was written to provide for the economic health of our insurance company, rather than that of my family.
    Our provider enjoys strong local recognition, and I hope it is competitive with other carriers, but my bill has become a payment for asset protection rather than health care, and I’m not sure how well it provides for that.
    “Health care is expensive” is the most common explanation received when I question our agent, doctors and others about our situation, but price is irrelevant when, after insurance payments, no money is left over for health care.
    Surely, mine and Ms. Brown’s situation is not unique. We live in the greatest society that has yet existed, but our current profit-driven health care system is clearly in direct conflict with what is best for its citizens.


More people should come forward with these stories. It’s embarrassing — neither of my two bosses, my employer or my wife, was particularly crazy about me going into such details — but this stuff needs to be available as we debate these issues. And we must debate them — the status quo is not sustainable.

63 thoughts on “Stories that tell why we need single-payer

  1. Brad Warthen

    This post was to help out bud, who doesn’t want to talk about the main job requirement of the president — leading the nation globally.
    This is a domestic issue worth our time and energy. So would be coming to grips with Social Security.
    Single-payer would be a VERY expensive new government program. But to us, the consumer, it would be cheaper, and more effective, than what we have now.

  2. Lee Muller

    There is no such thing as “single payer” health care. It is socialized medicine with millions of taxpayers, and millions more tax consumers.
    The Myth of The Uninsured
    We are bombarded with the propaganda message of the “47,000,000 uninsured” to
    conjure up the image of millions of poor people who cannot afford insurance.
    It is simply a fabrication.
    Most people cannot afford the automobiles, houses or vacations they want, either.
    They buy what they can afford. Most people can afford medical insurance, but
    choose to spend that money on nicer cars, houses, vacations and entertainment.
    Of that mythical “47,000,000 uninsured”, there are actually only 43,000,000,
    and 95 % of them change every year, 60% every 60 months.
    * There are fewer people without medical insurance today, than there were under Clinton.
    The Census Bureau in 2003 reported that the number of Americans without health insurance rose in 2002 to around 43.6 million, up from 38.7 million in 2000 but below the record 44.3 million who were uninsured in 1998.
    * From 1993 to 2002 the number of uninsured people in households with annual incomes above $75,000 increased by 114 percent.
    * The number of uninsured in households with annual incomes from $50,000 to $75,000 increased by 57 percent.
    * By contrast, the number of uninsured people in households with incomes under $25,000 FELL by 17 percent.
    * About three-quarters of the rise in the number of uninsured over the past four years has been among households earning more than $50,000 per year, and almost half of that has occurred among households earning more than $75,000 per year. In fact, almost one-third of the uninsured now live in households with annual incomes above $50,000 and one in five live in households earning more than $75,000 annually.
    – Unisured by Choice. National Council for Policy Analysis, Oct 2003
    * 14,000,000 are illegal aliens, mooching free treatment at our hospitals.
    Pew and Kaiser studies find 57% of Hispanics have medical insurance.
    * 7,000,000 can afford very good insurance policies, but refuse to buy them. Many are young people who choose to spend the money on nicer automobiles, vacations, and houses.
    * Most of the rest are only TEMPORARILY without insurance while changing jobs
    and insurance plans.
    74.7 percent are without insurance for less than 12 months.
    2.5 percent are without insurance for more than 36 months.
    – Source: Blue Cross and Census Bureau 2002
    * 41% of those without medical insurance are 18 to 24 years old, who were dropped from their parents’ insurance when they graduated from high school. Many are in college and covered by college insurance and clinic care. Others are out working and have not purchased their own insurance. Some of those can afford it and choose not to.
    – Census Bureau, 2002
    * 70.4 percent of those aged 18-24 do not have a private medical insurance policy.
    * 82.0 percent of those aged 25-64 do not have a private medical insurance policy.
    * 99.2 percent of those over age 65 do not have private medical insurance policy.
    (they drop it when they become eligible for Medicare)
    – Source: The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association 2002 market study
    * Those aged 18-24 spend 5 times as much on dining out and entertainment than
    they spend on medical care.
    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2001 Consumer Expenditure Survey
    Real reform would end all employer-provided insurance and put everyone on their own individual policies which would follow them from job to job, through unemployment, and into retirement.
    Most people cannot afford the automobiles, houses or vacations they want, either.
    Wanting doesn’t entitle anyone goods and services of other people.
    copyright 2008 Lee Muller. Reprinted here with permission.

