William Thien

Archive for the ‘Socialized Medicine’ Category

Recently there have been a large number of stories in the local media about people suffering exorbitant bills due to health care they have received and it seems to me that The Affordable Care Act may not be living up to its stated objectives. I don’t fault anyone for that, though I was pointing out the fact that the ACA isn’t socialized medicine when most conservatives had missed that point during initial debate on the legislation and were in fact calling it socialized medicine, when in fact it is merely a private health insurance gimme with a sensible tweak to it such as the “No exclusion of pre-existing conditions” clause.

And so I thought I would revisit one of my earlier observations on the state of health care in The US with a global perspective on socialized medicine. Here it is:

I participated in a healthy debate on an email list about socialized medicine versus privatized medicine in 2004 and 2005. A fellow conservative had remarked that Canada’s health system required long waits for substandard care and concluded that all socialized health care programs produced the same results.

At the time I was paying for my own health insurance to the tune of about $6,000 per year. But when I went in to have some blemishes removed from my skin where my backpack straps (I like to hike) rubbed them, which was painful, the health insurer said it was a “pre-existing condition” and refused to pay for the doctor’s visit. Upon discovering the greed of the health insurer I stopped paying the monthly premium and was in fact better off by about $6,000 the next year. But people need health care.

The online debate I had caused me to use my own situation as an example and to examine what indeed the realities of socialized medicine were in other countries and then make a comparison to our own.

The first thing I learned was at the time people in Canada lived longer than people in The United States. So, in order to begin a somewhat scientific study of whether or not socialized medicine is better or worse than the system we have here in The United States, I had to have a control, a reference point, something to anchor the discussion so that I could use it as an example as the discussion proceeded. I decided to use “longevity,” or how long people lived.

It was astonishing to me to hear all of the negative things about Canada’s socialized medicine and then find out that in fact Canadians live longer. How can that be, I asked myself? How can it be that a system which is supposedly less efficient, and less expensive than our own as you will see later, how can it be that such an inefficient system would help their population to live longer? I mean, you would think that something that doesn’t work as well would produce less effective results. People living longer indicates efficiency when it comes to health care I believed, better results. So, I chose from the get go to use “longevity” as the reference point to determine a system’s efficiency.

Then, I went to several web sites that list statistics about the various countries on the planet, and perused The CIA Fact Book as well, a book which compiles information about every country to include the size of the country, its population, etceteras.

What I discovered is that in many countries with socialized medical programs, the people live longer, not just in Canada. I was flabbergasted. I’d been hearing all of this negative political rhetoric about how socialized medicine is a failure, yet here it was that many countries with socialized medical systems had populations that lived longer, in some cases, close to a decade longer. A decade! That’s significant in terms of statistical observation. Remember, I’m trying to be a little scientific.

Then, I tried to gather as much information as I could about the cost to each person of the socialized medical programs in each country. This was more difficult, but I was able to determine that the costs ranged anywhere from $3,500 to $6,000. Again, complete surprise. I had the impression after hearing all of the debates at the time that socialized medicine would cost the individual $20,000 or more, much like it costs the elderly here in The United States. No such luck. It happens that socialized medicine is actually much less expensive to administer than our own system of medicine.

What!? You say WHAT?!

That’s right. Socialized medicine is much less expensive to administer than our own system of medicine where, by the way, many don’t even have health insurance in the first place.

How can that be, you ask? How can socialized medicine be less expensive? It involves the government. The government always costs more. True. But as you will see, in this case, there is somewhat of an exception due to the complex nature of our own system of medicine.

For one thing, we are actually paying for several types of systems at the same time here in The United States. In a socialized system, you are only paying for one system.

The bureaucratic mess involved in administering the variety of medical systems in The United States means that many more dollars actually go into the administration of the system instead of the administration of the medical care and medicine. In other words, you are paying bureaucrats instead of doctors.

Well, what do you mean we are paying for several types of systems here in The United States?

