Media Coverage of American Healthcare

As I read articles on healthcare in the United States, I’m amazed at the lack of comprehensive media coverage on the topic. There is a lot of discussion about American health care, yet it is all very similar in its surprisingly (if you have been outside of the United States) blatant consistency in how views on healthcare are presented. I’ll give an example.

I love reading the paper on Sunday morning and on one day as I was browsing around through the different sections, I saw a write up on healthcare in other countries around the world. (SpryLiving.com, February 2010, p. 18, insert in the Denver Post.) The amazing omission of information was that many of the other countries all have a type of healthcare that gives universal coverage to all citizens, and in a lot of cases, this extends to all people. This is an amazingly simple and humane concept. If a person is hurt, he or she should be helped. When Americans travel to other countries and get hurt in a first world country like Germany or Australia, they get taken into a hospital and receive care. Simple. Nice. When they go to pay, they are often amazed that either they pay a small co-pay amount, or they don’t pay anything at all.

All the developed industrial countries do have a universal coverage for their society. Yes. This is a type of socialism because it benefits everyone. In the United States, and in any society, there will be elements of socialism as a tax is collected, then redistributed to benefit society, hence the label of socialism. In the United States, we have schools (thank goodness) that benefit society. I personally, think that it is a very good idea to be literate, read, and have a common language of communication. Likewise, we, in the United States, like other developed countries have roads and an interstate transportation system (thank goodness) that allows all people to drive on the roads, regardless of the state that they are from. The United States, however, is vastly different when it comes to healthcare. While the American people voted for change in 2008, has it occurred?

One would think that this topic of health care and how the media covers it would be a very important and worthy topic to discuss because it affects everyone. It is a major topic. Health care is also an important topic in the light that our statistics, the difference between the U.S. and other developed countries are widening, while the American health care statistics slide toward being more in line with third world countries. Is corporate profit really that important to dominate over the societal or common good for all Americans?

6 thoughts on “Media Coverage of American Healthcare

  1. WhitemoonG Post author

    Hi again consider.

    I agree that better, even balanced (a pipedream!)coverage of the health care debate, with some real journalism for a change, would be beneficial for all, regardless of where one ultimately falls on the matter.

    Some obvious, and VERY RELEVANT questions that should be asked, but never seem to be include possibly some of the following.

    1. Why is the problem, which does involve some problems, constantly OVERSTATED with NOBODY in prominent journalism questioning one of the bedrock premises of the need for urgent change?

    Namely, in response to legitimate concerns over the government, big brother if you will, taking on a stifling, even greater anti-competitive role in things, usually always met with anguishing concern about “47 Million Uninsured Americans” as reason to justify just about anything,

    Why isn’t that constantly repeated “47 Million Uninsured Americans” mantra analyzed, dissected, and exposed for the gross exaggeration that it is?

    The REAL figure, of what people assume is meant with this quantitation, of people who don’t have insurance and have little immediate prospects of having some, is ACTUALLY about 7-8 million.

    the rest of the “47 million uninsured” consists of aprox 11 million illegals,
    12-13 million people WHO ALREADY QUALIFY for coverage under EXISTING programs, but are too unwilling to get off the couch and go sign up
    10-12 million who are IN TRANSITION, namely, were insured 30 days ago, and will be insured NEXT MONTH when starting their next job (with cobra coverage available in the interim)

    12-13 million young people who COULD AFFORD insurance, but don’t get it, because they are young, consider themselves immortal (”I’m healthy and don’t need that”) who would rather spend the money on fun stuff

    Why take a system that could be improved, and DESTROY IT by having the government have it’s tentacles slowly constricting it to death,

    over a FALSE, Exaggerated premise?

    2. All the talk about insurance companies and their “record profits,” etc. etc.

    why not any real journalism about those “record profits?” What kind of profits?

    Question: what is that average profit margin for american private insurance companies?

    80%? 54%? 32%?

    Average: a staggering 3%!