  3. Lee Muller

    82.0 percent of those aged 25-64 do HAVE a private medical insurance policy.
    Among working adults aged 18-64, 92.5% have their own medical insurance.
    The only uninsured among working-aged Americans are the 7.5% who can afford some insurance but choose not to buy it, and the 4% who are not working at any given moment in time.

  4. bud

    Brad is right on with this one. The only criticism the opponents of single payer have is that it is socialized medicine. Ok, it’s socialized medicine. And the problem is??

  5. Lee Muller

    There are lots of problems with socialized medicine:
    * It’s socialist, un-American, and un-Constitutional.
    * It is inefficient, so it is more expensive. Medical costs rose no faster than the general cost of living, until government got involved. The most expensive part of medical costs is in the 46% of that sector controlled by government.
    * It provides inferior care. I have posted before comparisons of treatments and outcomes of various illnesses in the US vs Europe and Japan. The USA beats them all. In most of Europe, you have less than half the survival rate as in America.
    * It denies care. A major means of controlling costs under socialism is to stall, delay and deny diagnostics and treatments.
    * It takes away choice, because it is one big managed care system. Patients cannot choose doctors. Doctors and nurses have their incomes controlled by bureaucrats.
    Since 1995, over 10,000 doctors and nurses have emigrated from Canada to the USA.

  6. Gordon Hirsch

    Brad … your discontent with McClatchy’s health care plan is getting old and tired. Some of us have decent coverage from decent employers. It’s pretty clear that your crusade for single-payer would not exist if you were happy with your choices. The State starting shoving it’s health care expenses back on employees 20 years ago, and it’s obviously gotten worse as your bosses look for more ways to line their pockets. So stop trying to stick us with your bill and take it up with them.

  7. Lee Muller

    Gordon has hit the nail on the head.
    A lot of those who can afford medical insurance are on the bandwagon for socialized medicine because they know the days of lavish benefits for employees of big corporations and big government are coming to and end.
    The corporations, bureaucrats, and unions want the rest of us to pick up the tab for their benefits and bankrupt pension promises. So they package and sell it as a big reform for everyone.

  8. Doug Ross

    > And the problem is??
    Simple. Nobody who is for single payer can answer simple questions like:
    How will you pay for it?
    How will you ensure that services are not rationed?
    How will prices for services be set?
    How does a single payer system encourage research and innovation when the incentive
    (profit) is removed?
    What impact will it have on the economy (for example for local companies that employ thousands like Blue Cross) when those industries are eliminated?
    (Bud – I know you have at least taken a stab at it with your tiered approach, but that’s not what Brad is endorsing. He wants a “free” healthcare system where you walk into doctors offices, get free prescriptions, get your appendix removed, and are out the door (with a lollipop) in 30 minutes).
    Nobody who is for single payer can articulate any solutions, only pipedreams.
    I’ll give you a specific example I have repeatedly asked about when it comes to single payer – my friend (a top ortho surgeon in the country) charges what he feels is appropriate for hip replacements that get the patient up and walking far faster than the standard surgery. He’s is booked out for months by people who are willing to pay out of pocket for his services. He doesn’t accept Medicare patients because the reimbursements don’t even cover his operating room costs. In his spare time, he invents artificial joints using state of the art materials and develops surgical processes that allow him to replace a hip with two small incisions.
    There are very few surgeons capable of doing this procedure. I’m asking you single payer advocates to tell me how this doctor will fit into your system? Be specific. Who will decide what he gets paid for the surgery? How will he be compensated for his inventions? Will he be able to turn away patients who he considers risky? Will he be free from malpractice insurance in a single payer system?
    If you can’t answer those questions, then go back to staring at the clouds in the sky as it will have the same effect. It’s pure fantasy without any analysis.
    And as far as I can tell from John McCain’s website, he doesn’t support single payer at all. (Because if he did, he wouldn’t have that issue in his bag of tricks to bash Hillary with this summer). Here’s one bullet from McCain’s issues page on his website:
    “Build genuine national markets by permitting providers to practice nationwide.”
    Looks like single payer is going to depend on The State endorsing Hillary or Obama.

  9. Doug Ross

    And I’ll echo what Gordon said. If McClatchy’s method of cutting costs is to squeeze employees on insurance, then shame on them… but don’t punish the rest of us because of their policies. I have a very acceptable insurance policy with my company. I am highly doubtful that my coverage and access would be the same under a single payer plan.
    Instead of coming up with a monolithic government agency, fix the system by fixing the rules that allow companies to deny coverage or price people out of coverage.
    Give every American a choice to participate in the healthcare plans our government has access to. Get rid of useless government agencies and spend the money on free preventative healthcare. Just don’t come asking me to pay more for less than what I have now.

