Friday, October 25, 2019

America's Healthcare Rip-off


nakedcapitalism |  Yves here. Reader Christopher J sent a contribution from Down Under, with a long note about his treatment for his first major medical treatment. I thought I would run it as a long-form example of how health care works in other advanced economies. Admittedly, my personal data points are stale, but when I was in Sydney (2002-2004), the caliber of health care was on a par with the US, and even with my paying out of pocket, the charges were about a third of what they would have been in the US. A couple I knew who had the option of the wife giving childbirth in New York City or Sydney chose Sydney because they deemed the care to be better. 

One of the big things that allows for America’s health care looting to go well beyond what ought to have been its sell by date is our provincialism. 

You can read about the Australian scheme here; the short version is citizens and permanent residents pay 2% of their annual income over a threshold for Medicare; they can then either buy private insurance or pay a surcharge for the balance of their coverage.

Christopher J lives in Cairns, which is a remote city of 150,000 near the Great Barrier Reef. 

By Christopher J
I follow your blog most days and have been a part time commenter for well over 10 years now, since I worked for the Bureau of Transport Economics in Canberra. 

Here is a story about my first medical emergency. I was born in the UK in 1961 and now live in Cairns after working in the public sector for 30 plus years in the finance and treasury sectors. I currently work for self as handyman and have a partner who also works.

Last September 2018, I gave up smoking cigarettes due to the expense. Heavily taxed to ‘discourage use’, a 20 pack of Marlboros now costs around A$30 – $20 US. And, I reckon my habit was costing around $750 a month, or the cost of an annual river cruise in Europe! I’d given up several times for months or even years, but this was the first time I’d given up arising from anger at how the Federal Government was tackling the problem with a huge tax on, mostly, working people.

After that first month, I withdrew the money I’d saved in cash and bought myself a flash wallet to put it in. Smug I was at the pub around my smoking friends. I found huge improvements in my health. For many years sleeping on my side led to my arms going to sleep as my circulation was constricted by all that smoke residue. After a month or so of not smoking, my blood circulation improved and I found I could sleep again on my side. I told partner we were going to extend all our run circuits by about 800 m and we started to hike up Mount Whitfield, and jog down, about an 8km round trip with an up and down of around 350m, with the trail along the ridge line. I was feeling very fit for my age and was feeling generally positive about my health and well being.

At the end of May, or so, and out of the blue, I found a lump as I was sitting on the bed one morning. This was a Monday about 4 months ago. At the top of my right thigh and groiu area was a lump, not painful, about the size of a small egg.’