One of the blogs I frequent is Stilettos in the Sand, where the author, Sabra, sometimes cross-links my blog posts (like I have anything important to say?). You should take awalk over there sometimes, and see just what she's up to over there in Muslim Sand Flea Heaven. Anyways, there was a discussion begun on one of her threads that was prompted by a post of mine. You can read it here.
One of Sabra's respondents, posted the following:
"I live in a nation with univeral health care but guess what if you need an operation you have to wait, if you need some medical exams you have to wait but if you have an insurance and pay for your exams, operation and so on you don't have to wait...I had to have a small operation but if I had to have it through the national health care I should have to wait 2 or 3 months but i have a private insurance and I had to wait one week...Some time ago an american told me that part of the 30 millions without insurance are people that even if they have the $ to pay for it they opt to go without an insurance because they are healty/young and prefer to spend the money in other stuff. Please tell me if I wrong but if someone without insurance is sick isn't left outside the hospitals..."
This is a common misconception about the American healthcare system overseas. I have heard similar stuff from my English friends, and also from Italians and Spaniards on my travels.
I'll be happy to tell you that, No, if you're ill or injured, you cannot be turned away from a hospital regardless of ability to pay. In the United States of America, everyone is entitled to treatment in the Emergency Room. Free of Charge, unless they have insurance to defray or cover the costs.
And therein lies some of the problem, because Emergency Room treatment is the most expensive kind available, and what's supposed to be a last resort for the general public has become the means of first resort for far too many.
Many of these who use the Emergency Room as the first line of defense simply can't afford insurance. They don't earn enough, or rather, often can't earn enough. They belong to the economic lower class, mostly because they are unskilled, uneducated or have never worked before in their lives. The American social welfare system is quite generous; According to various sources, the official Federal Poverty level in the United States is something like $26,000 a year for a family of four, and that's before you include housing subsidies, tax credits -- only in America can people who don't pay taxes, get tax credits -- food assistance, and eligibility for Medicare on both the state and federal levels, which many never bother to sign up for, because that means effort. When you add in the fact that American Public schools are taxpayer funded, and that many colleges and organizations provide competitive scholarships, you begin to wonder just how anyone in America can ever be considered "poor".
It's just more like "lazy".
Ask someone in Calcutta, Sudan or Cambodia if $26k a year, plus a subsidized apartment, food, public schools and healthcare sounds like a good deal? Why do you think the world beats a path to our door, and not, say, Belize or Zimbabwe?
Anywhoo, the number of these people on the lower end of the economic spectrum is growing, mostly because of unchecked out-of-wedlock births in many minority communities, and because of illegal immigration. In fact, many illegal immigrants travel to the United States specifically to give birth, because we confer birthright citizenship upon their children if they're born in a U.S. Hospital, which make the entire family eligible for all sorts of welfare.
So, the Emergency Rooms are being flooded by by people who haven't the means to pay for their treatment, which means the taxpayer and those who do have private insurance subsidize the Emergency Room system for everyone else. And their numbers are growing; It is estimated that 12-15 million illegal immigrants are in the United States right now, and they're all using Emergency Rooms and Community Clinics, and not paying a red cent for it. That's about half the number of "uninsured" that ObamaCare assumes.
The second problem we face is that there are about to be 70 million more useless mouths added to the welfare rolls in the next decade; The Baby Boomers are about to retire. And never in the history of the world has there been a generation of people so obsessed with their health. They will expect to have every ache and pain catered to -- and paid for by someone else -- because, well, they'll be retired, you see.
And with the recent destruction of wealth caused by the shenanigans in world markets, and the loss of value in solid assets like real estate over the last few years, they'll be begging for more largess than even their parents received -- the typical "Greatest Generation" (i.e. born before/during the Great Depression) retiree lives(d) to an average age of 83, and 90-yr olds are not uncommon, meaning they are a net drain on the resources of Medicare and Social Security, which were both designed with the assumption that not many of them would live past 70. Now a great many of them (Baby Boomers) will have no or greatly-reduced assets to carry them comfortably through retirement.
The Medicare/Social Security system is already on the order of (depending on who's figures you believe) $40-170 trillion in the red, and we're about to run another 70 million souls onto the rolls, who medical science is now keeping alive even longer. Do the math. That's 100 million (the current 30, plus the Baby Boomer 70) people in a country of 300 million who will require "free" healthcare on a shrinking employment and tax base.
