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ChannelDunlap (< 20)

Not Everything in America Has to Make a Profit

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July 24, 2009 – Comments (17)

I found this article today that very accurately sums up my feeling on the healthcare industry, and includes some references to other areas where we've let out devotion to capitalism override our good judgement.  Take a gander.  The last sentance of the first paragraph sums up the vibe I pick up around here all too often.

How about this for a New Rule: Not everything in America has to make a profit. It used to be that there were some services and institutions so vital to our nation that they were exempt from market pressures. Some things we just didn't do for money. The United States always defined capitalism, but it didn't used to define us. But now it's becoming all that we are.

 

Did you know, for example, that there was a time when being called a "war profiteer" was a bad thing? But now our war zones are dominated by private contractors and mercenaries who work for corporations. There are more private contractors in Iraq than American troops, and we pay them generous salaries to do jobs the troops used to do for themselves ­-- like laundry. War is not supposed to turn a profit, but our wars have become boondoggles for weapons manufacturers and connected civilian contractors.

Prisons used to be a non-profit business, too. And for good reason --­ who the hell wants to own a prison? By definition you're going to have trouble with the tenants. But now prisons are big business. A company called the Corrections Corporation of America is on the New York Stock Exchange, which is convenient since that's where all the real crime is happening anyway. The CCA and similar corporations actually lobby Congress for stiffer sentencing laws so they can lock more people up and make more money. That's why America has the world;s largest prison population ­-- because actually rehabilitating people would have a negative impact on the bottom line.

Television news is another area that used to be roped off from the profit motive. When Walter Cronkite died last week, it was odd to see news anchor after news anchor talking about how much better the news coverage was back in Cronkite's day. I thought, "Gee, if only you were in a position to do something about it."

But maybe they aren't. Because unlike in Cronkite's day, today's news has to make a profit like all the other divisions in a media conglomerate. That's why it wasn't surprising to see the CBS Evening News broadcast live from the Staples Center for two nights this month, just in case Michael Jackson came back to life and sold Iran nuclear weapons. In Uncle Walter's time, the news division was a loss leader. Making money was the job of The Beverly Hillbillies. And now that we have reporters moving to Alaska to hang out with the Palin family, the news is The Beverly Hillbillies.

And finally, there's health care. It wasn't that long ago that when a kid broke his leg playing stickball, his parents took him to the local Catholic hospital, the nun put a thermometer in his mouth, the doctor slapped some plaster on his ankle and you were done. The bill was $1.50, plus you got to keep the thermometer.

But like everything else that's good and noble in life, some Wall Street wizard decided that hospitals could be big business, so now they're run by some bean counters in a corporate plaza in Charlotte. In the U.S. today, three giant for-profit conglomerates own close to 600 hospitals and other health care facilities. They're not hospitals anymore; they're Jiffy Lubes with bedpans. America's largest hospital chain, HCA, was founded by the family of Bill Frist, who perfectly represents the Republican attitude toward health care: it's not a right, it's a racket. The more people who get sick and need medicine, the higher their profit margins. Which is why they're always pushing the Jell-O.

Because medicine is now for-profit we have things like "recision," where insurance companies hire people to figure out ways to deny you coverage when you get sick, even though you've been paying into your plan for years.

When did the profit motive become the only reason to do anything? When did that become the new patriotism? Ask not what you could do for your country, ask what's in it for Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

If conservatives get to call universal health care "socialized medicine," I get to call private health care "soulless vampires making money off human pain." The problem with President Obama's health care plan isn't socialism, it's capitalism.

And if medicine is for profit, and war, and the news, and the penal system, my question is: what's wrong with firemen? Why don't they charge? They must be commies. Oh my God! That explains the red trucks!

The original article can be found here at the Huffington Post.  Just sharing a more liberal (and, imho, sane) point of view with a very conservative group.  The comments, if there are any, aught to be interesting.

17 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On July 24, 2009 at 5:58 PM, chk999 (99.97) wrote:

The comments, if there are any, aught to be interesting.

 You mean "ought".

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#2) On July 24, 2009 at 7:46 PM, angusthermopylae (39.26) wrote:

I made the same argument a couple of months ago when everyone was blasting the Postal Service.  It's not glamorous, it's not pretty, but services like that are fundamental to keeping the country working.  Doubt it?  Imagine what shipping would be like if there were no subsidized alternative:  Every time gas prices go up 10%, your shipping would probably go up 20% to cover additional costs...

