Monday, July 23, 2007

Health-Denying Companies, Sicko, Naming, Gambling

July 23, 2007, 6:00, 6:25, 7:40 a.m.

Health-denying insurance companies; "Sicko;" Wellmark naming; Gazette's Gambling Gomer

Health-Denying Insurance Companies

The Des Moines Register continues its four-day series on so-called "health insurance" and the companies that provide the non-coverage. This morning it has seven more pieces on the subject. (I may or may not identify, and add links to, each of them later. Meanwhile, just check the online Register site. You'll find them -- and yesterday's.)

Meanwhile, the anonymous blog commentator "John Barleykorn" has just kindly emailed me a link to a story in Washington's conservative paper, The Washington Times, regarding the Canadian system. Gregory Lopes, "In Reversal, Canada Dabbles with Health Care Privatization," July 22, 2007. While it must necessarily point out the disadvantages of the Canadian system, and the advantages of the "marketplace" for all purposes, given the source it is a remarkably balanced piece.

Bottom line: No one can question the advantages of the universal, single-payer systems available to all the citizens of the world living in civilized, industrialized nations. It's irrefutably in the numbers. (1) Canadians, for example, enjoy better health than we do, measured by such things as infant mortality and life expectancy. The U.S. ranks well down the list. (2) Every single person is provided this free service; health care is considered a citizen's right (like K-12 education is here) not just one more profit-maximizing corporate corner of the economy. Some 45 million American's don't have the necessary ticket for access to health care: health insurance; and of those who do, for many it only covers them a part of the year, or they discover the condition for which they need health care is the condition their insurance company won't pay for. (3) The total cost of these systems -- even though they cover everyone and our system only covers some lucky few -- are dramatically below the cost of ours.

There are undoubtedly horrible stories of delays and malpractice that can be told by individuals in any nation's health care system -- ours included. (As a kid, with regular U.S. medical care, I often had to wait entire days beyond my scheduled appointment to see a doctor.) There are some problems in our system that don't exist in other countries; some in other countries that don't exist here. There are ways other countries' systems try to hold costs to reasonable levels (the Times story points out that dental is not covered in Canada), and ways our insurance companies do here.

But individuals' anecdotal stories aside, the bottom line remains: other countries provide health care to all as a right, as a result of which their people are healthier and live longer, and it costs them less than what our system costs for providing care to fewer individuals.

And see, below, the anonymous comment from "North Liberty" regarding the possible benefits of a properly structured multiple system (which is, in fact, a variation of what many of the "universal, single payer" systems have in reality).


The Daily Iowan has a balanced movie review of "Sicko" this morning (Paul Sorenson, "The U.S. Sick System") that tends to focus on the film (as a "movie review" should, of course) more than the public policy questions.

Wellmark Naming

The Gazette awards a Gomer to Marvin Pomerantz for his "childish" my-way-or-the-highway, I'm-taking-my-marbles fit ("Bratish Behavior," p. A4), and the Press-Citizen has another letter to the editor this morning opposing corporate naming of University colleges and buildings (Charles Laudie, "Wrong to Sell Public Education Names") -- in addition to those yesterday.

And don't miss, from "Anonymous'" comment, below, the possibilities of selling off naming righs to athletic teams: "I want Frank Perdue to have naming rights to the football team. We could be the Perdue-Iowa Chicken-Hawkeyes." That one might seriously go for a lot of money, especially with a tie-in monopoly right to sell fried chicken pieces in the stands. Only problem: When the "Perdue-Iowa Chicken-Hawkeyes" play the "Purdue Broiler-makers." You know, "which comes first, the chicken or the broiler?"

Gambling's Gomer

The Gazette awards another of its "prestigious" Gomers this morning to the gambling industry ("Side Effect," p. A4) that, along with increasing its gross revenues in Iowa is increasing the number of gambling addicts and problem gamblers seeking help -- with all the social and economic costs gambling imposes on any people who believe they can gamble their way to a state's economic development.

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Anonymous said...

I want Frank Perdue to have naming rights to the football team. We could be the Perdue-Iowa Chicken-Hawkeyes.

Anonymous said...

Why don't we take a page from the transportation system in looking at our health care system. For instance in Iowa City, one can take the bus, which is basic transportation, albeit not very convient. Or one can choose to buy a car, take a taxi etc.

A simple basic public health system could provide no frills health care. Get diabetes under control for instance. No plastic surgery.

A parallel private health care system could deliver the frills (plastic surgery etc.) or speed up the waiting process if one so choose to spend money.

Would the economic benefits of more universal health care be of value?

Admittedly Wellmark would likely need to become more competitive then. No more 1 billion dollar surplus.

What the heck is a non-profit doing with a billion dollar surplus anyway?

And the CEO, who ever promised a non-profit CEO untold wealth and influence?

And that is why we don't have a more public health care system here. The power of the monied lobbies prevent progress.

Anonymous said...

If the University of Iowa should name it's School of Public Health, anything containing "Wellmark" would that not be quite dangerous in terms of future missions?

If the Wellmark School of Public Health existed could:

1. Such a school actually objectively study methods of financing health care?

2. A so-named school ever remain unbiased in studying the role of payors on public health (esp if a company like Wellmark actually was found to be detrimental to public health) or in teaching diffeing views of health care?

3. Even at a university level, ever be considered to be unbiased again, in it's teaching and research?

4. What if the country actually went to a one payor system of health care? Does the U of Iowa then give back the money?

Could we then have the
Philip-Morris School of Public Health? Or the Camel-Filtered College of Public Health?

What if OJ Simpson decided to donate 15 million to the college of law, would it be the OJ Simpson College of Law? Or the OJ Simpson School of Women's Studies?

Could Ron Jeremy donate money for the 'Ron Jeremy Department of Urology'?

Is there anything stopping anyone or any corp with money? What are the guidelines?

Anonymous said...

None of this is surprising. Have you ever been to Principal Park (named for ANOTHER insurance company), where the team owned by Michael Gartner plays? EVERYTHING is for sale. The name of the game is promotion. It's disturbing that a current and a former president of the Board of Regents can't distinguish between a Big 10 university and a minor league baseball team.

Jeffrey Horne said...

Re: Health Care & Insurance

I was budget coordinator for Johnson County for five years and have been a city administrator for two years. In each of those years, our renewal increase was lower than double digits only two times, and once was because we switched to a more managed PPO option and increased the deductible. Employee benefits in local governments come from a direct levy that exists for benefits or special revenue accounts such as water, sewer, or road use tax.

If we removed the spending on insurance and kept the taxation level constant, it would literally free up millions statewide to invest in things such as infrastructure or human resources. Many smaller towns in Iowa, and not just those 1,000 and under have great needs in infrastructure replacement. Several Iowa towns 5,000-10,000 are facing difficult fiscal decisions regarding basic services in the coming years.

This issue touches so many others.

Anonymous said...

The problems with the increase in health care costs are many and varied. Drug costs are skyrocketing. Technology costs more. An aging population draws down on resources.

A huge issue is the regulation of hospitals and doctors. Note how many doctors there are; now note how many typists, and administrators exist and their rate of increase.

Bureaucrats are going nuts on regulation of medicine. The regulatory red tape is killing any hope of holding down costs.

And note all the regulators and administrators who serve them make a nice chunk of change per year too.