  10. Doug Ross

    Here’s all of McCain’s views on insurance from his website. Not a single whiff of single payer in the whole thing:
    “Reform the tax code to eliminate the bias toward employer-sponsored health insurance, and provide all individuals with a $2,500 tax credit ($5,000 for families) to increase incentives for insurance coverage. Individuals owning innovative multi-year policies that cost less than the full credit can deposit remainder in expanded health savings accounts.
    Families should be able to purchase health
    insurance nationwide, across state lines, to maximize their choices, and heighten competition for their business that will eliminate excess overhead, administrative, and excessive compensation costs from the system.
    Insurance should be innovative, moving from job to home, job to job, and providing multi-year coverage.
    Require any state receiving Medicaid to develop a financial “risk adjustment” bonus to high-cost and low-income families to supplement tax credits and Medicaid funds.
    Allow individuals to get insurance through any organization or association that they choose: employers, individual purchases, churches, professional association, and so forth. These policies will be available to small businesses and the self-employed, will be portable across all jobs, and will automatically bridge the time between retirement and Medicare eligibility. These plans would have to meet rigorous standards and certification. ”
    I can actually support all of that.

  11. Karen McLeod

    And pray tell, what’s the difference between giving everyone $5,000 dollar rebates with which to buy insurance from a private company, who’s going to siphon profits off of it, or using that money directly to pay for insurance (set up a non profit agency?) Everyone already has basic health insurance–its just very,very,expensive health insurance. If you’re flat broke, and get sick, the local county hospital emergency ward has to take you. You don’t have to pay–everyone else does, and of course, the hospital overcharges everyone with insurance in order to make up the difference. Of course, private insurance then jacks up prices to take care of that. Unfortunately, emergency room service is very expensive, because you have all these people standing by who are really not needed to provide you with a prescription for your bronchitis. It also only takes care of you in an “emergency.” Frequently, what you have wouldn’t be an emergency, if you could have gone in before it got that bad, or better yet, gotten your flu shot.
    Failing to address the health care needs of the poor provides another problem. These uninsured people, who can’t afford to get treated everytime they get sick, create a huge pool of potential infection. This is where you will probably first see MRSA and antibiotic resistant TB first flourish (not necessarily the first place reported–others can and do go to the doctor when they get sick–but the first place these diseases and others can incubate before sweeping the nation, epidemic style). Basic affordable care can stop this sort of thing from happening. And it’s much cheaper in both money and human misery and/or lives to stop it before it starts. If people who can pay for insurance are choosing not to, then they can pay piecemeal later when they need it. Others need basic, thorough health insurance that they can afford.

  12. bill

    The World Health Organizations rankings of health care systems:
    Rank Country
    1 France
    2 Italy
    3 San Marino
    4 Andorra
    5 Malta
    6 Singapore
    7 Spain
    8 Oman
    9 Austria
    10 Japan
    11 Norway
    12 Portugal
    13 Monaco
    14 Greece
    15 Iceland
    16 Luxembourg
    17 Netherlands
    18 UK
    19 Ireland
    20 Switzerland
    21 Belgium
    22 Colombia
    23 Sweden
    24 Cyprus
    25 Germany
    26 Saudi Arabia
    27 United Arab Emirates
    28 Israel
    29 Morocco
    30 Canada
    31 Finland
    32 Australia
    33 Chile
    34 Denmark
    35 Dominica
    36 Costa Rica
    37 United States of America
    38 Slovenia

  13. bud

    I guess if we go to a single payer system we could fall behind Slovenia. We definitely don’t want to do that.
    There is a similar list for life expectancy. We continue to fall further behind the rest of the world in this important area. South Carolina is well behind the average in U.S. Yet many persist is turning a blind eye to the problem. If I hadn’t lived the horror of the current system I might be more amenable to the free-market fanatics. But since I’ve been there and done that I know just how flawed the current system is.
    Whoops, look what time it is. I’m late for my second job, a necessity in these days of high medical costs, $3/gallon gasoline and stagnant wages.

  14. Lee Muller

    Those ratings are bunk, because when you look at the detailed stats on waiting times, treatments available, and success rates of surgery, and survival rates for cancers, stroke and heart attacks, the USA beats the best of Europe by 2 to 1.
    Our life expectancy is the same or better than Europe when you look at the same demographics. America’s statistics are skewed by the sickly 30,000,000 illegal aliens who are clogging up our hospitals and bankrupting them, and the low-weight births of illegitimate babies to unmarried African-American teen girls.

