For-Profit Insanity Is Killing Americans

2014 924 health st(Photo: Bob Harwig)

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Despite what you might hear on Fox So-Called News, Obamacare really is working.

Uninsured rates are dropping, premiums are a lot lower than expected, and in the states that have expanded Medicaid, hundreds of thousands of working Americans now have access to free, I repeat, free healthcare.

Everywhere you look, there’s good news to be found about healthcare reform. Even so, for-profit insurance companies and for-profit hospitals are still finding new ways to screw people over.

For example, since insurance companies are now banned from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, they’re now trying to make money off sick people by charging them higher co-pays for drugs that they used to get for close to nothing.

This practice has very real consequences for public health. As one expert told Talking Points Memo, “There’s very strong evidence…that even a $1 difference in out-of-pocket expenditures changes Americans’ behavior [regarding their use of medical services].”

In other words, when drugs cost more, people don’t buy them and therefore don’t get healthy.

But making sick people pay more for their drugs isn’t the only way the for-profit health industry is trying make a quick buck these days.

One other scam it’s come up with is a practice called “drive-by doctoring,” where patients are charged for services they didn’t ask for and for doctors they didn’t know they needed to see.

Hospitals have gotten so good at “drive-by doctoring” that most patients don’t even know it’s happening to them. As The New York Times reported this weekend,

The phenomenon can take many forms. In some instances, a patient may be lying on a gurney in the emergency room or in a hospital bed, unaware that all of the people in white coats or scrubs who turn up at the bedside will charge for their services. At times, a fully trained physician is called in when a resident or a nurse, who would not charge, would have sufficed. Services that were once included in the daily hospital rate are now often provided by contractors, and even many emergency rooms are staffed by out-of-network physicians who bill separately.

If there’s an example of everything that’s wrong with the American healthcare system, drive-by doctoring is it.

Healthcare should be about taking care of people and helping them get better – not about ripping them off. But here in the U.S., ripping people off is the dominant business model.

And while Obamacare has outlawed some of the worst behaviors of this business model, it will never totally prevent for-profit hospitals or insurance companies from screwing over their patients and customers.

That’s because, for all the good things it does, Obamacare still lets hospitals and health insurance companies operate on a for-profit basis. And that is just absolutely insane.

Think of it this way: When you create a company and register it as either a non-profit corporation or a for-profit corporation, you are defining up-front what is and what is not important to that corporation.

When a hospital or health insurance company is set up as a for-profit corporation, they’re saying that its first and primary purpose is to make money.

If, on the other hand, it was registered it as a non-profit corporation, then its main purpose is to actually help people, money be damned.

Obviously, not-for-profit corporations, like all corporations, have their problems. But when it comes to healthcare, they really are the way to go.

As long as we stick with our failed for-profit model, people like UnitedHealthCare CEO Stephen J. Hemsley will sit pretty on their $700 million in unexercised stock options and everyday people will get stuck with medical bills they’ll never be able to pay.

This is just insane, and it needs to end now.

It’s time for America to abandon its experiment with for-profit healthcare and follow the lead of countries like Switzerland, Sweden, and Canada that have either required health insurance companies to be non-profits or have done away with health insurance companies altogether and replaced them with a national single-payer system.

The fact of the matter is that the whole American healthcare system is mind-bogglingly corrupt and needs to be reformed from the top to the bottom.

Obamacare is a great start, but we could do a whole lot better.

We should end the for-profit cancer in this part of our society once and for all and require hospitals and insurance companies to put people over profits by operating on an exclusively non-profit basis.

It’s as simple as that.