In today’s healthcare landscape in the United States, most of us will take what we can get. It can take weeks or months of waiting to get an appointment at the doctor’s office. A trip to the emergency room is only worth the long wait time if you’re dying, and you better hope a nurse or doctor recognizes the gravity of your situation.
Astronomical costs every step of the way; oh you were given two Tylenol? That’ll be $800! Oh you needed an ambulance ride because of that brutal heart attack? That’ll be $600. Considering everything we know about economics and capitalism, these high costs and long waits don’t make any sense. If health insurance companies are competing against each other in a free market, shouldn’t this drive healthcare premiums and deductibles down? If I have my choice of any doctor or hospital, shouldn’t that Tylenol I took cost only slightly more than what I would pay at a local pharmacy? Normally free-market capitalism promises increased efficiency, lower costs and easier entry into markets for new companies.
Remember the “death panels”?
Although it’s clear that the United States doesn’t have a pure free-market capitalist system, try and explain this to people who reject the notion of universal healthcare. Many of them see universal healthcare as a Bolshevik or Marxist plot to undermine America’s freedom and liberty. This unfortunate reality is probably a significant part of the reason why we are the only remaining country in the developed world without universal healthcare.
One would think that the government’s involvement in the healthcare market would only exist in a beneficial capacity, but the conspiracy theorist and skeptic in me understands where “conservatives” and republicans stand on the issue of government intervention. I use the term “conservatives” in quotations because it’s becoming something of a loaded term these days.
Whenever the government gets involved with a business venture, it’s not long before they’re running deficits in every way possible and it takes weeks to months to receive the product or service that they provide. Plus when government is involved it gives them a certain measure of power and control over your personal life. At the end of the day though someone is going to have a certain amount of control; whether it’s a government bureaucrat or a suit and tie in a cubicle at Aetna, some sort of third party entity is going to be making decisions that affect your life that you won’t be able to influence or reverse.
Ironic Economics 101
This brings me to my next point; since we know there is no getting around someone influencing the healthcare you receive, we should make a decision about who is best to make those decisions. On the one hand we have a private business known as an insurance company, a third party entity which you pay a premium to on a monthly basis, and they cover your healthcare needs whenever necessary.
They have the power to make decisions about the care you receive, and there is very little recourse if you disagree with the decision. Furthermore, an insurance company and the insured have misaligned goals; an insurance company is trying to make as much profit as humanly possible, and the insured is trying to receive the best possible healthcare when they’re sick or injured. The way insurance companies increase their profits is by getting paid by the insured and not paying out on claims.
This presents a serious issue when the insured needs a particular treatment that happens to be expensive and the insurance company decides not to pay. What about the other option? Government-run healthcare isn’t very popular in the United States because many Americans think it would be inefficient, weighed down by bureaucracy and an infringement on Americans personal lives and liberty. Normally I might be inclined to agree, but we have to understand that healthcare is a basic need. We cannot survive without healthcare, and we certainly cannot thrive without a system that takes care of its own.
The Bottom Line
I know this probably seemed like one huge digression, but this ties in with addiction on so many levels. A Columbia University study stated that only 10% of addicts have access to addiction treatment and a lot of the care addicts receive is not evidence-based treatment.
Earlier I spoke about insurance companies not having the same goals as the people they insure, which is why drug rehab centers are forced to argue money out of them. With the healthcare market the way it is, addicts don’t receive anywhere near the amount of days inpatient that they need. Studies have demonstrated the efficacy of inpatient treatment, and the longer an addict remains at a facility the better. But insurance companies don’t want to pay and do everything they can not to!
This is why in some markets I think the government should play a significant role. Otherwise how can we ever expect to be a healthy society in general, let alone have addicts get the treatment they need?
We are the final developed nation that doesn’t guarantee its citizens healthcare. This is something that needs to change as quickly as possible. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that because of this we lead the world in rates of heart disease, obesity, cancer and addiction.
To make things worse, it seems like our current President’s plan is just “Obamacare lite”. If we ever expect to see a positive impact on the addiction epidemic, we need to exert pressure on our leaders to come up with a bipartisan solution to this healthcare situation, once and for all.