For example, let me use myself as an example, again. Today, my employer sends me a statement of benefits at the end of the year whereas before I paid for my own health insurance. Last year my employer paid $11,000 for my health insurance (quite a bit more than the $6,000 I paid several years ago, which means the costs are skyrocketing). But not only did my employer pay $11,000, I paid in to Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security as well. Social Security also has a medical component to it. So, not only does my employer pay for my health insurance, I pay for three socialized medical programs myself. And this is just at the federal level. My state has three socialized health care programs. Some say the cost to administer that bureaucratic mess is immeasurable. Needless to say, it’s huge! Gigantic. But more importantly, it’s inefficient, much more inefficient than say just having one system, or socialized medicine countrywide.

When I total up all of the input costs to my health care, the $11,000 my employer paid for my health care last year and what I paid into Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, the cost is approaching $15,000. Today, socialized medicine in countries that have it, where they often live longer, is about $4500 to $7000, or about a third to one half of what it costs in The United States. And I’m just summing up the federal dollars that I pay and adding it to what my employer pays to the private health care insurer, and not adding what I pay to the state. That may approach $16,000 to $17,000, or two and a half times what people in countries with socialized medicine pay. Wow! That’s a lot of money.

Does this mean that we should move to a socialized health care system? Not exactly.

One of the things that I noticed in my somewhat scientific investigation is that there is a big fat guy in there that, were he properly regulated, medicine in The United States would be just fine, much less expensive, much more efficient. That big fat guy is The Health Insurance Company. Here we have a big fat middle man between America and its health care, a middle man that often tells the individual who pays dearly for the insurance that they are not covered due to a “pre-existing” condition, or that procedure is not covered because it is new, or that the prognosis is that you will only live three more months so they have decided not to approve the surgery.

In countries that have socialized medicine they have discovered something about efficiency in providing health care. Get rid of health care insurers. If you have a business, everything you do to structure that business is designed to make that business more efficient. You don’t have a special division of your business that doesn’t do anything related to that business. In this case, that would be the health care insurers. One thing health care insurers don’t do is provide health care services. They don’t treat patients, they don’t administer medicine, yet they are enormously costly. Countries with socialized medicine have recognized that fact and removed health care insurers from the health care equation. And guess what happened? The costs dropped dramatically. You can still purchase your own health insurance policy. But it’s not a law that you have to do so.

Since we live in a free market economy, that is really not an option. Or is it?

One of the major problems with health care in The United States is that big fat guy, health insurers, is not properly regulated and his weight is unhealthy for America. What we could really use is proper regulation of health care. After examining the issue on both sides, I’m convinced that is the answer, along with a couple of other minor tweaks that you will discover later.

Health care is not like other things. If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything, the saying goes. Perhaps that is true of a country and its health care. And maybe like the historical relationship of the church and science, maybe health care and profit don’t make for a healthy marriage. Maybe there is something diabolical about profiteering so thoroughly as health insurers do from someone’s sickness, maybe not. But it sure is big business, in fact, one of if not the biggest in this country. In the last decade pharmaceutical companies have often been the most profitable businesses. Guess what else is in the top ten? Health care insurers. Nothing wrong with making a profit, unless it is making everyone sick. And I’m convinced that is what is happening with health care insurers.

So, from my perspective, the one measure to come out of the current administration’s health care legislation, the result of that big all-consuming discussion we all had at the beginning of the current administration, the one element that is of any value is that health care insurance companies can no longer say something is a” pre-existing” condition. This is an excellent example of the proper regulation of an industry that has been acting like a anti-societal monstrosity.

Yet, from my perspective also, I don’t see any benefit to making it a law to have to purchase health care in the first place, which was also an element of the current administration’s health care law, especially now that doctors are starting to offer lower rates if you don’t use health insurance. See how the health insurers have wheedled their way into the health care equation for good. Now, by law we are going to have to buy health insurance. Clever bunch those health care insurers. Pulled the wool right over everyone’s eyes in Washington.