And not only are these folks obsessed with their health (after all, they've brought us jogging, aerobics, the healing power of minerals, yoga and Pilate's, the Nautilus machine, the macrobiotic and organic diets and so forth), they expect to be catered to -- because in addition to being the most health-conscious generation, they happen to be the most spoiled generation in history.
These two traits have combined to produce the modern pharmaceutical industry, which now caters to individual maladies (which used to be just associated with "old age" and borne gallantly and silently by those afflicted) with Silver Bullet pills. There are now designer drugs for Erectile Dysfunction, Depression, Osteoporosis, Liver Disorders, Lung Disorders, Incontinence, Swollen Prostates, Un-swollen Prostates, the list goes on and on. That's when they aren't developed to treat "made up" diseases (mostly caused by an increase in 'vanity' diseases, like Chronic Dry Eye , or sedentary lifestyles, like Restless Leg Syndrome). Each is incredibly expensive -- mostly because they are heavily marketed on American television. It is NOT unusual to see the same medication being advertised six to ten times a day.
If that isn't bad enough, most of these medications have side-effects which require other medications to counteract. This gets extremely expensive. The typical story is of someone who takes a medicine for an otherwise controllable-by-a-change-in-lifestyle problem, but then develops a variety of "syndromes" brought on by the side effects of these designer meds, and before you know it, your simple toenail fungus problem soon requires you to take four medications and spend $300 a month on them all.
A great number of these medications are NOT covered by medical insurance, mostly because the insurance companies consider them to be of dubious value, or because the side-effects are often worse than the disease they were meant to treat.
Then there are the predatory lawyers -- like former Presidential Candidate John Edwards -- who make a living suing doctors and hospitals. More like extorting settlements from them through the use of the legal system -- which causes doctors to practice defensive medicine; the ordering of unnecessary tests, the performing of unnecessary procedures -- just to keep the shysters of their backs. These lawyers treat the medical malpractice system like their own personal trough. If I'm not mistaken, John Edwards managed to milk it for somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 million by filing questionable "Cerebral Palsy and Birth Defect" suits, in which doctors are somehow to blame if your child is born with a genetic disorder, and must somehow be made to pay.
Now, the lawyers will argue they do noble work keeping bad doctors out of the system -- and many do -- but far too many run scams that they know they can earn good cash from, and not get called on it. Ever. The ABA and their democratic party protectors defend them. It's why Tort Reform hasn't even been discussed in ObamaCare. I'm of Sicilian lineage; if I did something similar to this the Federal Authorities would be at my doorstep with a RICO warrant and asking me if I knew anything about the Kennedy Assassination.
To sum up:
1. No one is denied medical care in the United States, regardless of ability to pay.
2. We're flooded by lazy, stupid people and illegal aliens who can't afford to pay for their care, and who use the Emergency Room for everything from the sniffles to childbirth-for-the-purposes-of -stealing-welfare-benefits.
3. 70-million useless mouths who feel they should be able to live forever at someone else's expense with the ability to sport pharmaceutally-enhanced erections will soon join the system without paying anything further into it, and they will live for far longer than even their free-loading parents did.
4. The legal profession is out of control in this country, and no longer exists to protect people's rights, but to enrich lawyers at the expense of the rest of us, and has done a great deal towards creating many of the problems we now face.
We won't even get into the stupidity of unionizing hospitals (anything run by unions usually produces terrible results, see: General Motors, the Public School System Homeland Security, FEMA, et. al.) , and don't get me started on government mandates upon States and employers with respect to healthcare. Take all of this into consideration and it's no wonder we have the most expensive healthcare system in the world.
What's amazing is that we still manage to have THE BEST Healthcare system in the world. America is that sort of country; it always has been. If the government would get out of the way, we'd not only have the best system, but the least expensive and the most responsive.
ObamaCare, in whatever form it takes, will achieve none of this. It will simply extend an unpaid-for entitlement to people who will never have to bear any responsibility for paying for it. In two US States where "Universal" healthcare was tried (Massachusetts and Tennessee), it has failed abominably, producing lower standards of general health, rationing, rising taxes and public debt.
UPDATE: I was in a hurry this afternoon when I originally wrote this; it has been edited for spelling/grammar, and some of my basic points expanded upon.