I'm not saying gross inefficiencies or corruption should be ignored; your article puts it best:

The United States always defined capitalism, but it didn't used to define us.

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#3) On July 24, 2009 at 8:54 PM, ChannelDunlap (< 20) wrote:

Thanks chk, I always stumble over that word.  Mental note made.

angus -  Yeah I liked that line.  It seems like capitalism is the standard we're comparing everything to these days.  If nobody is making money from it, it ain't American!  I strongly agree with this article that some things are too vital to be left to the private sector, and healthcare is definitely one of them.  Maybe it could be done right by the private sector, if they really got their act together.  But it's had it chance, and it's failed miserably.

What I don't get with Healthcare, everyone says "I'm not paying for some lazy bum's medical bills!"  But the system already "spreads the cost" of the uninsured, who so often can't pay.  So whats the difference between it coming out of your taxes, and coming out of your insurance premiums?  The system already subsidizes those who can't pay.  We could cut out the profits, cut out a large portion of the redundant administration fees, spread out the cost a little more, and very little would change.

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#4) On July 24, 2009 at 9:22 PM, rd80 (98.30) wrote:

We could cut out the profits,

And that leaves what as incentive to enter the healtcare industry, invent things like Intuitive's DaVinci, develop new drugs, etc?

Where are you going to get good doctor's, researchers, nurses, etc. if you don't pay them well? 

The vast majority of medical innovations exist because there's a profit incentive to create new and better ways to do things.  Govenment may do some things well; innovate isn't one of them.  No profit and government run healthcare = far fewer advancements in medical science.

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#5) On July 24, 2009 at 9:42 PM, angusthermopylae (39.26) wrote:

ChannelDunlap

The system already subsidizes those who can't pay.

 

rd80

And that leaves what as incentive to enter the healtcare industry, invent things like Intuitive's DaVinci, develop new drugs, etc?

Those two lines sum up the entire healthcare system, in my opinion...those who don't use their healthcare (as much) pay for those who do, and  the big profits are incentive to do more...

But:  ChannelDunlap, there seems to be a sticking point over this subsidization when it is done through capitalism vs. government organization (I'm purposefully not calling it "communism", "socialized medicine", or any other buzzword).  My sympathies are close to what Robert Heinlein called a Pragmatic Anarchist--government is a necessary evil...not because government is evil, but because the people in it turn out that way....

But:  rd80, while it is entirely true that profit produces innovations that save millions of lives and improves the human race, it also gives us turkeys like Celebrex, Viagra, thalidomide, penile pumps, and flow-chart diagnosis ("Hmmm...it's obvious he has the Plague, but my liability insurance requires that I run these 15 elimination tests first.")

I'm just a sad, sad, little middle-of-the road kind of guy.  Millions (including my own parents) don't have healthcare, and dread the day that the inevitable killer disease comes around....

...but I shudder at what the government might end up doing.  Not in the short run (5-10 years), but in the long run (50-100+ years).

There, now you both can hate me.

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#6) On July 24, 2009 at 9:52 PM, Varchild2008 (83.67) wrote:

Post Office has been raising their prices very year on shipping.  The Price of Stamps have gone up almost annually, to include this year.   Post Office has taken away Post Office boxes as well including apartment complexes.

So I don't understand the argument that the Private Sector would be more expensive to ship things than the way things are now?

As for Governmnt-Run Health Care.  President Obama's plan is Government-Run Health Care.  

No one wants that..  People want a Health Care Reform initiative to be about reducing health care costs..... Not about lining the pockets of Politicians in Washington D.C. with hard earned small business and individual income.

Enough is enough.  I'm open to all sorts of suggestions to improve the cost of Health Care.... Tort Reform, Buying insurance across State Lines, grouping industries together under 1 health are plan, etc. etc. etc.

Problem is that the Democrats refuse to listen to the Blue Dog Democrats much less the Republicans much less us Conservative Likely Voters (myself included) who have sent e-mails / phone calls / etc. voicing our concerns.

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#7) On July 24, 2009 at 10:30 PM, Judochop172 (24.54) wrote:

Some Americans already have Government Run Healthcare

http://www.edmontonsun.com/news/world/2009/07/22/10219786.html

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#8) On July 24, 2009 at 10:30 PM, devoish (98.66) wrote:

Varchild, 

As for Governmnt-Run Health Care.  President Obama's plan is Government-Run Health Care.  

