The graphic below shows those countries that adopted universal health care and the dates they did so. It also shows the dates those countries ended universal health care. Notice a pattern? They never did. But we are the only country to not offer universal health care, and are resisting doing so because of a medical-industrial complex that is greedy, profit-driven, wedded to an outdated ideological philosophy of the role of government and social services, including health care, all so that Wall Street, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, device manufacturers, large hospital systems, and consultants and service providers to the industry can get their cut of the pie. And notice that none of them are Socialist.
Good morning all.
Thanks go out to Josef Woodman who tweeted the following today from NPR about prescription drugs and going across the Mexican border to buy them at lower cost.
This is in addition to the article I recently posted, Run for the Border (Not a Taco Bell Commercial).
So wall, or no wall, Americans are going to look for cheaper prescription drugs, either in Mexico or Canada, or elsewhere, until we allow the government to negotiate prices for medications under an improved and expanded Medicare for All.
But thanks to a former Louisiana congressman who left Congress to become the President and CEO of PhRMA, a pharmaceutical company lobbying group, Congress passed a bill that prevents Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices and bans the importation of identical, cheaper, drugs from Canada and elsewhere.
But it does not have to be this way. We can lower drug prices, but by allowing the government to negotiate them, and not giving the pharmaceutical industry huge giveaways.
Here is NPR’s article:
Faced with high U.S. prices for prescription drugs, some Americans cross the border to buy insulin pens and other meds. At least 1 insurer reimburses flights to the border to make such purchases easy.
It is rare when someone from the work comp blogosphere crosses into health care and advocates that the US learn from other countries that have universal health care, in whatever form it takes in those countries.
Tom Lynch of Lynch Ryan’s Workers’ Comp Insider blog, did just that with a very detailed analysis of the US health care system compared to that of other Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development (OECD) countries.
Here is Tom’s article:
What does a nation owe its citizens with respect to health care?
For nearly all members of the Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development (OECD), the answer is guaranteed, high-quality, universal care at reasonable, affordable cost. For OECD founding member America, the answer seems to have become an opportunity to access care, which may or may not be of high-quality at indeterminate, wildly fluctuating and geographically varying cost.
It is indisputable that the US devotes more of its GDP to health care than other countries. How much more? For that answer we can turn to many sources, roughly all saying the same thing. The OECD produces annual date, as does the World Health Organization, among others. Another reliable and respected source is The Commonwealth Fund, which conducted a study of eleven high income OECD members including the US. The collection of health care cost data lags, so data from this study is mostly from 2014. Here is the cost picture:
As you can see, in 1980, US spending was not much different from the other ten OECD countries in the study. While high, it was at least in the same universe. But now, at 50% more than Switzerland, our closest competitor in the “how much can we spend” sweepstakes”, we might be forgiven for asking, “What in the name of Hippocrates happened?” As if this weren’t enough, the 2014 GDP percentage of spend, 16.6%, has now risen to nearly 18%, according to the CMS.
So, what do we get for all that money? We ought to have the highest life expectancy, the lowest infant mortality rate and the best health care outcomes in the entire OECD. But we don’t.
For many readers, it is probably galling to see both the UK and Australia at the top of the health care system performance measure and at the bottom of the spending measure. In the early 2000s, each of these countries poured a significant amount of money into improving its performance, and the results speak for themselves.
Consider all of this mere background to the purpose of this blog post.
Last week, we wrote about the terrible, 40-year stagnation of real wage growth in the US, pointing out that in that period real wages in 1982-1984 constant dollars have risen only 4.5%. But, as we have seen, health care spending did not follow that trajectory. This has resulted in tremendous hardship for families as they have tried to keep pace with rising health care costs. For, just as US health care spending has risen dramatically since 1980, so has what families have to pay for it.
To put this in perspective, consider this. Since 1999 the US CPI has risen 54%, but, as the chart above shows, the cost of an employer offered family plan has risen 338%. If a family’s health care plan’s cost growth had been inflation-based, the total cost to employer and employee would be $8,898 in 2018, not $19,616. In 2018, the average family in an employer-based plan pays 30% of the plan’s cost ($6,850), plus a $2,000 deductible, plus co-pays that average $20 whenever health care is accessed, plus varying levels of co-pays for drugs.