  15. Lee Muller

    The problem with having government provide care directly is that they are so wasteful.
    All the excessive costs in healthcare come from averaging in the 46% controlled by government, where costs are out of control.
    By comparison, costs of the least regulated and newest medicine in the private sector has risen slower than the general cost of living.
    * Cosmetic surgery costs have risen at half the rate of inflation.
    * LASIK and other new eye surgeries cost 20% LESS in 2008 than they did in 2003.

  16. Sand Hill

    I think you are half right. There is no good reason that we should get our health insurance through our employers.
    If McClatchy is anything like most employers, they probably don’t give you a whole lot of choice in what insurance plan you get. As a result that insurance can jack the price up on you.
    If we had the ability to select our insurance company at will, I guarantee you that we would get a better deal.
    I think the WSJ just did an article about how the current tax deduction that employers get would be better allocated to individuals. That way people who don’t work for large companies would benefit too. Plus we would be at the mercy of our company’s HR director in limiting our health insurance choices.
    I have no love lost for insurance companies. Blue Cross has a virtual monopoly here in SC based on its huge market share. But I doubt turning the federal government into a giant health insurance monopoly would be any better.

  17. Sand Hill

    correction: we WOULDN’T be at the mercy of HR directors in limiting our health insurance choices.

  18. Doug Ross

    Brad shot himself in the foot on this issue by not giving John Edwards a chance. Imagine a trial lawyer who built his fortune going after insurance companies and drug companies in the White House…
    War or healthcare? The State made its choice.

  19. weldon VII

    Thanks, guys. You’ve left no gall stone unturned here. So well have you covered the subject that I have nothing else to say.

  20. Richard L. Wolfe

    I have a few things to say. This is a no brainer legally. The government is suppose to promote the general welfare not mandate or provide for it. Monopolies are illegal yet the health care industry has had a death grip on medicine for the last two hundred years. The DEA has gone so far as to raid and confiscate vitamins. For years our Medical Schools have artificialy kept down the number of doctors who graduate. Why? The less fingers in the pie the more the plums. The insurance companies have been in colusion with the health care providers. See how much your policy allows for chiropractors. We have one of the finest teaching schools in the nation at MUSC but why would anyone go there if they have this wonderful government insurance.
    No matter who wins the White House the single payer system simply will not work.

  21. weldon VII

    Now you’ve gone and made me say something, Richard, albeit not too serious.
    If the med schools graduated more doctors, enough to create a real surplus, how long would it be before we saw newspaper ads like “APPENDECTOMIES 50 PERCENT OFF!” and “BUY ONE TUMMY TUCK, GET ANOTHER AT HALF PRICE (close relatives only)”?
    Two many doctors might actually be a bigger problem than too few. Quality is the prevailing issue. You really don’t want doctors dropping too far on the income scale, else there might cease to be enough good doctors to provide quality care. Increasing the error rate in matters of life and death would be poor economy.

  22. Lee Muller

    Surgeons actually do compete and adjust their fees up and down in the market, more than most other physicians, because a lot of them are still independent, while many other physicians are captives of some hospital, a practice owned by a hospital, or HMO.
    Surgeons also differ vastly in skill, which is why socialized medicine doesn’t work when it tries to pay the virtuoso the same low wage or fees as the ordinary GP.
    —– Socialism fails to provide doctors —–
    In the UK, half of graduates of medical schools in 2006 and 2007 found no jobs, because the National Health system didn’t want to spend the money on new doctors. So they are trying to leave the UK.

  23. bud

    For anyone who still has an ounce of respect for anything Lee Muller writes please take note of this. This is from the Census Bureau:
    Data released today by the Census Bureau show that the number of uninsured Americans stood at a record 46.6 million in 2005, with 15.9 percent of Americans lacking health coverage. “The number of uninsured Americans reached an all-time high in 2005,” said Robert Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “It is sobering that 5.4 million more people lacked health insurance in 2005 than in the recession year of 2001, primarily because of the erosion of employer-based insurance.”
    Lee has conceded that in Clinton’s last year in office there were about 39 million Americans who were uninsured. So over the course of the next 5 years nearly 8 million Americans were added to the uninsured roles. So Lee’s facts are completely wrong, period. End of discussion.

  24. Phillip

    When Mitt Romney blathered on to CPAC about his fear that we were in danger of becoming the “France of the 21st century,” he was of course using the only measuring stick that pro-imperialist politicians can think of: military dominance.
    But if it’s unacceptable for America to be second to anybody militarily, why is it acceptable for the US to be way behind other nations in health care (37th according to WHO as Bill points out) of its citizens, in allowing the catastrophe of hard-working citizens to be unable to obtain or afford basic medical care?
    We as a nation should be appalled. Why not be the best?