I am not certain when the term “pre-existing” condition came into being, if it was an invention of some clever business school graduate brought on at one of the health care insurers, but that one term has increased the profits at health care insurers dramatically, I am sure, while it has simultaneously brought down the quality of health care in The United States, brought it down to that of a third world country in many instances. At one point I heard that close to forty percent of the population did not have health insurance. Well, why not just scrap it altogether, then? Something obviously isn’t working. Quite the opposite.

Outlawing the “pre-existing condition” status was in my opinion the one thing to come out of the current legislation on health care in this country to be of any measure. And it is an example of proper regulation. When the law says a corporation “must” do everything in its power to increase its profits and satisfy its shareholders, you will get things like the term “pre-existing condition.” Therefor, you must properly regulate against such behavior, and in this case, you must properly regulate health care insurers in general if you want costs in The United States to come down.

Furthermore, in reference to tweaking the system that I mentioned previously, it used to be that health care providers could not advertise their services as they can today. Advertising is not cheap, it’s expensive. All of those costs are incorporated into what you pay for health care. Do you think providers just throw that money out the door? No, the health care industry transfers those costs to you. So that brings health care costs up incredibly. In a “one system” form of health care, privatized or socialized, you make the choice, you would likely remove that part of the cost equation as well.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is much less expensive to administer one health care program in comparison to administering three or four programs at the federal level and then several again at the state level. One program for everyone and you will see the costs plummet. People will have more money for everything. The economy would likely flourish. Even major auto manufacturers and other industrial giants have said that health care costs are putting them out of business.

And, as a conservative I have to ask the question: Is having a government-run health care system comprised of multiple and perhaps likely redundant systems of care at both the federal and state levels actually better than having just one government-run system? The obvious answer is no. Having one system would be the better choice.

That is if a conservative can even accept having socialized or government-run health care in the first place? If in fact having one such system is much less expensive and more efficient than the multiple government and private systems we have today at such great cost, then of course the answer is a clear and definite yes, regardless of whether or not the system is totally government-run or private. It would be by default the most conservative system.

There are of course the questions which remain as to whether or not such a system could work in The United States. But we ought not to let the media front men decide that question for us.

In my opinion, if we want to lower health care costs in The United States we need to switch to one system and only one, whether it be private or public, into which everyone pays, and properly regulate that system. In that way, we will simplify and therefore decrease the administrative costs and insurance costs and everyone will likely live longer, as they won’t be sweating the cost of going to the doctor in the first place.

Copyright © William Thien 2011, 2105

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To me it is surprising how little most people realize how socialized The United States is and how much money is taken from the middle classes and given to either the very rich or the poor in terms of tax breaks or social programs.

But a country without a middle class is really just a master and servant society in a way where the many work for the few.

The cost of social programs has a devastating effect on the middle classes because the wealthy know how to hide their wealth and they write the tax code while the poor don’t pay many taxes. Socialism enslaves the middle classes, then, even if not by design as it is the middle classes that end up paying the majority of taxes in terms of a percentage of their income, squeezed between an ever growing population of poor Americans and an increasingly powerful wealthy class as money has now become defined as speech and the media takes the money with a glad hand. Eventually the middle classes are turned in to lower economic classes due to the structure of the socialistic tax code. Many believe that is in fact happening today. They call it the “Shrinking Middle Class.” You may have heard that term in the evening news. I’ve just explained what is happening, that’s all, even if they haven’t.

This is why I support a flat tax.

But we must also curtail social programs and certain tax breaks as it is the redistribution of wealth which is administered and it is the cost of administering the redistribution of wealth that amplifies the burden upon the middle classes.

What? What did you say?

I said, it is not only the money that is paid to the recipients of the social programs and the tax breaks given to the wealthy that is expensive, someone is paid to redistribute all of that money and provide and write those tax breaks, and those people are well paid usually. Paying them is an added cost which significantly magnifies the burden upon the working and middle classes. It’s not just the money paid to the recipients of the social programs that is costly; you also have to pay those who give your money away. Oh yeah, they never talk about that part, do they? That figures.

Some think the answer is just to cancel social programs altogether, but is that really the best solution? The media always offer bleak pictures of the country were we to discontinue social programs overnight. I have a solution.

