Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Some People Don't Want Us To Be Like Canada

     "Some people" = a long list of businesses that profit mightily from the leviathan of American medicine, attaching like barnacles and sea lice to its broad, satiny surface, hitching long, sumptuous rides, and sucking blood from the generous, unsuspecting host year after year.
     These are businesses in the medical insurance and pharmaceutical sectors.  They make ungodly profits off the backs of ordinary working people.   Most of them would be put out of business by a true national healthcare plan, because insurance--subsumed under the federal budget--would no longer be a worry or necessity for plain folks, and drug company profits would be down-regulated by the musculature of federal bargaining power.
     In Canada the insurance industry is regulated by the fact of the national health plan.  There still exist many private insurance carriers, which cover things like elective and cosmetic surgery, but their potency has been diminished by the absence of necessity.  Individuals don't need private insurance, any more than they "need" a new Lexus or a built-in swimming pool, therefore they have the capacity of judgment, not unbalanced by the fear of getting sick and not having basic coverage, to analyze and reject absurd, expensive offerings like insurance coverage with an unaffordable $5,000 or $20,000  deductible.  Such plans almost guarantee that patients will not seek out preventive care, or go to the doctor with early symptomatology, or agree to expensive screening tests like a colonoscopy ($3,000), because the deductible acts as a deterrent.
     In Canada, too, pharmaceutical companies don't have the formidable lobbying heft that it has in America.  The Canadian government acts like a true protector of the people, negotiating the prices of drugs down so that everyone can afford them, rather than like the piss-poor weaklings our congressional representatives have become, succumbing to the slick longiloquence of Armani-suited lobbyists from Merck and Pfizer without cross-examination, and allowing their industry to squeeze by without price-regulation no matter who's at the helm.
     America's failure to force pharmaceutical prices down makes it impossible for doctors like me to choose the best treatment for patients, because if that treatment happens to be a brand-name product, no one can afford it--nor will insurance companies agree to cover the outrageous cost.
    Here we are, then doctors and patients, caught in the middle of the obscene profit-mongering of two megalithic incubuses--the pharmaceutical industry imposing huge prices, and the insurance industry, refusing to pay.  Stranded and suffering are people with cancer, or bipolar disorder, or ulcers, or pain whose understanding of the situation is dampened by distress and forbearance, and who cannot pay out of pocket without postponing mortgage payments or reducing the grocery bill, and who are deprived, in the long run, of the best medical care.
     The answer to the question, "Why can't we be like Canada?" is this:  the insurance and pharmaceutical companies would lose power, and money if we switched to the sensible, Canadian system.  The insurance and pharmaceutical industries would be forced to get off the long sky-ride that has turned them into mega-billion powers with the lobbying clout to indemnify them against losses and ignore the fact that their products aren't serving people very well, as long as our country maintains its private insurance system.
     We are all being milked, year after year, by the insurance and pharmaceutical businesses--so we might as well pay taxes and get the federal and state governments, through adoption of national health insurance, finally, to force these greedy, self-serving corporate monsters into abeyance.
     That is why I am in favor of a national healthcare plan.       

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