  25. Lee Muller

    What I posted from the Census Bureau was correct. It said the number of Americans without medical insurance DECREASED between 1998 to 2003.
    Bud posted new data saying the uninsured had increased from 2003 to 2005, and has now decreased again to 2007. There is no conflict between what the Census Bureau posted about 1998 – 2003 and 2003-2007.
    The main facts to keep in mind are:
    * There are only about 7,000,000 people actually without medical insurance who could not get it.
    * These “40,000,000 uninusured” are not the same people. They are temporarily CHANGING insurance plans and / or employers.
    * 40% of those actually without insurance are young people just out of high school but not settled into a career job.
    * 90% of all working age Americans, 18-64, are covered by medical insurance.
    * The “uninsured” includes the 99% of those over age 65 who dropped their insurance to get Medicare.
    * The “uninsured” includes the majority of young workers who make $50,000 to $75,000 a year, but CHOOSE to spend the money on something else. As a group, they spend more on entertainment than on medical insurance.
    * Approximately 14 million uninsured adults and children are currently eligible for government coverage, such as Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), but have not bothered to enroll.
    Virtually all children from low-income families are eligible for Medicaid or SCHIP. Yet the parents of more than five million eligible children have failed to enroll them.
    In addition, close to nine million nonelderly adults qualify for Medicaid but are not enrolled.
    – Source: Blue Cross 2003 study of those without a medical insurance policy
    SCHIP annual report.

  26. Lee Muller

    —– uninsured overstated —————-
    U.S. Census Bureau Overstated Number Of Uninsured Residents By Nearly 2,000,000 People Because Of Computer Programming Error
    (AP) 28 Mar 2007
    The U.S. Census Bureau since 1995 has overestimated the number of uninsured U.S. residents because of a computer programming error, the AP/Washington Times reports. According to revised estimates released by the bureau on Friday, about 44.8 million residents, or about 15.3% of the population, lacked health insurance in 2005. The bureau previously estimated that 46.6 million residents, or about 15.9% of the population, lacked health insurance in 2005. The bureau on Friday also released a revised estimate for 2004 and in August plans to release revised estimates for the other affected years. Bureau employees found the computer programming error during an update of the system for the Current Population Survey, which provides data on the income, employment and health insurance status of residents. As a result of the error, the bureau improperly counted some residents as “not covered” by health insurance, according to Ruth Cymber, director of communications for the bureau. She added, “The total impact is small.” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said, “While it is certainly good news that fewer Americans are uninsured than previously reported, this raises major questions,” adding, “For an agency that specializes in statistics, 1.8 million is not a minor error; it’s major error” (AP/Washington Times, 3/24).
    “Reprinted with permission from

  27. bud

    For the sixth straigh year the number of Americans who were uninsured increased from the previous year. Here’s the supporting document:
    That means that during the Bush years uninsured Americans increased each year, and the percentages in most of those years, from the low reached in Bill Clinton’s last year in office. Lee Muller’s analysis is completely bogus and reflects nothing more than wishful thinking on his part that conservative policy actually works.
    The bottom line is crystal clear, America’s health care system is a failure. A careful and honest analysis of all the statistics support that conclusion. Americans live far shorter lives than other people in devoloped nations. American health care quality is well down the list compared to other industrial nations and even a few in the second tier of nations. The Republicans, along with a few conservative Democrats, have basically had it their way when it comes to health care. And their approach is failing. It’s failing to provide health care for more than 1/7 of all Americans. It’s failing to help provide long lives for American citizens. And it is failing to keep costs down. Why is this so difficult to understand? What we have been doing does not work. So why should we elect leaders from a party who has had it’s way and they have failed us? It is a fools game to continue with something that has so demonstratively failed.

  28. Doug Ross

    No answers yet from the single payer advocates.
    How do you pay?
    Who controls access to services?
    How do you compensate research & development in the medical industry?
    How do you compensate the top surgeons who perform the most complex procedures?
    No answers = no chance of anything happening

  29. Lee Muller

    Employment-based insurance is a relic of the New Deal and World War II, when FDR slapped a wage freeze on America as it came out of the Depression, which had been prolonged by his programs.
    Corporations had to find a way to compete for workers, so they offered medical insurance in the present and the promise of a pension in the future. Now, they have promised more than they can deliver.
    The tax breaks which gave big business an unfair over small business should have been taken away in 1948. Now, the reforms pushed through the Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey have created better individual retirement accounts.
    It is time to phase out all corporate and government retirement, pay everyone the cash value of their share of the assets on hand, and close them down.