No one wants that..
 

President Obama's plan is not government run healthcare. He let's the insurers live, so if you want your insurer run healthcare you get to keep it. If you like being worried your employer will change insurers and the Doctor you like won't be in the new plan, you get to keep that too, if that's what you want.

And you are wrong when you say no-one wants government run healthcare. I want it. I want an elected representative everyone can yell at and fire if it sucks, not a corporate executive who gets paid better if my doctor cannot prescribe the treatment he thinks I need. Because by the time you know your plan sucks, it's too late, and some other insurer just hired your corporate exec to cut costs from your neighbors insurance plan.

August,

I share your fear about 50 years from now and 15 years from now. Doing government right will never stop being hard work, despite the claims of some that everything would work out fine if you just stop trying.

rd80,

The difference is getting the "profits" to the Davinci system and to the Doctors, not having 1/3rd of the money we spend lost to the insurers who contribute nothing but bureaucracy and expense while cutting out healthcare.

www.pnhp.org

Channeldunlap

Thanks for the post. I like the same line you did. I cringe everytime I hear someone substitute "capitalism" for "democracy", as in "we are a capitalist country".

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#9) On July 24, 2009 at 10:55 PM, ChannelDunlap (< 20) wrote:

rd - I guess I should specify.  I'm all in favor of paying the medical professionals well.  Companies that make new products and drugs could continue to charge the same amount.  The only thing changing is how we pay for it.  It's the insurance company profits that disgust me the most.  Even so, if profits all around dropped a little bit, I think we have enough people who just want to be doctors to help people that would work for a moderate pay (isn't that one of the kids dream of long before they're corrupted by this consumer society?).  You can say they won't be the best or the brightest, but hey, they aren't now; they're people in it for the money.

Var - So has Fedex.  I can still get a letter from Miami to Anchorage for less with USPS than I can with any private company.  They have their purpose.       I think the idea of government run healthcare goes hand in hand with reducing costs, along with providing an essential service to those who can't get it under the current system.  But I disagree, Obama's plan is about turning the government into another insurance company.  If it eventually squeezes out the competition to become the de facto healthcare system, then great.  But I don't think it will happen.  Bring on the socialism, I say.

angus - I admire your efforts, but is it possible to avoid buzzwords on this topic?  Take away Socialized Medicine & Universal Healthcare and theres not a whole lot left.  Even "Single Payer" is getting worn out, and I just recently figured out what the hell it meant.  I have no problem calling it socialized medicine, because that's what it is, and theres fine with me.

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#10) On July 24, 2009 at 11:42 PM, rd80 (98.30) wrote:

I think the idea of government run healthcare goes hand in hand with reducing costs,

On what planet?  The two biggest gov't healthcare programs, Medicaid and Medicare, both cost far, far more than was estimated when they were implemented.  The government's track record on containing costs is nearly perfect - it never happens.

 

 


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#11) On July 25, 2009 at 12:10 AM, ipfmanager (96.68) wrote:

The Huffinton Post is one of the most slanted/biased publications in the world.  

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#12) On July 25, 2009 at 12:27 AM, ChrisGraley (29.72) wrote:

Have you ever been to any institution ran by the government and left feeling better than when you went in?

What I'm really interested is how motivated the doctors that don't make a profit will be.

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#13) On July 25, 2009 at 2:11 AM, angusthermopylae (39.26) wrote:

Even "Single Payer" is getting worn out, and I just recently figured out what the hell it meant.  I have no problem calling it socialized medicine, because that's what it is, and theres fine with me.

lol...I wish someone would explain "single payer" to me...I still can't sort through all the chaff to get to the root of the matter.

The reason I said I would stay away from buzzwords is that they mean different things (connotatively) to different people.  A group of sick, below-poverty level people will think it's good--they are going to stop suffering.  Same with the social-conscious-is-everthing crowd..."It's a Good Thing."

But the same phrase is being used as a bludgeon in Conservative circles.  (I find this ironic, or maybe just hypocritical, since Boehner and Gang are pushing the same points they were knocking down just 2-3 years ago.)  Tell a group of neocons you are looking for "socialized medicine" as a solution, and you'll probably get lynched.

The trouble is what you and rd80 mentioned earlier:  People suffer, people need incentive to perform, and it's hard to come up with an answer that doesn't exacerbate one problem or another.

