a world

Living With the Symptoms of For-Profit Care: Why Healthcare Corruption Makes Me Sick.

 

A friend of mine recently twisted her ankle during a cross-country meet. It didn’t seem broken, just painful and swollen.

She was able to walk on it, but the athletic trainer suggested she get it looked at. He wrote up a referral to a medical group that specializes in sports-related injuries.

She complained to me that when she called, she was greeted in a cold and disinterested manner. As she explained her situation, she was interrupted with “What kind of insurance do you have?” The conversation shifted into a gathering of insurance and billing information.

As she was telling me her story, it was hard not to recognize that this was all they cared about: getting paid. Granted, the person answering the phone was not a doctor, but it was obvious where the priorities were.

Money Is Priority One

I’m not sure why I was surprised. When my family took my little brother to the emergency room with a suspected fracture some years back, we were treated the same way. There were smiles on their faces as they demanded an insurance card and driver’s license, but the Number One priority — money — was still the same. How many of us can recall similar experiences?

Our healthcare industry is not currently about health or care. It is about money. It’s full of fraud and corruption, apparently bolstered by corrupt politicians who must be getting something out of it.

We have a system that has become unaffordable to many people. Even if they are covered, their astronomical copays and deductibles often force them to seek care only in an emergency. And I am just so tired of the corrupt, patient-comes-last, money-comes-first healthcare business we have operating here.

Outrageous and Shameful Charges

All you have to do is look at pretty much any other developed country, and you will see the United States is doing it wrong. We spend more money on healthcare than the next 10 biggest spenders combined. So, that means ours must be the best, right? No. When ranked with 17 other first world industrialized nations, we rank last.

Between the hospitals, doctors and insurance companies, we are overcharged for medications, supplies, services and hospital stays. Healthcare-related bills account for two-thirds of all the bankruptcies in the United States — 35% of people struggle to pay their medical bills.

Exorbitant Fees

If you go to the emergency room, get ready for them to fleece you. You might have to pay $30 for an aspirin and $300 for your linens. If any doctor comes by to chat with you, you can expect that consult to potentially appear on your bill, which can range in the thousands of dollars.

Your insurance might cover some of these exorbitant fees, but you will be stuck with a copay that usually falls in the thousands-of-dollars range and, of course, any fees your insurance company decides to deny.

  • An average hospital stay in the United States is around $18,000. In other countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the cost is around $6,000.
  • If you need an MRI (magnetic resonance imagery), you can expect to pay up to $3,000. In Australia, that same MRI would cost just over $200. In Spain, just under $200.
  • On average, a hip replacement in the United States costs almost $30,000. That’s $10,000 more than the next highest country, Australia. Other countries charge much less, and provide the same standard of care.
  • U.S. hospitals charge inconsistent fees for procedures and supplies. A one-liter bag of saline, which costs under a dollar to make, will end up costing you hundreds in some hospitals.

Fraudulent Pharma

In the United States, pharmaceutical fraud and misuse also costs us billions of dollars.

Pharmaceutical companies advertise their products heavily in the media, and encourage patients to demand their products. Pharmaceutical salespeople are in doctors’ offices every day, essentially bribing them to prescribe their medication in any given situation. Pharmaceutical companies shamelessly raise prices of drugs which many desperate and dying people depend on to live.

Johnson & Johnson has been in the news a lot recently due to their unethical practices. The company manufactured talcum powder products that they knew caused cancer. They were also apparently marketing mental health medication for unapproved uses. And this isn’t the first time J&J has found themselves in hot water.

A 2013 claim against Johnson & Johnson resulted in over a billion dollars in settlements and an additional $800 million from a later criminal investigation. Johnson & Johnson also settled the recent talcum powder lawsuits for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Why are we letting this go on? Pharmaceutical companies have their arms so deep in the pockets of our healthcare industry that they can afford to be outed, time and time again, for unethical behavior, and still manage to get off the hook and keep operating. It really should frighten us knowing how much money these companies have.

And with our healthcare system set up the way it is, they will be sure to recoup their losses by digging deeper into our pockets.

Can We Change This?

It’s so sad. A country as well-off as the United States allows the health and safety of its citizens to be controlled by big business. Our government seems to look the other way, and it would be reasonable to suspect that they too are profiting off of this monster that is our healthcare system.

Insurance companies know, for example, that most American parents are going to seek attention for their children, regardless of cost. I am thankful I have insurance, but I can’t imagine what goes through the minds of those who don’t. I am sick of it, and I am scared of how bad it is going to get before we actually change things.

We need to start electing people who not only care, but who are willing to risk their careers to bring the care back to healthcare.

All we hear about nowadays is repealing and replacing Obamacare. But with what? Something just as bad with a different name? The American people should not and cannot afford to take that as an answer.

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Kate Harveston
Kate Harveston is a freelance writer and blogger. Her work focuses on equality and social justice issues. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found curled up in her hammock with a book or exploring the city for trendy coffee shops. If you would like to follow her writing, you can visit her blog, Only Slightly Biased.