On top of all that is the enormous difficulty people have in trying to navigate the dizzying health care system (if you can call it that). American health care is a dense forest of bewildering complexity, a many-headed Hydra that would make Hesiod proud, a labyrinthine geography in which even Theseus with his ball of string would find himself lost.
With wages and health care costs growing ever farther apart, America has a crisis of epic proportion. Yet all we can seem to do is shout at each other about it. When do you think that will end? When will we begin to answer the question that this post began with: What does a nation owe its citizens with respect to health care? When will our nation’s leaders realize we can actually learn from countries like Australia, the UK, Switzerland and all the other high performing, low cost members of the OECD? Continuing on the present course is no longer a viable option.
Note: You may be questioning The Commonwealth Fund’s research. To put your mind at ease about that, here are the study sources:
Our data come from a variety of sources. One is comparative survey research. Since 1998, The Commonwealth Fund, in collaboration with international partners, has supported surveys of patients and primary care physicians in advanced countries, collecting information for a standardized set of metrics on health system performance. Other comparative data are drawn from the most recent reports of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, and the World Health Organization (WHO).
A shout out to Maria Todd for bringing this to my attention.
This would not be happening if we did what every other Western nation does, and give our citizens universal health care that does not line the pockets of multinational corporations, drug companies, medical device manufacturers, and Wall Street investors.
Health care should not be subject to the pursuit of profit.
One of the world’s largest drug makers, GSK promised it would no longer pay doctors to promote its medicines. Now it says doing so put it at a disadvantage.
Yesterday marked five and a half years since I began the blog.
To date, it has been viewed in over 100+ countries and had over 33,600 views, as shown in the image here:
The areas in grey represent those countries that have not viewed my blog, and as you can see they are mostly in Africa and part of the Mideast, especially Iran (but you would expect that).
Of course, there are exceptions, such as Greenland and those islands to the east of Greenland. Oh, and there is one other island that has not had any views: Cuba. And one nation that has been in the news of late: North Korea.
Still, I am very happy and grateful for all the views, wherever they come from, but some have surprised even me. Take for instance, the Palestinian territories, China, Vietnam, and those in the northeast part of Africa. Even Saudi Arabia (do they know I am Jewish?)
Thank you all for the past five and a half years, and once again, I’d like to invite you to reach out to me whenever you want to discuss an article, or have something to add. I want to get to know my readers better.
I want to take a break from writing about medical travel, health care and workers’ comp, and address my comments to my many readers around the world from Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean.
As a second-generation American, whose paternal grandparents arrived here from Russia more than a century ago, and whose maternal grandparents also arrived from Russia (they both held Polish passports when they emigrated) almost a hundred years ago, 1921 and 1923, respectively, I am disgusted, angry, and outraged that the Chief Executive of my country is an outright racist and bigot.
I am only glad that my parents, the children of my aforementioned grandparents did not live to see this asshole either become President, or was unable to understand that he was President due to suffering from Alzheimer’s.
I, like this moron, was born and grew up in New York City, having been born in Brooklyn, and lived in two different neighborhoods that had diverse populations. I also lived on NY’s Long Island, and while my town was less diverse than my previous residences; nevertheless, the proximity of New York City to where I lived, went to school and worked meant that I was never too far away from people of different cultures, ethnicities, racial makeups, and religions. When I had the chance, I always visited the United Nations and felt a great deal of joy knowing that such an organization, as flawed as the world is, existed and that my hometown was its headquarters.
On September 11, 2001, I was more than a thousand miles from NY when the planes struck the two towers, places I had spent time in during my early working life. In point of fact, I was driving to work in Houston, Texas when the first plane struck, and was listening to the local classical radio station on my car’s radio, The news came on at 8 am, local time, and the announcer said a plane had struck the World Trade Center. My first thought was terrorism, but I soon realized that many small planes fly up and down the Hudson, and that perhaps this is what happened.
When I arrived at my office, because we had very little work to do, and because we were all new, I took a brief nap, and when I went out into the hallway of my floor, I was told to go upstairs to the break room and watch the newscast on television. When I arrived in the break room, the first tower collapsed, and this boy from New York City saw my hometown under attack.