Instead of canceling social programs outright, the country should begin to wean the population off of social programs over a ten-year period, for example. To simply take away all of the food stamp benefits that it is believed well over 40 percent of the population are currently obtaining, nearly half of the country, to take away all of those benefits would have an economic effect similar to the withdrawals that an addict who is addicted to a nasty drug would have when you took their drug away without providing any substitute. A country on cold turkey anti-socialism would exhibit some nasty withdrawals, I’m sure. Widespread civil strife. Small scale wars perhaps. But is that necessary? Please, read on.

So many people are currently receiving food stamps, so many single women are receiving benefits to raise children out-of-wedlock, and so many corporations are receiving tax breaks for producing products for which there is insufficient demand that to simply take away all of those benefits would send the country into a state of downward spiraling economic withdrawal. That is in fact what happened at the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of communism in Eastern Europe in the early 1990’s. Massive poverty and starvation resulted in the former Soviet Bloc countries and eastern Germany. It was because the changes to the economy happened too quickly and nobody knew what was going to happen. We know now.

Stepping down, stepping away one step at a time from socialism is the answer if we are to unburden the middle classes from the massive weight and insult of socialist taxation. Otherwise the massive economic withdrawals which might result from a sudden cancellation of all of the social programs might simply convince that portion of society which believes in the socialist dogma that socialism is the only way because in the end, they know no other way.

That is the only way to relieve the middle classes of the heft of the socialist system.

Copyright © William Thien 2014

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Being a veteran I am acutely aware of the staffing shortage some of the VA Hospitals have been facing and the problems with scheduling that have been brought to the fore recently, scheduling problems resulting in delays that then resulted in the deaths of veterans.

I think the solution to the problem is rather simple. Instead of forcing veterans to attend a Veterans Administration Hospital for treatment, we as a country should pay for veterans to obtain treatment on the open market at a local hospital in their community instead of having to travel to a V.A. Hospital.

Paying for veterans to obtain medical care on the open market makes huge financial sense, for one thing. Some veterans have to be transported great lengths to receive treatment since they live hundreds of miles from the nearest VA Hospital. When scheduling exceeds capability to provide medical care, give the veteran the option of visiting another medical facility on the open market. Why let a medical problem exacerbate itself and become more expensive because we are making the veteran wait for care? Medical issues generally become more expensive to treat the longer into the condition or malady, any doctor will tell you that. Since we use tax payer dollars to pay for the treatment, why make it more expensive?

Our elderly who have not offered up their lives for their country or served in the military are eligible for free medical care and we do not make them go to a special hospitals for “the elderly” like we make our veterans attend VA Medical facilities. Could you imagine what would happen if we made our elderly visit special hospitals for the elderly? Could you imagine the political cacophony of screams coming from the retired? They are making us go to “death hospitals!” It is a valid fear really. So why do we force our veterans to do just that, visit special, overcrowded hospitals?

Let me add that I am not saying we should dismantle the current VA Hospital system, quite the contrary. We should enhance it. Certain war related catastrophic wounds are best treated by specialists who see that type of injury all of the time. But not all such battlefield injuries require those types of specialists. Therefore, I believe we can fund enhancements to our VA Hospital system through properly managing care for our veterans by providing choices.

My local VA hospital is an excellent facility and has not had any of the problems we have been hearing about in the news. But veterans who live in the northern part of the state have to travel hundreds of miles to receive advanced medical care and their families often have to stay several nights away from their homes when there are local hospitals right there in their own community offering the same care. Why do we put them through that? Again, could you imagine the raucous cries if we made the elderly do that, travel half way across the country for care? And most of them haven’t even served in the military.

I think this is a better way of dealing with the problem of overburdened VA facilities. Use of the facilities is slated to increase as The US draws down in Afghanistan completely so the problems are likely to get worse.

It’s time to give our veterans a choice option when it comes to care.