I think "the Answer" would be to pick a political theme and stick with it.  Right now, if everything was cast in an economic perspective, there might actually be movement....maybe not good movement, but some movement nonetheless.   Then either side could frame the entire debate as "the health care system is crippling the economy...we gotta fix this!"

After that, it would be a matter of how much suffering you wouldn't mind for those the system would screw...and someone always gets screwed (TANSTAAFL).

If you picked "think of the children", then cost be damned--the health care system would be fixed.  Bush cornered himself with the SCHIP bill all those years ago...maybe someone will dust off that old bogeyman and go for it.  But again, TANSTAAFL...someone(s) will pay heavily.

The healthcare debate has no overriding theme...it's a mosh pit of left wing concerns, right wing shouting, industry lobbyist screaming, medical community pandering, AARP royalty, and immigrant-bashing opportunism.  No one can agree on why "it must be fixed", much less how.

All anyone can agree on is that everyone else's ideas are crap....

...meanwhile, the average person pays insurance they pray they'll never need, living in fear of that day when everything they have will be wiped out completely.

TANSTAAFL = The Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

It was the national motto for the Lunar Revolution in Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

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#14) On July 25, 2009 at 7:36 PM, devoish (98.66) wrote:

lol...I wish someone would explain "single payer" to me...I still can't sort through all the chaff to get to the root of the matter

Ouch.

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#15) On July 25, 2009 at 10:19 PM, angusthermopylae (39.26) wrote:

Ok, single payer....

My understanding is that it means one source of health care payments...usually the government.  Simple concept, simple execution, right?

If that's the case, then it would just be a matter of what and how much this single payer would cover, right?  Costs of healthcare could be set, adjusted, and reconfigured at one level.

That's what I meant by casting it in economic terms...whoever controls that single payer could, single-handedly, adjust the amount of the economy going through the health care industry, instead of other parts.  (Very Keynesian, if I understand it correctly....*shudder*)

My confusion:  If this is all there is to single payer, then it's pretty much a straight up-or-down vote (or only taking two sides) in the matter.  Either you do it, or you don't.

And yet....lobbyists continue to visit the White House (and they aren't saying who or when), the Democrats, with their "supermajority" (or near enough) can't come up with a single, small bill to start it rolling, and the neocons keep going on about everything else, including "there's no problem at all."

So I hope you can understand my confusion about the issue--I have to be missing something here.  Otherwise, the whole troop of baboons is just as screwed up as I suspect them of being...

Which is it?  Baboons, or I'm missing the point?

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#16) On July 25, 2009 at 11:25 PM, DownEscalator (< 20) wrote:

Some of you are confusing "profit" with "compensation."

No doctor goes into medicine for "profit."  "Compensation," absolutely.  But many (most) independent medical offices profit seldomly.  Their doctors have more loyalty than large healthcare conglomerates.  Why?  Because medicine isn't all business.  Doctors are not like lawyers or traders.

The original article also grossly underplays the changes in healthcare in the last 50 years.  The nun with the bandage is cute.  It costs a lot less than MRIs and CT-scans, not to mention sterilization techniques and basic utensils that old-time hospitals weren't as bound to follow.

Hospitals have to be allowed to at least break even.  The cost of them to do that is far greater than most people ever consider.  But more importantly, we  need to end this era of confusion, rhetoric, and fear.  Most people aren't even aware that there are federal laws on the books requiring care to those whose lives are legitimately threatened.  Or that hospitals are required to carry a fund to cover the uninsured.  Or that hospitals - almost universally - are more than happy to treat someone if they make an EFFORT to establish a payment plan, some as low as $5 a month, for services.

My solution is to mandate individual, basic health and life insurance, similar to the way we mandate auto insurance.  No government program can be the answer so long as we allow public and private to compete.  Mandate that everyone carries it and quite a few problems are solved at once.  

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#17) On July 27, 2009 at 7:16 PM, angusthermopylae (39.26) wrote:

Here's an example of what I was talking about:  An observation from the Right about the way the Left talks about healthcare.

Ignoring the terminology used ("bait and switch", "rationing free speech"), it does encapsulate the problems with the approach that healthcare reform proponents have taken.  The terminology is vague and confusing, and it's difficult to have a broad-based appeal.

On the other hand, the article itself is a good example of the problems with the opponents of healthcare reform:  They offer nothing concrete, just vague "watch out...they're coming for you" speeches and criticisms....

 

...I'm leaning more and more toward the "baboon" answer...

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