    3. With Obama, Pelosi, et. al giving lip service and rhetoric about the “need for competition,” why not open it up so that insurance is available for consumers across state lines, which would immediately save huge amounts of money for people, employers needing to keep labor costs down (AND BE ABLE TO ACTUALLY HIRE, OR AVOID LAYING OFF PEOPLE?)

    4. Why not some REAL tort reform, which would save HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS of needless defensive medicine costs, and yet allow legal redress for those truly injured, as opposed to those gaming the system for settlements via aggressive plaintiffs attorneys arguing very questionable theories of liability?

    5. Does “coverage” mean accesibility to care? Hardly. Everybody being granted universal free access “coverage” is a lot like everyone having a free pass to Disneyland (it’s everybody’s right, correct) only to find that Disneyland is almost always closed, or allows only a few in the gate each day. What good is a “free pass” if people wait in lines for weeks and months and often die waiting?

    An honest look at the disastrous circumstances in the UK, among others, make this point abundantly clear, and MANY in such countries repeatedly warn us not to go down that road, usually to deaf ears and predictably, no coverate in our media.

    6. All the concerns (legitimate) about pre-existing conditions aside, what to do when the government gradually controls all (by steadily squeezing the private sector out of business, and by making the laws as they go, make it steadily more impossible for the privates to maintain any remote semblance of solvency) and

    Ezekiel Emanuel and his politburo “effectiveness council” determine what is allowed as for treatment for EXISTING conditions? What about his papers arguing that certain sections of society are “unproductive” and don’t merit care (the elderly, younsters with neurodevelopmental disorders like autism, cerebral palsy, etc.)?

    Also, with doctors told what they are allowed to do, and what is disallowed (thanks to the Obama Medical School “effectiveness council”),

    when millions of doctors fed up with this travesty decide to slow down and retire as soon as they can afford to,

    what kind of correspondence course “doctors R us” quacks and incompetents will be the “providers” for this system.

    Real journalism would ask and thoroughly review such questions.

    By the way, about 3 months ago a naive reporter from USA today published the ACTUAL DATA about insurance company “record profits.” i.e. 3%.

    Boy, was he shut up in a hurry.

    Hear any of this from Keith Olbermann, Maddow, Couric, Brian Williams, Charlie Gibson?

    Not a chance.

    Reply
  2. consider Post author

    Hi WhitemoonG,

    I find it fascinating that completely opposite points of view on the political spectrum come to startlingly similar conclusions.

    For example, I consider myself a (hummmm, labels, can be so tricky and difficult, so let’s say that I am a…) progressive conservative, for this discussion’s sake. I give my assessment that the media is leaving out important point of view, therefore, I would label the media as overly conservative. I would even say that they are seductively neo-conservative. You, however, seem to be (correct me if I am wrong) very conservative, and view the media as overly liberal, hence their faults.

    Isn’t that fascinating? Opposite, get similar.

    I also beg to differ with you as to where you get your statistics. I get mine from the World Health Organization, the OCED, and other organizations that look at overall systems between countries, then publish reports. Where do you get your stats?

    As to the record corporate profits, and actual numbers, the Fortune 500 Magazine will publish profits, market values, etc. every April. I’ll get my copy, you get a copy, then we could go over the actual numbers. What do you say? I tend to believe that the numbers of profits tend to be quite high, especially the profits generated from the U.S. healthcare system. It is also a fact that corporate conglomeration has gotten quite concentrated so much so that GE (General Electric) which is a supplier of medical equipment, has a stake in media. GE recently “sold” NBC to Comcast, yet appear to still have some remnants of controlling interest. This is seen in such things as when the Olympics were broadcast (on NBC) there was quite a lot of “Here we are at GE to help you be healthy” type of commercials. Thus, I believe that the media is quite conservative. But really, we should get past labels, as they tend to have slippery and opposite meanings.

    Perhaps the reason why we don’t have fair, balanced, indepth reporting – is because it is profit driven and overly dominated by corporate powers?