  30. Lee Muller

    Healthcare costs are rising rapidly mostly in the 46% of that sector now controlled by the governments.
    Handing over control of the other 54% will only make medical costs increase much faster than incomes.
    The only way government can control costs is to ration care, deny treatment, impose wage controls on physicians and nurses, and price controls on medical devices and drugs.

  31. slugger

    Medical coverage is a right afforded to everyone.
    Many people work 30 hours a week in order to be covered under an employer funded insurance plan. I know this to be a fact because I have friends that work only for the insurance coverage otherwise they could not afford private coverage.
    Should we provide more socialized medicine than we already have in existence it could put this country in such financial debt that we would never dig ourselves out.
    Lee Muller is very right about all the information he is trying to provide to the under informed. Read very carefully what he has written and if you are still for more socialized medicine, it must be because you do not have a job. Do not want a job. You want everything given to you by those that do have a job.
    There are more voters today than ever before that want to be taken care of “from the cradle to the grave”. When you have more people sitting on the porch watching the working people ride by every day than you have workers then who is going to pay for all this medical care?

  32. Lee Muller

    More people can afford medical insurance than think they can afford it, because they have never sat down an analyzed the policies. They just took what was offered at work, which are larded up plans.
    Proper insurance covers catastrophies, not normal maintenance. That’s why you buy automobile insurance to cover being hit by some drunk, or your car being stolen, but not to pay for your oil changes and tires. If you did, your oil change would cost $50.00 and your tires $2,000.
    If you buy a proper medical policy with a reasonable deductible for the normal exams, flu, sprains and cuts, you will have a reasonable deductible of $2,000 to $3,000, and be covered for the heart attack or cancer or car accident.
    I recently saw a survey where the point at which women would pay for a mammogram is $12.00, the price of a nice lunch. The article whined about how women were skipping mammograms because they cost $200.00, the price of nice dress. That is not a problem with the medical industry – it is a problem with women not taking responsibility for their own health. Men are worse.

  33. bud

    Apparently what the anti-socialized medicine people want, but want say outright, is to simply deny millions of people medical treatment. That would certainly keep costs down. Untreated folks would die in droves, but after all that’s the way the free-market works.

  34. Lee Muller

    No one in America is denied medical treatment. That is the law. Illegal aliens and illiterate deadbeats know that.
    —– Choosing to not get free care ————-
    Approximately 14 million uninsured adults and children are currently eligible for government coverage, such as Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), but have not bothered to enroll.
    Virtually all children from low-income families are eligible for Medicaid or SCHIP. Yet the parents of more than five million eligible children have failed to enroll them.
    In addition, close to nine million nonelderly adults qualify for Medicaid but are not enrolled.
    – Source: Blue Cross 2003 study of those without a medical insurance policy
    SCHIP annual report.

  35. Doug Ross

    And what the single payer people want is access to free healthcare all the time from providers who apparently will become like clerks at the DMV.
    Brad’s answer of Taxes and Government shows the amount of effort he has put into thinking this supposed crucial issue through. Because if he actually thought about how it would be implemented, he would realize it is a house of cards.

  36. Lee Muller

    Socialist medicine denies care to patients all the time, killing thousands every year. “Mercy killings” of patients are routine and even legal in Holland.
    I am not denying anyone medical care, any more than I am denying them a plasma TV, new car, or vacation. I just expect them to set their own priorities and buy what is important to them, with their own money. No one has a right to something just by wanting it – they have to earn the right.
    I do want to deny freeloaders access to the money I earned.

  37. JJ

    You do realize that the more you embrace the socialist ideal, the closer you and other jouranl.., well, er, “writers” will be to extinction?
    Socialists and Marxists don’t cotton too kindly to the paper folks.

  38. bud

    Doug, I agree with you on one point. I don’t think medical care should be completely free. In fact some procedures should not have any government funding. Then there are those gray areas. What about the morbidly obese that could benefit from gastric bypass surgery? Clearly they are at risk but is that really the last resort for these people? Perhaps a government funded month at the fat farm would be a better way to go.

