Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks appeared on CNN’s Paula Zahn show last night to talk about health care and the film Sicko. You can watch the video here. Be sure to check out the spokesperson for the Right, Amy something.
The young lady representing the Right kept going on about how she didn’t have health insurance because she was self-employed and wanted some kind of tax credit so she could afford it. However, I’m reasonably certain self-employed people already can deduct 100 percent of their health insurance premiums from their federal income taxes (Form 1040, line 29). So I’m not sure what other tax incentives she might need.
Which takes me to the next point — she was complaining about those awful “regulations” that make insurance so expensive. When the COBRA policy from my last job ran out I was able to purchase a private Blue Shield HMO policy, even though I am 55, overweight, and have high cholesterol. This is thanks to New York state regulations. I’m paying almost $700 a month for it, but by damn I’m insured. In many states I probably could not have purchased private insurance at any price.
This is, I think, critical: Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield could not deny my application because I applied the same month my COBRA insurance expired. I didn’t have to get a physical or anything; just provide proof of my prior insurance. This was New York law, they told me. Had I waited more than a month, they could have turned me down. In many states I wouldn’t have had even the grace period; I could have been denied coverage just because. These are the kind of “regulations” the Right says are so onerous.
Also in New York, if you start a new job, your new employer’s health insurance provider has to insure you even if you have pre-existing conditions. There may be some loopholes somewhere, but I have never heard of an employed co-worker being denied coverage in all the years I’ve lived around here. That’s another of those damn “regulations” the Right wants to do away with.
Ms. Amy the Tool (who is a pretty girl, but a twit) exemplifies another problem with “The System.” She’s young and healthy and thinks it doesn’t make sense for her to purchase health insurance when she sees a doctor maybe once or twice a year. Never mind that she’s gambling she won’t be in an accident or come down with something serious. Insurance is about risk sharing, and if healthy people aren’t in the system it drives up costs for everyone else.
Finally, the segment implied that Sicko focuses on the problems of uninsured people, but it’s more about insured people who have been ripped off by their insurance providers.
I hope I’m not being too hard on Cenk, who did good.
Update: I forgot to answer one other thing — Ms. Amy Something mentioned all those Canadians who are dropping dead while on waiting lists for elective surgery. I don’t remember the number she gave. I want to repeat something I wrote last month:
Nearly a year ago the Institute of Medicine issued three reports (key findings here) saying the nation’s emergency rooms are inadequate and getting worse. Among other things, it found:
Demand for emergency care has been growing fastâ€”emergency department (ED) visits grew by 26 percent between 1993 and 2003. But over the same period, the number of EDs declined by 425, and the number of hospital beds declined by 198,000. ED crowding is a hospital-wide problemâ€”patients back up in the ED because they can not get admitted to inpatient beds. As a result, patients are often â€œboardedâ€â€”held in the ED until an inpatient bed becomes availableâ€”for 48 hours or more. Also, ambulances are frequently diverted from overcrowded EDs to other hospitals that may be farther away and may not have the optimal services. In 2003, ambulances were diverted 501,000 timesâ€”an average of once every minute.
After these reports came out, David Brown wrote in the Washington Post:
The number of deaths caused by a delay in treatment or lack of expertise is especially uncertain, though it may not be small. San Diego established a trauma system in 1984 after autopsies of accident victims who died after reaching the ER suggested that 22 percent of the deaths were preventable, said Eastman, one of the Institute of Medicine committee members.
Our system doesn’t kill people by putting them on waiting lists for elective surgery. Out system has other ways to kill people. If it doesn’t kill them in the ER, it kills them by denying them necessary surgeries. Experimental, you know. And it kills them when it denies them basic medical care.
A report came out in 2002 that 18,314 people die in the US each year because they lack preventive care services, timely diagnoses or appropriate care. They lack these things because they are uninsured.
Those people would have been better off in Canada, wouldn’t you say?