    Not because it’s liberal, or because it is conservative, but because private corporations also fund our political system? This confuses the American public with opposing labels, while corporations continue to dominate the world arena, plunder banks and tear apart the social economic fabric that once made America strong? Don’t get me wrong. I like business, and not all corporations or businesses get a team of lobbyists. There are, however, a few very, very large and well connected corporations that do have a very strong hand in politics and within media avenues (I’m also putting in AM radio within the media avenues) to inject opposing, confusing views into the American consciousness. What if?

    Reply
  3. WhitemoonG Post author

    Consider: thanks for your interesting response


    some added points:


    1. Your observations about GE are most interesting, considering that in the Spring of 09 (a little under a year ago) GE’s CEO was basically found to have made a sweetheart deal/understanding with the Obama administration that would position GE to make out like bandits under the health care scheme Obama hoped would have been already passed and signed last August. This caused some commmentators to describe GE’s CEO being in bed with the Obama administration as an egregious example of “crony capitalism.”

    
All those nicely packaged commercials that have been seen here and there featuring GE as studying/working wonders for our future, etc. have far more behind the scenes than most would realize.

    
As for insurance company “record profits,” see what that group publishes later this year, but please realize that the data is already available, is established fact, and NOT WIDELY KNOWN OR DISCUSSED, for obvious reasons. Obama’s people won’t bring it up for obvious reasons, as it immediately squelches the demogogic picture Obama and many other leftists in Congress feel they have free reign to try to manipulate our opinions with, with a pliable major network media that won’t report it, despite it already being documented and RELEVANT.


    A whopping 3% is hardly the “record profits” demogoguery that Obama specializes in lately, but it is what it is. And the rareity of hearing it mentioned underscores your intial premise about the media’s need to report things fairly and objectively.


    Call it media negligence by intentional ommision.


    This was reported in Yahoo business, and also in USA today 3 months or so ago, I’ll see if I can go back and pull the reference for you. Not made up.

    
Same for the constantly repeated “47 million uninsured Americans” myth that is repeated so pervasively that most think it a fact that might as well be handed down from Sinai or something.


    A careful, objective review of the census data from which such was supposedly derived, indicates clearly that the real figure is about 7-8 million, with much larger number actually in those other categories.


    The deafening silence from most of the media about the fraudulent basis most frequently cited as reason to justify radical change ( i.e. 47 million) is another striking example of negligence by intentional ommission, media incompetence.

    
Kind of reminds me of Bernard Golberg’s example of the media massaging and directing (i.e. manipulating) public opinion in recent years about the homeless “crisis.”

    
You may recall NUMEROUS journalistic pieces during the Reagan administration about the plight of the homeless, the “crisis,” etc. 


    Without point blank saying that Reagan and “mean” Republicans were to blame, such was the widespread IMPRESSION many were left with, some like Bryant Gumbel articulating nasty jabs about Reagan over things like these.


    What few realized, then or now, was what the ACTUAL STATISTICS revealed. The ACTUAL DATA showed clearly that the numbers/percentages of homeless in America remained basically the same during the Ford/Carter/Reagan/Bush41/Clinton administrations.


    The only thing different when Reagan was President, suddenly the major media just somehow magically had 4-5 times as many major coverage pieces aired about the homeless, creating the IMPRESSION that there was suddenly a big new “crisis,” that many assumed was because of the “stingy Republican.” Even though the available statistics showed things were no worse than under preceeding presidents, and no worse than under President Clinton, the big media was more than content to let the unfair impression they created go unchallenged, at Reagan and Republican’s expense.


    Even some members of the media naively think that homelessness was a “crisis” during Reagan, that was much better under Democrat Clinton. Even many pundits don’t seem to know that the ONLY DIFFERNCE was not the homelessness figures, but the sudden amount attention it got under
Reagan,at his expense.


    As for WHO statistics, rather than a lengthy dissertation, suffice it to say that much of what they say is also flawed and bogus, even though many involved may be idealistic, well meaning people. In brief, they report data from many countries as “fact,” with little or no means of actually verifying it.

    
Simply put, despots like Castro, Hugo Chavez, Mugabe and the like aren’t going to have real, unbiased data available, just the propaganda and made up stats they want the world, and many idealistic gullible observers (easy marks for some with a strong inherent anti-US bias to begin with) take it at face value.