  39. Lee Muller

    bud is a socialist thinking out loud
    …. tax fatty foods
    …. lock up fat people and restrict their diets
    …. deny treatment and let the die, like the UK does.
    …. hell, just inject them with morphine and kill them, like the Netherlands does

  40. Gordon Hirsch

    “The only way government can control costs is to ration care, deny treatment, impose wage controls on physicians and nurses, and price controls on medical devices and drugs.”
    “It is time to phase out all corporate and government retirement, pay everyone the cash value of their share of the assets on hand, and close them down.”
    Jeez, Lee. Get a grip, or move to a Socialist country sign up for your Soma vacation. This is crazy talk. You’re making bud sound like a Republican.

  41. Lee Muller

    What’s crazy about engineering a planned phase out of ad hoc retirement and medical systems which are headed towards bankruptcy?
    The alternatives are to do nothing, and let Social Security and all the state, federal and corporate retirement plans go broke and leave millions in the lurch, or try to bail out the lavish benefits for the few by taxing away the savings of current taxpayers.
    To this economist and strategic planner, there is one obvious answer: start phasing out the bankrupt programs gracefully starting today.
    Secondly, this is simply a fact:
    “The only way government can control costs is to ration care, deny treatment, impose wage controls on physicians and nurses, and price controls on medical devices and drugs.”
    Government produces no medicine. Government is another layer of bureaucracy on top of those doing the work, and is unable to control costs now.
    All the state can do is tax, hire, dictate wages and prices, ration and deny treatment. That is what all the European socialist healthcare systems do, and that is all that Hillary or any socialist in this country proposes. There is nothing else.

  42. Gordon Hirsch

    Well, for starters, you assume failure (bankruptcy) of systems that work for many. For example, I have a pension from a former employer that’s doing very well and health care from a provider that’s doing even better. Excuse me for not wanting to trust that to the government, which has screwed up just about everything else it touches.

  43. Lee Muller

    I don’t say all pension plans will go broke, but the plan administrators say the GM, Ford, Chrysler, and others cannot pay out the promised benefits. The unions were lied to by execs and by union bosses. Now they need to face reality and downsize their expectations, or lots of younger workers will get nothing.
    I surely don’t want any government handling my money.
    Almost every state pension plan is so broke that it would be shut down if it were private. SC is more than $20 BILLION underfunded.
    Likewise, there are no funds to pay the federal pensions. They are counting on increased taxes in the future.
    Social Security has no funds saved, just IOUs for the money it lent to finance deficit spending on other social programs. The plan administrators keep moving the date for insolvency (again) up closer – it’s 2013 now.
    It is past time to put everyone into their own real savings plans, funding them by reducing FICA taxes to zero over 10 years.

  44. Lee Muller

    There is no money to pay for more socialized medicine. Those who want it need to “grow up”, as Brad would say, and face reality: they have to take care of themselves.

  45. Gordon Hirsch

    I can agree with you there. But no thinking person can believe that more government is the answer. In fact, government is the culprit.
    Fact, as you like to say: Our national debt of $9.2 trillion, adjusted for Medicaid, Social Security and other unfunded federal promises to “the people,” amounts to over $59 TRILLION — today.
    That’s (another) unsustainable, as are all new social spending hoaxes offered by the likes of Hillary and Obama.
    By default, that makes McCain the lesser of evils, but no savior by any means.
    Our economy is THE ISSUE, and voters will make it perfectly clear by November that everything else is a distant second. The writing is on the wall.

  46. Sand Hill

    You say, “A single-payer system is the logical way to go. It’s time we got logical about this monster that is now consuming 16 percent of our national economy.”
    What is logical about handing over a large sector of our economy to the government?
    Just because it is expensive, complex, and people are making profits? If so, then our food production and delivery system should be socialized as well.

  47. Gordon Hirsch

    Forget health care.
    If government needs more to do, let’s give them back the airline industry. I fly almost 100,000 miles a year and have to say, in plain language, that our air system sucks. TRA staff now outnumbers travelers in most airports (and boy to those guys have shampoo.) Flight delays and cancellations a SOP. Entire flight crews go missing daily. On one recent trip, 3 out of my four flights were grounded for mechanical failure. In June of last year, the WSJ reported that 40 percent of ALL flights were CANCELED. In Cincinnati, a day before Christmas, I watched them cancel every flight because of storms in Philadelphia — then they told all passengers that flight for the next three days out of Cincy were overbooked, so no use hanging around. Airport agent actually got on the PA system and said: “Folks, we know you’re trying to get home for Christmas, but it’s not going to happen from here.” Then all agents locked themselves in the employee lounge.
    Everything is overbooked, on purpose. I’ve seen calls for “volunteers” break out into fist fights. Five times this year I sat on planes where there were more passengers than seats — and nobody would leave, for hours. It’s nutso… And I’m at the highest level of so-called “preferred” frequent flyer status, and they still treat us like cattle.
    Maybe we need a fascist like Mussolini to fix our air system — after all, he made Italy’s trains run on time. …. Same might work for our phone system — it’s sucked since degregulation of the Bells, too. … Anybody else remember when one phone would last 20 years, instead of 20 months?

