Healthcare in America: Get It or Die!

  Dan Shea       April 14, 2007      Weekend Wonk

It’s no secret that in this country of wealth and global power we are facing an internal crisis. The crisis I speak of is not poverty, it is not adult illiteracy, it isn’t even that horrible grinding noise I hear when I’m too drunk to work the clutch. No, the crisis I speak of today is one that will eventually decide the fate of every man, woman, and child in the USA. I’m talking about the state of American Healthcare, which may or may not include something called H-M-O, if my employed friends are telling me the truth. Here, in a land where both milk and honey are literally cheaper (gallon for gallon) than gasoline, millions of people have limited or, in many cases, no access to basic medical services.

According to one study (“Sociological Effects of Non-Governmental-Subsidized Public Healthcare,” UC Berkeley, May 2006), at least one in seven Americans will self-administer a Band-Aid to cover an exposed broken bone, while another three in seven will use an inferior generic brand bandage instead. Another shocking report (“Christ We’re Stupid!,” Stanford University, July 2004) suggests that 75% of American college seniors consider three ounces of vodka containing a dissolved Flintstones vitamin and a splash of Red Bull (known as a “Screaming Barney”) to be a remedy for everything from hang-overs to potential pregnancy to lack of hang-overs. Some of the most damning statistics come from a recently de-classified government report (“Time to Thin the Herd,” US Department of Health, January 2004) which tells us that a whopping 99% of Americans have, at least once, actually paid someone more than six dollars to bread and deep-fry large chunks of solid cheese to be consumed prior to a full restaurant meal, with a further 97% of these same citizens requesting an extra side of ranch dipping sauce. To be fair though, the same report went on to state that 64% declined to even look at a dessert menu afterwards, theoretically reducing cheesecake-related deaths significantly overall.

These uniquely American statistics, combined with hundreds of thousands of millions of quazillions of similarly uniquely American statistics every year, add up to one hell of a needy population, medically speaking. Unfortunately, the United States has yet to enact any true form of public healthcare system. The closest She’s come so far was that one time Reagan made us all touch each other’s hands during the “Let’s Get It Over With” campaign of ‘86, an effort to get the winter flu season out of the way for the entire national population in one fell swoop. Sadly, due to budget and logistic issues, the offensive wasn’t pulled off until later that spring, once we were almost all healthy again, and was subsequently renamed “Hands Across America.” The American healthcare initiative never really regained steam after that, no matter who championed the cause. In fact, we’ve fallen so far behind the rest of the developed world that our two previous Surgeon Generals carry false Canadian IDs on their person at all times and our current guy had his degree bestowed upon him by the University of Virginia in exchange for 8.6 billion Marlboro Miles (“Surgeon General’s Warning: Smoking may cause you to be too damned cool for your own good.”).

Many workers in America today are both covered by a work-provided health plan (or HMO) and are far too hung over to come in this morning (or SOL), which results in lost productivity daily (or LPD). When these acronyms are considered in conjunction with the fact that employers shoulder the cost of most medical plans, as strictly stipulated by vague loophole-ish federal laws, any patriotic financial analyst can tell you that being unemployed AND uninsured is the only way to make our national numbers look better. In fact, if you can get away with being altogether undocumented but somehow remain a legal statistic, you’d really do this administration a favor. Just try to stay away from southern Arizona, okay?

As many as trillions or as few as dozens (depending on how much you trust British intel anymore) of US citizens rely on doctors, nurses, therapists, physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, technicians, radiologists, EMTs, pharmacists, candy-stripers and my pot dealer Zack for health concerns each year. A vast majority of those professions, some would even say all of them, are involved with the medical industry in one capacity or another. It seems small wonder, then, that nine out of every ten dollars spent in American clinics and hospitals actually go directly to insurance and/or drug companies instead. Or wait, maybe that seems like a big huge wonder? Man, Zoloft makes me so confused…

At any rate, national health is dwindling while national health costs are skyrocketing. Some pundits would point out that this is a clear case of supply and demand, a founding principle of this country’s economy, and a perfectly appropriate condition. Of course, most of the populace would like to see these same pundits be forced to pay for their own castrations, so they don’t count (plus, I hear Fox News has pretty decent employee health coverage anyway). Even people with HMOs or other insurance plans are put off by high deductibles and numerous bureaucratic restrictions, and consequently wait so long to see a doctor that problems become unnecessarily worse, which only compounds eventual costs. In one recent example of this, a Georgia man who stubbed his toe and thought nothing of it at the time wound up in the emergency room three months later with multiple stab wounds and asthma. By the time he recovered, he had spent $12,000 in deductibles and non-covered fees, while his insurance company spent a further $28.62 in hospital costs.

So where, as nation, do we go from here? Though there are no easy answers or quick solutions (a round of Screaming Barneys for everyone aside), I would certainly recommend getting a friend to drive us there; an ambulance ride costs roughly as much as an actual ambulance nowadays.

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