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Thursday, April 23, 2009


Single-payer, anyone?

Capitalist health "care":
Diabetics are increasingly risking life and limb by cutting back on — or even going without — doctor visits, insulin, medicines and blood-sugar testing as they lose income and health insurance in the recession, an Associated Press analysis has found.

Doctors have seen a drop in regular appointments with diabetic patients, if they come back at all. Patients more often seek tax-subsidized or charity care. And they end up in emergency rooms more often, patients and physicians said in interviews.

Patients' frugality comes at a tremendous cost to the already-strained health care system. The typical monthly bill to treat diabetes runs $350 to $900 for those without insurance, a price tag that's risen as newer, more expensive medicines have hit the market. Emergency care and a short hospitalization can easily top $10,000, and long-term complications can cost far more.
As I've written before, though, "single-payer" per se, while desirable, is not the ultimate answer, because there is no rational solution for the overall problem while there are multiple competing financial interests. Drug companies, hospitals, insurance companies, government, and don't forget the medical schools that are training the doctors and the universities that are training the people who will go on to either develop new drugs or just manufacture them. How much money should society invest in drug research, drug manufacture, hospital construction, doctor training, etc.? Unless all those factors are on one balance sheet, an optimal solution cannot be achieved. The "one balance sheet" solution is called "socialism."

As an aside, one of the many absurdities of the current system is found in this sentence it that final quoted paragraph: "The typical monthly bill to treat diabetes runs $350 to $900 for those without insurance." The fact that people without insurance can pay many times as much for exactly the same thing as people with insurance just indicates how divorced the price of things are from their actual cost to manufacture, which is to say, how much the profit system distorts things.

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