    Furthermore, many stats, even if not intentionally misreported or ommitted, would still not always allow for remotely fair comparisons, considering many other countries are much smaller, demographically and ethnically homogenous populations than the gigantic melting pot of the USA. Namely, what the stats are with a country of 20 million blue eyed blonde Swedes, is probably not a fair comparison with a country like America, with 300 million people, much more diverse, wherein lot of the data counted against us involves deaths under 21 due to urban sprawl, drive by shootings, gang violence, epidemic drug use, etc. All of which are OBVIOUSLY SERIOUS ISSUES, but are serious SOCIAL issues, not the product poor doctoring and nursing. Lots of that kind of stuff weights down our statistics creating for flawed, but nevertheless widely repeated, comparisons by the WHO.

    
Stated differently, if better death rates favor upper Usbekistan over the United States, and supposedly bespeaks a superior health care system, why didn’t the Prime Mnister of Ontario go to upper Usbekistan for his heart surgery?


    As always, cheers!

    Reply
  4. consider Post author

    Please do let me know where you get your statistics. Here is information on the profits of health insurance companies. Some health insurance companies have indeed experienced record profits. A report follows. In my opinion, I think that this type of policy hurts America.

    Among the report’s findings on specific insurance companies:

    Wellpoint increased profits 91 percent from 2008 while it chopped 3.9 percent of its total enrollment.

    United Health’s profit increased 28 percent from 2008, while enrollment dropped by 3.4 percent.

    Cigna’s profit increased 346 percent and enrollment dropped 5.5 percent.

    Humana’s profit increased by 61 percent while enrollment decreased by 1.7 percent.

    Aetna was the only company with a drop in profit and a gain in enrollment. The company’s profit declined by 8 percent from 2008, and enrollment grew by 7 percent.

    Source: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/HealthCare/health-insurers-post-record-profits/story?id=9818699

    While I do criticize the U.S. media for its omission of certain types of information, they do, however, put in some research (perhaps its the interns, who knows, but someone is doing some research, thank goodness).

    I think that it is also important to compare the United States with other countries that are developed democracies, having an industrial base, with a relatively literate and educated voting population. I find it odd, that when people are trying to defend the U.S. and its odd, antiquated form of privatized healthcare, that they often take extremely opposite countries, like your example of Uzbekistan to the United States, when it would be better to compare the policy of the United States to other developed countries.

    It is also good to note that, there are very good doctors practicing in the United States. There are some treatments, however, that Americans must travel abroad to get, for example, advanced stem cell treatments. Have you traveled abroad? I find it interesting that I always come across Americans in other first world, as well as in developing countries, getting routine healthcare treatments. Many people do travel abroad for dental care, pharmaceuticals and other treatments, because amazingly, it can be cheaper to fly across the ocean to another developing country like Thailand to get dental work done. I realize that Thailand, while nice, some would classify it as a developing country. In this case, I am using the third world country to illustrate that our country, while a first world, developed country, seems to be failing regular, taxpaying Americans, such that, if people have the means or money to get the care that they want, or if they have traveled abroad and are familiar with other governmental systems and monetary exchange rates, they can benefit. While those who do not have the means, often those who are not as educated or those that don’t make a lot of money, find themselves getting in debt because of healthcare costs.

    Most developed industrial, first world countries see their citizen population as a valuable asset that should be insured, as individual people, as they make up the whole citizenry. The United States is very unique among developed countries, because as opposed to having a policy that insures all people, regardless of what an individual may make, or regardless of what kind of policy that a person can afford, in the United States, the citizenry is perceived as a potential contributor to corporate insurance profit. They like to call it “choice” but really, it is difficult to fathom this as a reality when many people who pay into private insurance, month after month, are denied certain treatments because it is not included in the health plan.

    Let me also be clear that I do not in any way defend Obama’s policies. Rather, it appears that he is beholden to a system in which major, powerful corporations are pulling the strings of the U.S. political arena.

