KEY THESIS: Health care is a right, not a privilege. The United States must join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care to every man, woman, and child through a Medicare for All single-payer system.
It has never made sense to me that our health care system is primarily designed to make huge profits for multibillion-dollar insurance companies, drug companies, hospitals, and medical equipment suppliers. Health care is not a commodity. It is a human right. The goal of a sane health care system should be to keep people well, not to make stockholders rich.
While Republicans and representatives of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries tell us that we have the “greatest” health care system in the world, that is nonsense. Our current system is the most expensive, bureaucratic, wasteful, and ineffective in the world. While the health care industry makes hundreds of billions a year in profit, tens of millions of Americans have totally inadequate coverage, and many of our people suffer and die unnecessarily.
Over 28 million Americans lack any health insurance and some 30 million are underinsured because of high deductibles and copayments. In America, you can be “covered,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are getting the health care you need.
It is much more expensive to pay for extended hospital stays and the long-term treatment of chronic illness than to successfully treat medical conditions in their early stages.
Today the United States spends far more per capita on health care than any other nation. According to the latest information, we spend $ 3.2 trillion a year on health care— about $ 10,000 for every man, woman, and child. In 2013, we spent 17.1 percent of our GDP on health care. This was almost 50 percent more than the next highest spender, France, and double what the United Kingdom spent.
We should not be wasting hundreds of billions of dollars a year on profiteering, on huge executive compensation packages, and on outrageous administrative costs. The waste and bureaucracy of the current system is almost unimaginable.
Think, for a moment, about how much time and money is spent in this country as people argue with their insurance companies as to whether or not a particular procedure is covered— and understand that not paying claims is exactly what insurance companies do. Think about the many billions of dollars drug companies spend each year on television advertising telling us what drugs we need to buy, and the amount of money they spend trying to influence doctors to use their particular brand.
The irrationality of the current system can thus be seen not just in the profit margins and outrageously high compensation packages of CEOs in the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, but, more significantly, in the huge amount of waste and inefficiencies inherent in an enormously complicated system designed to maximize profit rather than provide high-quality and cost-effective health care.
According to the PNHP, “Private insurers’ overhead currently averages 12 percent, as compared with only 2.1 percent for fee-for-service Medicare. The complexity of reimbursement systems also forces physicians and hospitals to waste substantial resources on documentation, billing, and collections. As a result, U.S. healthcare administration costs are about double those in Canada, where the single-payer system pays hospitals global budgets and positions via simplified fee schedules. Reducing U.S. administrative costs to Canadian levels would save over $ 400 billion annually.”
While health care costs soar, and millions of Americans are unable to afford health insurance or prescription drugs, the health care industry reaps huge profits and pays its CEOs outrageously high compensation packages. In 2015, Leonard S. Schleifer, CEO of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals,made$ 47 million; Jeffrey M. Leiden, CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, $ 28 million; Alex Gorsky, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, $ 21 million; Alan B. Miller, CEO of Universal Health Services, $ 20 million; Kenneth C. Frazier, CEO of Merck, nearly $ 20 million; David M. Cordani, CEO of Cigna, $ 17.3 million; and Mark T. Bertolini, CEO of Aetna, over $ 17.2 million. Yes. The priorities of the current system dictate that we have more than enough money to pay out fat executive salaries in the health care industry. We just don’t have enough money to make sure that working people can get the health care they need.While the five largest drug companies made a combined $ 50 billion in profits last year, one out of five Americans between the ages of nineteen and sixty-four were unable to fill the prescriptions their doctors wrote.
One of the reasons the pharmaceutical industry makes huge profits is pretty simple: Unlike every other major country on earth, all of which negotiate prices with the pharmaceutical industry, here in the U.S. drug companies can charge any price they want. And so they do. You can walk into your pharmacy tomorrow to get a refill of the same medicine that you have used for twenty years, and the price could be double what it was when you got your last refill six months before. And there is not a thing you can do about it.
After successfully developing Sovaldi, Pharmasset was purchased by Gilead Sciences, a large drug company. Upon purchasing Pharmasset, Gilead brought Sovaldi to market for the unbelievable cost of $ 84,000 for a twelve-week course of treatment, or $ 1,000 per pill. This outrageous price means that, through the VA, the taxpayers of this country are subsidizing huge profits for Gilead Sciences in order to treat the men and women who have put their lives on the line to defend our country.
It might have something to do with the fact that the pharmaceutical industry is one of the most politically powerful industries in the country and spends endless amounts of money on lobbying and campaign contributions. The pharmaceutical industry has spent more than $ 3 billion on lobbying since 1998. This is $ 1 billion more than the insurance industry, which came in second place in lobbying expenditures. The pharmaceutical industry, because of its great power, rarely loses legislative fights. It has effectively purchased the Congress, and there are Republican and Democratic leaders who support its every effort.
The answer has everything to do with the power and greed of the pharmaceutical industry, and a health care system more concerned about profits than about the needs of the American people.
You can disagree with Bernie, but this is the voice of a revolution that’s going to challenge our healthcare system. Our system of spending more than the next 12 nations combines on defense while healthcare costs increase is not sustainable. Forward thinking pharma CEO’s will acknowledge that at some time in the near future our health care system is going to go thru a radical change and now is the time to prepare the organization.