I never lashed out at an entire group of people, but knew immediately and from what the reporters were saying, that this was the work of Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. But I will tell you what I did see on television. I saw people in the West Bank cheering the attacks, not people in Jersey City, like the current occupant of the Oval Office has claimed he saw.
In fact, one of my high school alumna was interviewed on television, and has been on American television and written of in the New York Times many times. She came to the US from India and is a Muslim woman, married to the Iman who wanted to build a cultural center near the WTC. Our yearbook pictures are diagonally opposite each other in our school’s yearbook, and she was very friendly with a neighbor, whose brother was responsible for the biggest financial disaster of the last decade.
There have been American presidents of this person’s party who I did not vote for, or agree with, but at no time in my life, or that of my parents and grandparents, did they have to feel ashamed, disgusted, and incensed at the blatant racism, sexism, homophobia, crudeness, and Antisemitism of any of them, including FDR, who many have accused as not doing enough to save the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, including my maternal grandfather’s older brother, his wife and six children.
So I say to you, my dear and devoted readers around this wonderful world of ours, I am sorry if this idiot offends you, your country, your race, ethnicity, religion or culture. He does not speak for me, nor does he speak with the vast number of Americans who feel like I do. We, the American people, apologize. It is our fault, and our fault alone.
I am writing you all to address some issues I am having with the industry on the occasion of my having past my five year anniversary writing this blog, and nearing another milestone, that of publishing 400 articles. At present, I am at 396.
For the past few weeks, I have noticed on the social media site, LinkedIn that some of my connections in the industry have been attending conferences around the world, and more recently, I have replied that I wished I was there and posted a recent post with the message to advertise my willingness to collaborate, or attend such conferences.
With the exception of one person this evening, not one person has responded positively, nor in the past five years has anyone other than one person invited me to speak at a conference, and that was three years ago in Mexico. The other two conferences I attended were here in Florida; one in Miami Beach, the other in Hollywood, Florida. The first in 2014, the second in 2012, and was the reason why I started writing my blog three days after it ended.
My intention then, as now, was to transition into a new career path, so that I could be employed and enjoy the things other people enjoy, and see the world before I am unable to. But In the past five years, while I have connected with practically all the major players in the industry, defended the industry in numerous posts, and even been critical of the industry at times; no one, not here in the US, nor anyone in Latin America or the Caribbean has invited me to a conference or a fam tour, nor to any other part of the world that is not part of some current conflict.
Recently, an American filmmaker had the premier of her film on medical travel on American television, on what we call the “Public Broadcasting System”. or PBS. I missed most of it, but was able to see two names in the credits that I recognized. One person I met in Miami Beach in 2014, the other I am connected with on LinkedIn, but have never met. I tried to contact the filmmaker, but when she did not respond, I contacted my connection, who told me she was leery about responding because I had had an association with an organization we all know, but do not like that purports to represent the industry. He had to tell her that I am legitimate.
Folks, after five years of writing, and six, almost seven, of researching the industry, and being viewed on every major continent, you would think that many of you would know that I am honest, sincere, and definitely a legitimate advocate for medical travel.
Last week, I discovered that there was a conference in Dusseldorf, Germany, and today, I learned that one of my other connections, who I did meet in Reynosa in 2014. was invited to a conference in China. What does it take to be taken seriously and given the respect and courtesy of being invited to attend these functions after all this time?
I began my work in 2011. This coming March will be seven years since I wrote my White Paper. The paper is on my blog. My articles, even those covering Workers’ Comp and Health Care have not generated many views on a daily basis, save for a few here and there. I admit, they all cannot be prize winners, but at least I am persistent. Yet, I am not making headway with the industry, nor am I getting any compensation for writing,
I don’t want to sound like I am complaining, but I feel that after all this time, it is wrong for me to be ignored. I have committed long hours of my time and my life to this industry, even as my health over the summer was an issue. I am not out of the woods yet, but I am doing ok, and with the proper treatment, and eventual surgery, I should be healthy in the future, and can travel until such time, as long as I have more than two weeks notice.
In the beginning of my blog writing, I added a section where I asked readers to tell me where they are from and who they were. No one responded, so I stopped the practice. I still would like to hear from you, but after reading this letter, I hope you will do more than just dropping me a note.
I am waiting to meet you and to participate in future conferences.
Richard Krasner, MA, MHA
Map shows countries to date where my blog has been viewed.