  48. bill

    I still have one of those phones.It’s attached to the wall and I can always find it.
    An elderly relative has “accidentally” thrown three phones in the trash this year,but I think she’s on to the next big craze;disposable recycled,eco-friendly cardboard phones.

  49. bud

    Gordon, I remember well the days when phones were virtually indestructable. Our family had one phone, a black monster with a rotary dial. It was permanently attached to the wall and could not be moved. Indeed that thing lasted about 20 years and would probably still work today.
    But do we really want to go back to that? Aren’t the new, cordless, touchtone phones nice? And long distance rates. I remember when a long distance call was very expensive and something we rarely did.
    If given a choice I doubt many people would trade the modern phone system, complete with the wonders of the cell phone, caller id and voice mail for the old, clunky rotary phones of a bygone era. Still, that old sucker certainly was tough, and you never had to find the thing.

  50. Gordon Hirsch

    No argument on the phones, bud — except that my mobile plan costs $200 a month (national unlimited with free roaming) and I’ve probably purchased $20k worth of phone in my lifetime… But how about an amen on airline regulation? The government couldn’t do worse than the industry is handling itself 🙂

  51. Lee Muller

    don’t worry about the phones. AT&T has slowly bought back much BellSouth and other phone companies it had to spin off in the 1970s.
    How about take the airports away from the municipal entities which operate them? They waste tons of money on needless construction and charge the airline passengers huge add-on fees. Then they strongarm the airlines to run routes that feed the egos of mayors, or serve a few powerful businesses in the area, instead of the region.
    Columbia, for example, is mostly flying to the biggest cities now. I think Columbia should be trying to build relationships with other cities its size, with complementary industries, and have flights there. It can’t compete head-to-head with Charlotte and Atlanta. Neither can Greenville. Find your niche.
    I fly 100,000 to 200,000 miles a year, none of it from Columbia. I don’t even have an office or business presence in SC anymore. All my friends carpool to Charlotte to fly out on business. SC is not business-friendly.

  52. Gordon Hirsch

    Charlotte isn’t very friendly, either, at least not in my experience. I fly out of Myrtle via Charlotte, where I regularly meet colleagues joining me on trips. It’s actually cheaper to originate in Myrtle than in the Charlotte hub. We get on the same plane in Charlotte, and they’re paying $300-$500 more than me, even though I have an extra leg on my trip … Some of our people actually drive from Charlotte to Greensboro, then fly back through Charlotte to avoid the “hub penalty” that seems to exist in Charlotte.

  53. Doug Ross

    Add me to the 100K per year club… hmmm… is it coincidence that some of the loudest anti-government types on this blog also spend a lot of time in airports?
    I also fly out of Charlotte to San Fran. or Denver nearly every week. I only take direct flights to minimize the chances of delays.
    Those of us who fly regularly can see our government at work close up. Because 20 terrorists were able to sneak box cutters onto four planes, we now have a multi-billion dollar government agency with thousands of employees who stand around making sure all our toiletries fit into a one quart ziploc bag. There are people who we are paying via our tax dollars who sit around all day deciding whether 3.1 ounces of shaving cream in one tube is a threat to national security while 2.5 ounces in two tubes is not. Or deciding that because one idiot terrorist failed at lighting his shoes on fire, every passenger from that point forward must remove their shoes.
    And let’s not talk about the flight attendant profession… egads!

  54. Lee Muller

    Every time I fly, the plane is full of people going on vacation, whom you can bet don’t have medical insurance, or think it is too expensive.
    We know that from the Census and Blue Cross studies which show that most uninsured people just choose to not spend the money.

  55. Gordon Hirsch

    Doug … no doubt about it. TSA is the WPA of the 21st century, and it’s a joke to boot. How is it that cigarette lighters are no longer a threat and shampoo is? Even at a small airport like Myrtle, I’ve counted two dozen TSA employees on duty before 7am, less than six of whom were working at any given moment. They even have the Highway Department pose down pat, leaning on anything that will hold them up. … As for flight attendants, I actually quit flying Delta 5 years ago because of their attendants, and have never gone back — I’ll take a bus before I ever fly Delta again. Based on my travel budget, that’s about $100k a year in lost revenue for them, purely because their flight attendants are bitches from Hell.

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