    I am looking forward to the Fortune 500 review. Perhaps you could supply your source for the 3% profit rate. I’d be curious where that comes from. I have heard that the overall growth rate for the U.S. economy has been around 3%, are you perhaps confusing the two statistics?

    As always, cheers, and thank you for your comments.

    Reply
  5. WhitemoonG

    Yes, I’ve been to other countries. Once on a tour of Italy, Greece, Egypt,
    Syria, Jordan, Israel, Turkey. Much of this was visiting major historical points, biblical archaeology sites, but did involve some impromptu hiking and mxing with the local populations, including providing some on the spot “Baksheesh” to desperately poor young Arab children in Cairo, as one example.

    In addition, I spent two entire summers in South America, first on a long, winding bus trip from the Pacific in Lima, Peru up throught the Andes to a volunteer constjuction project way up in the Andes in remote Bolivia, the second time in Brazil along the Amazon to another volunteer construction project in the very remote, rural Northeastern Brazilian highlands. On both occasions, long periods of time were spent alongside wonderful, yet poverty bound local peoples. It was quite an experience for me, and needless to say, we did not observe any fellow Americans on some long trek to get some routine dental or medical care there.

    Our team leader at one point nearly died of high altitude pulmonary edema in rural Boliva at 13,500 feet, and was brought in the back of a jeep to the hospital in Cochabamba, where he survived. To be sure, we were grateful for the doctor and limited facilities doing what they could, But don’t delude yourself about comparisons with state of the art high level intensive care medicine in the USA. I have seen countless examples of extremely ill people survive critical illnesses and injuries thanks to very sophisticated (and always available, regardless of questionable :”ability to pay” ) care, that wouldn’t have lasted an hour in Cochabamba, Bolivia, regardless of how hard they tried with limited facilities.

    Ever make a list of landmark medical diagnostic and therapeutic equipment and devices, life prolonging/life enhancing medications originating from countries without any evil corporations and capitalists such as completely government controlled collectivist people’s paradises like Cuba or North Korea? It’s a list with a big ZERO. With their government control and efficiency, I wonder why that is?

    I know many dedicated specialists who have lost countless hours of sleep and self sanity, dropping everything on a moment’s notice to work all night to save critically ill patients, without having any idea whether they’d eventually get paid or not. Often not, with each one having rendered hundreds of thousands or more of care never paid for, written off the books. Many people had large bills on paper, often never paid even if the patient wished they could do so. But stuck with a large bill on paper after the fact or not, they GOT THE CARE THEY NEEDED. Wouldn’t happen in many other countries, they’d either be dead or on a long waitng list, with no accountability and no private interests to sue or threaten to sue, as is the case in the USA.

    Of course, said Docs would, on one level, be more than happy to be paid something, even if severely discounted, by some universal single payer system, as opposed to getting nothing. However, most docs I know are well aware that government single payer comes with an enormous burden of strings attached, not the least of which would be the Supremely empowered, and legally unaccountable 14 member “effectiveness council” that is one of the key portions of Obamacare if fully implemented. The all powerful government medical politburo will be able to completely dictate to doctors and hospitals how each condition is cared for,in a top down, cookbook manner, as opposed to physician experience and learning determining the individualized care plan for each citizen. Namely, the 14 member supremely empowered “effectiveness council” will do the actual practicing of medicine, through :”government approved” medical providers as conduits, being told what is and is not allowed in caring for patients. Many doctors are preparing to retire early if they can afford to, rather than submit to government control and review of everything done for their paients, while being paid less and less and less for the same amount of work.

    Result? Seemingly wonderful comprehensive medical care legislation courtesy of left leaning eggheads, with fewer and fewer qualified medical “providers” around to do the care.

    Result? Increasingly long lines and unavailibility of actual medical care, despite being :”free.” Like everyone having a constitutional “right” to a free season pass to the amusment park, only minor problem being said amusement park is usually closed.

    If your doctor tells you, tomorrow, you’ve got a heart murmur, which could be a toally benign thing, or could be evidence of a developing serious structural heart problem, he will usually order an echocardiogram, which gives much more precise clarification and answers immediately. If here in my town, the test will be ordered and done within a day or two. In Canada or the UK, enjoy the several weeks or months wait!

