During a recent routine office visit to my doctor, I was treated for several small cysts on my scalp with liquid nitrogen. It freezes the little buggers to death and they disappear within a week or so. This was an end-of-visit procedure with took at most three minutes . . . a liberal estimate.
Upon looking over an explanation-of-benefits document from my insurance company, I noted that the “lesion removal” was billed (and paid for) at just south of $300. Three hundred dollars. Rounding off my estimates, that amounts to $100/minute. A hundred dollars a minute. That translates to $6,000/hour. Six thousand dollars an hour.
Obviously, the physician doesn’t receive the whole three hundred bucks for the treatment since it presumably covers facility overhead and nitrogen costs (three or four 3-second squirts). But nevertheless, the patient gets billed hundreds of dollars for a three-minute procedure which a chimp could be trained to accomplish. I am blessed to have insurance to cover it, and if I didn’t, which millions do not, I would have lived with a bunch of cysts growing on my head.
Not long ago I also had a much more harrowing – in fact, life-threatening – health crisis. This one involved three days in and out of the ER and two days in hospital. The healthcare was excellent, and the total cost for the venture – doctors, ER, hospital stay, meds – was north of $60,000. Without insurance, I’d be dead.
Article 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes: Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being, including medical care and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, and old age. The United States, as a signatory to that Declaration, does not take it seriously.
We are all in this world together, and the only test of our character that matters is how we look after the least fortunate among us. How we look after each other, not how we look after ourselves. Those words were penned by Tommy Douglas. He was the Canadian premier responsible for the beginning of universal health care in the province of Saskatchewan in 1947. A decade and a half later, the same was constituted on a national level with all ten provinces participating.
The U.S. is one of the few countries, and the only major economically developed one, on the planet without universal healthcare coverage. Wonder why? To quote a line from the 1976 docudrama film, All the President's Men: “Follow the money.” The medical establishment; drug companies; insurance empires; politicians. They all make beaucoup dollars off of our illnesses and accidents while millions languish due to an inability to afford health insurance and/or pay for exorbitant medical bills.
How many people go bankrupt in Canada, England, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, etc. due to medical costs? Answer: zero. It is past due for the U.S. – the people and the politicians they elect – to put its money where its mouth is.