It is an indication of the failure of our country’s entitlement culture when we pay for our elderly to use whatever hospital they choose and they have not even served in the military while we force our veterans, many of them elderly themselves in to crowded VA Hospitals. It is just plain wrong. Veterans pay taxes too AND have served their country. So why are they being treated like second class citizens?

It’s time to give veterans a choice when it comes to receiving medical care. Not only is it the right thing to do, it makes huge financial sense.

Contact your Senators and Congressmen and tell them you think veterans should have a choice to receive care on the open market by clicking here Find Your Elected Representatives and send them an email.

You will be doing every veteran in America a big favor and saving yourself some money at the same time. And that’s what America is really all about. It ain’t about entitlements.

Copyright © William Thien 2014

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When you examine Obamacare, it really is nothing more than a big Health Insurance company gimme. When before you didn’t have to have health insurance, now you will (good for Health Insurance Companies), or you will be fined by The I.R.S. no less, that agency known for targeting conservatives.

The only provisions in Obamacare that are worth any salt are the “No Pre-Existing Conditions” clause and the provision allowing children to stay on their parent’s health insurance plan. But that is not socialized medicine, it is health care regulation, big difference.

Not that I favor socialized medicine or privatized medicine, but I think it helps to clarify a thoroughly muddled discussion to understand that the most substantially socialized, big-government portion of the law is that The I.R.S. will be enforcing compliance. Otherwise, “private,” not big government, but private health insurance companies are the largest beneficiaries of Obamacare. Because now everyone will have to buy private health insurance if they don’t already have it.

Copyright © William Thien 2013

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In listening to a recent on-air discussion about benefits obtained by an out-of-wedlock mother where I reside, it was revealed that she receives $46,000 in benefits if she has one child, benefits including Rent Assistance, Food Stamps (The Quest Card where I reside), Medicaid, Child Care benefits, Women Infants & Children (AKA (WIC), financial payments for food for children), and a number of other benefits, all made available at one time during a visit with a social worker. All she has to do is get pregnant. No wonder forty-one percent (yeah, that’s right, 41%) of the children born in 2011 were born to single mothers. It’s almost lucrative. She doesn’t have to do anything except have sex!

Copyright © William Thien 2013

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Here is a Government Waste List compiled by the NRCC.

To me the list seems rather limited, but it is a start. Not listed are social programs and entitlements which clearly are a waste and/or subject to massive abuse as well. This list merely is a list of the obvious and really least expensive. Programs that are unfair, such as those which I call “Selectively Communist” (in that many pay for the programs but are ineligible for benefits), such as many health programs, clearly are waste, unfair, and should be dealt with directly. But they are not on the list.

Several of the entries on the list are particularly disturbing as they total in the billions of dollars.

Have a look at The Government Waste List.

You will be glad you did.

Copyright © William Thien 2013

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I’m suffering a severe bout of the “Ineligibility-For-The-Government-Program-But-Can’t-Afford-It-On-The-Open-Market-Anyway-Syndrome.” For example, I’ve decided not to turn the heat on in my apartment this winter. I may, but I haven’t, yet. It’s too expensive to run the furnace. You might want to know that it gets down to ten degrees at night where I reside. But that’s beside the point, in a way at least.

Also, last year my employer had to implement European Union style austerity measures on my employment section at work so I lost all of my benefits. I lost my health care, vision and dental, all of my sick days and was not paid for them, no life insurance, and I am now just paid an hourly wage. My employer didn’t have much of a choice.

I really don’t have a problem with my circumstances. But it would be nice to be able to turn the heat on a time or two on a cold night. The problem with that though is that I can’t really afford it. If I turn my heat on regularly my savings will diminish dramatically and leave me in a precarious economic position. Many around me are able to obtain heat assistance, but I make too much money to be eligible (the government classifies me as upper lower-income or lower middle-income depending on the year, by the way).