    Sure, Seniors often try to get their medications from Canada or Mexico at half or less the cost than in the USA. Why the disparity? A Wall Street Journal analysis published over 10 years ago answers the question as to why it costs twice as much in America for the same medicine in one word, LAWYERS. But aside from disparate costs for medicines, people from Canada or the UK who cannot wait months and months for tests or treaments, will end up getting the tests or treatments in the USA if they can manage it. There are examples on record of high risk pregnancies in trouble from mid or northern Alberta, airlifted urgently for high level obstetric care in Northern Idaho or Montana. Why might that be, if Canada has the wonderfully socialized system we are supposed to emulate? Why have many Canadian analysts stated concerns that if Obamacare is fully implemented here, they won’t have us to send all the urgent cases in need of care NOW?

    Also, please re-read and carefully consider what the statistics you cite really mean, as opposed to the seeming impression they might leave.

    Saying a big insurer’s profits are up 25% sounds big and greedy, right? But the real questions is, 25% of WHAT? If 25% of an already big 40% profit margin, as an example,, then that would be a big difference, more in line with the evil, money grubbing impression that leftists like to leave.

    But, the average profit margin of private insurers is 3%. So, a 25% increase of 3% would be an increase to 3.75%. A 25% increase of nothing much still amounts to nothing much.

    Sure, large sums of money are involved with millions of premium dollars collected, yet 85-90% typically is immediately paid right back out in claims covered,and after the additional necessary amounts needed to cover the overhead and management, the actual profit margin for the industry is a small 3%, much lower than many other industries.

    As another comparison example, I assume you share the often articulated mantra about “big oil” and Exxon, as one example, raking in “unconscionable profits” and the like.

    With each gallon of gasoline Exxon sells at the pump, that you and I buy, how much of that is profit to Exxon? $ 2 of each gallon sold? A dollar and 50 cents?

    Well, of each gallon of gas you and I pay for at the pump, the federal government takes in 50 cents, states take in from 8 cents to 25 cents, and Exxon itself makes the huge, unconscionable figure of 4 CENTS profit from each gallon sold. Wow, pay $3.50 to $4 for each gallon, and Exxon gets to keep 4 whopping cents! Aside from federal,state and local taxes taking a large chunk from each gallon sold, the rest goes to the Huge amounts of money in expenses needed to be able to go find the oil and dig it out of the ground,and refine and deliver it for us to use, with a whopping 4 cents left after all of that for Exxon itself.

    Maybe you and I should go dig it up ourselves, or start our own oil company. We’d find out right away, that contrary to lazy leftist myth, the oil industry is ALREADY HIGHLY REGULATED. And, what some see as a desirable GOVERNMENT OIL COMPANY would do a far worse job, less efficiently, at far more expense than private entities, that have to be effective and efficient or go under. Unlike anything government, that tries to do the same less efficiently and at far more cost, with no worry about bottom lines, just drain the private sector with increasingly larger tax burdens to forever try to cover all the growing governmental innefficiencies and expenses, until the private sector is bled dry, when we all finally lose.

    Ditto Medicare, which for better or worse,is long established as the promised answer to years of private citizens. If you think it can manage large ticket items more efficiently and economically than private interests, dream on. By the way, why does HCFA, in charge of admiinistering medicare, contract out management to large PRIVATE interests such as CIGNA for one? If all private interests are squeezed out of existence by major government takeover such as is pending with full implementation of Obamacare, how will the completely government run and managed (and unaccountable) system fare any differently than the forever near insolvent postal system?

    Reply
    1. consider

      Why not have basic healthcare for all citizens? It’s one of the basic functions: like roads, fire departments, fitness centers, schools, and even the defense of a country, that people pay taxes for. People can choose to pay for additional healthcare. The countries that you listed are all very different, however, I am glad that you are able to travel. It’s really a fabulous opportunity to see how others live. It always makes me very appreciative and thankful to be able to expand and build upon what I have experienced.

      Reply

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