Archived: Insurers Can Be Detrimental to Your Health


Want good health care?
Call your ma;
She’ll say go,
To Canada.

The best form of health insurance is no great mystery. The bulk of the developed world has already figured it out and implemented it in one form or another. Even the American public, besieged as it is by propaganda to the contrary, has also figured it out. And a majority wants it. Yes, even a majority of doctors wants it.

Unfortunately, they won’t get it. That’s because the best form of health insurance is run by the government. You know, like Medicare or the VA. But American business has been trashing government since the ink first dried on the Declaration of Independence. Now the health insurance industry spends tens of millions yearly to scare the public away from any further state intrusion onto its turf, except maybe to force all citizens to buy its policies. It continues to fling charges that are occasionally truthful, but mostly not.

The industry’s most popular whipping boy just now is Britain. Socialized medicine, tsk, tsk. Why even the doctors over there work for the Crown. But surprisingly the Brits have grown quite huffy, not a big trick for them, about this attack. “Wait a minute, old boy,” they say. “WE can jolly well make a national pastime of criticizing our health care system, but YOU blighters can’t. It’s a whole lot better than yours, you know, and cheaper too.”
On this issue they happen to be right. While their system may be too big a lump for Americans to swallow whole, their key element—government insurance—is so clearly superior that all of the industrialized world (except for the United States) has adopted it.

Take Canada. Unlike Britain, its doctors are private operators just like ours, but coverage is run out of Ottawa. As you’ve heard, everyone up there is indeed covered and their system, like the British one, is also much cheaper. In fact, everybody else’s system is much cheaper than ours. Word is that the only thing keeping a flood of freezing Canadian immigrants out of the U.S. is our shaky health care. Otherwise millions of them would flee their frostbite and igloos and be down here in a flash to enjoy our sun and frivolity.

We hardly need to recite the shortcomings of our malevolent insurance companies. Their executives are paid millions, their duplicative approval systems are bankrupting all of us, and their customers are viewed as the enemy, always sick and presenting medical bills. The obvious goal for them is to sign up folks who are healthy and to dump folks who are ill. It’s just good business. That’s the genius of the free market that we hear so much about.
To promote this common-sense business model, insurers hire battle groups of lobbyists, pay fortunes to political campaigns, and advertise profligately in the media. Consequently the compliant media never interview proponents of government insurance, Congress (and the president) never invites them to the negotiating table, and lobbyists heap invective contumely upon them.

Meanwhile, 46.3 million Americans (15 percent of the population) lack coverage, 10,000 a day lose the coverage they once had, and 62 percent of bankruptcies are due to health costs, even among those who are covered. Further, most of the uninsured are actually employed but can’t afford insurance, and divorces are piling up just so that at least one member of the family unit can escape impoverishment due to the disastrous illness of the other. There’s a lot more stuff like that too.

As a result, savvy patients often go abroad. Mexico is the new center for dental work while Thailand, India, South Africa, and other entrepreneurial nations compete for the American medical dollar. At home among the poor, the big losers in all this, free clinics save a lot of lives but life expectancy remains short.

In Washington, Republicans totally oppose reform (no victories for Obama, please) and conservative “Blue Cross” Democrats are with the insurers. Better keep taking our vitamins, Mabel.

Columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut. Distributed by

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