Many I have spoken with are also eligible for medical programs offered by the state I reside in due to their income and family structure. I am not married but am not willing to start a family like many merely to become wards of the state to make eligibility (The State? That’s you and I, by the way, as we are the ones paying for the programs). Even though I lost all of my health benefits, I am ineligible because again I make too much money, not enough to afford heating my apartment regularly though while still saving up some reserves, but too much money to be eligible for medical care offered by the state. I would add that of all receiving the benefits that I have spoken with, none have served in the military, yet I have. On average I take home about 65 to 70 percent of my wages after all is said and done.

Are you with me, yet? You should be. If you are not, don’t bother reading on. By now you are probably slapping the mortar on the bricks.

I am not telling you this because I want the eligibility requirements for the aforementioned programs to change really. I am telling you this to explain what I think is happening to this country, this country which is rapidly becoming communist, selectively communist, and I am telling you this because I think things should change. Because I pay for all of these programs but am eligible for none of them. Communism is bad enough. Didn’t we learn from the fall of the Soviet Union? Selective communism, what we have here in The United States, is worse. It’s not only an inefficient system. It’s a daily insult of humongous proportions. It’s a spit in the face to those who pay for it but are ineligible. It really is.

I do not fit into any clearly defined federal definition of any minority so I am not eligible for any such assistance if it exists. I am a single male with no write-offs, just a regular working person. I kind of like it that way and don’t want the government to make me jump through all sorts of tax code hoops in order to keep what I earn. I am what probably was once called a regular “working stiff.” But apparently that isn’t allowed anymore. I merely earn what until last year was a living wage. I have no children so I can’t claim withholding allowances and take home more on my pay check nor can I claim dependent child tax deductions and receive a hefty tax return. I am not working any angle that I can use to declare some bogus expenses on my taxes, either. I pay a disproportionately larger share in taxes than any other social class in my earnings bracket yet I use the fewest services of any other social class. You know what that means? The tax code is entirely backwards as it pays those who use all the services and charges those who use the least; the tax code is unfair to someone like myself and it is not structurally functional. Just do the math.

I am not complaining. I am merely explaining the realities of the tax code and the mountain of social programs for which taxes are levied on the population of people like me to pay for all of the entitlements and special tax deductions of which none of them am I am eligible. Yet, I make them possible.

So what do I think should be done?

It’s time to start over with the entitlements. We can’t pay for them all, anyway. It’s time to erase all of the handouts and cancel all of the programs. Why? Why would you do that to people who need them? I wouldn’t do that to people who need them. Yet, I myself may need them, I pay for them, and I am not eligible.

The problem anyway with having a program for each and every economic dilemma that can come up for people in a communist country like America (oh yes it is, America is selectively communist) is that you have to factor in human nature. People abuse the system. They hide their income to become eligible. They falsify program applications. They even give birth to become eligible. In fact, that is one of the primary ways some obtain eligibility, they get pregnant. Then they stay on assistance long after they need it because they can. The programs are breeding grounds for the most socially parasitic behavior today and all of it is sanctioned by the government, a government that likes it, a government that wants to grow, a government that knows it can grow by fostering such behavior.

But what is worse, programs that offer free heat assistance, free medical, free cell phones, you name it, those programs drive the cost of those services up for everyone else because they create pre-determined costs for specific services and erase market competition. The assistance programs also add money into the market where it doesn’t exist in the market. Hence, the programs drive the cost of goods and services up, pricing people like me out of the market, people who pay their taxes, people who have served in the military yet still are ineligible, making the programs in a way, unethical.

I should be eligible for any program I have to pay for in taxes. That’s all there is to it. But that’s not the case. I’m suffering from a severe bout of the “Ineligibility-For-The-Government-Program-But-Can’t-Afford-It-On-The-Open-Market-Anyway-Syndrome.” There has to be a real name for it.

The system which is supposed to improve our health and standard of living is making me sick of it and sick of paying for it. And it is making me poor at the same time. That’s not right. That’s not what it is supposed to do. It’s wrong, wrong in an almost biblical sense.

It’s time to cut the entitlements. It’s time. And with another fiscal cliff approaching in less than sixty days, let’s get to it, like right now! Because you know what, I’m not alone.

Copyright © William Thien 2013

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