Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Paying for Health Care and Not Getting It


In 2003, the United States spent $1.679 trillion dollars on health care. In 2006, the estimated spending was $1.937 trillion (Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services, Office of the Actuary, from California Health Care Foundation 2005). This includes government spending, private insurance payments, and, in 2003, $779 billion in out of pocket payments by individuals.

On a per capita basis, in 2006, each United States citizen will spend over $6000 on medical care. 15 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) goes to health care.

This is more than twice any other nation’s per capita health care spending, or GDP spending. Unfortunately, this spending does not deliver health care to many of our citizens. As a nation, the US fares worse in comparison to other nations spending far less in health care categories such as life expectancy, infant mortality, and doctor and nurse/patient ratio.

We are all aware of our health system’s flaws. We read of the uncovered procedures, of the uninsured population of 45 million, of the inability of many elderly people to both pay for needed drugs and essential heating oil, of those who stay in hated jobs in order to maintain health insurance, of rising health care premiums that are literally bankrupting the flagship corporations of capitalism, Ford and General Motors. We note that half of all bankruptcies are caused by debt incurred by medical expenses. The individual case histories of people unable to obtain needed services are heartbreaking. (See “Uninsured in America, Life and Death in the Land of Opportunity” by Susan Starr Sered and Rushika Fernandapulle, 2005, University of California Press.) It is a system badly in need of an overhaul.

Yet, it is a system that has resisted overhaul time after time. Reforms, such as the Bush drug program for Medicare recipients, only lead to more expenditure, more profits for hospital corporations and drug companies. The health care consumer or recipient, each one of us, remains paying for a new Cadillac while receiving a beat up junker that won’t pass inspection.

Those of us who support a single payer, universal healthcare program for all US citizens, are often told that it would be too expensive. However, when we analyze the current national expenditures for healthcare, we see that we are already paying for healthcare for everyone and just not getting it. The taxpayer, through the US government payment of 60% of the total healthcare budget, is already footing the bill. By going to a single payer system, we would immediately eliminate $300 billion in duplicated administrative costs in our current multi-layered private insurance system. By adding these numbers and factoring in the cost savings for drugs and services that would accompany such a huge single buyer, we could fund healthcare for all. The estimated added taxpayer cost would be equivalent to one year of the Bush tax cut program. (See “Paying for National Health Insurance – and Not Getting It”, by Steffie Woolhandler and David U. Himmelstein, 2002, Project HOPE, The People-to-People Health Foundation.) The change to a new, more efficient, single payer system could be accomplished by a gradual extension of the one healthcare insurance provider with a proven track record, Medicare.
The societal benefit to this approach is obvious. Healthcare is not a choice for anyone. We all need it, as surely as we need nutrition, education and housing. It is a crucial element in the lives of the citizens of a free nation.

It is an element of government neglect in the lives of the citizens of the United States. I read, recently, some analysis by Robert Fist, the chronicler of Middle East events and history, in which he noted that if the United States had provided Iraqis with a decent health care system after the invasion, it would have created much good will, and avoided the rise of resistance against the occupation. This was, and is, impossible. As noted above, the United States is woefully short of doctors and nurses, in the United States. It is not capable of providing medical care to populations, even in the United States, let alone Iraq. The Empire neglects its own citizens, and is only capable of abusing conquered populations, as events on the ground in Iraq have shown.

The health care system of the United States is hostage to the enormous profits distributed to insurance companies, hospital corporations, and drug purveyors. They swarm over the Congress, plying the legislative system with money, “expertise”, and favors. Congressmen leave their seats to take jobs with pharmaceutical companies, as did Jim Greenwood of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and Billy Tauzin of the 3rd District of Louisiana.

The healthcare corporate lobbies will not give up their piece of this $2 trillion dollar goldmine, for reasons of social equity. It is a lobby as venal and predatory as the arms procurement lobby, trading human lives straight up for money.

The US healthcare system now forces each citizen to scrabble for a little piece of security, as we pay exorbitant amounts for health insurance, and then more out of pocket. We cannot freely change jobs, for fear of “losing benefits”. For those without insurance, it means fear of illness, neglect of your health, and a shortened life span.(See “The Moral Hazard Myth – The bad idea behind our failed health-care system”, by Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker, 8/29/2005.)

The January 24 Sharon Smith article in these pages, “Healthcare Reform for the Insurance Industry” notes a key problem with all the new State and Bush administration solutions to the “healthcare crisis”. Each “solution” involves more money from the citizenry that is already shelling out with their lives and income to support the current predatory system.

It makes one remember that phrase from the Declaration of Independence: “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just power from the consent of the governed; That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness”.

JOE DeRAYMOND can be reached at:


More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 20, 2016
Eric Draitser
Syria and the Left: Time to Break the Silence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Extreme Unction: Illusions of Democracy in Vegas
Binoy Kampmark
Digital Information Warfare: WikiLeaks, Assange and the US Presidential Elections
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Bogus History Lesson
Bruce Mastron
Killing the Messenger, Again
Anthony DiMaggio
Lesser Evil Voting and Prospects for a Progressive Third Party
Ramzy Baroud
The Many ‘Truths’ on Syria: How Our Rivalry Has Destroyed a Country
David Rosen
Was Bill Clinton the Most Sexist President?
Laura Carlsen
Plan Colombia, Permanent War and the No Vote
Aidan O'Brien
Mao: Monster or Model?
David Swanson
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Less Than Two Weeks
Victor Grossman
Suicides and Hopes and Fears
October 19, 2016
Dan Schiller – Shinjoung Yeo
The Silicon Valley Candidate
Mike Whitney
Trump Unchained
Paul Buhle
Criminalizing the Struggle: Incarceration and the Rise of the Neoliberal State
Linn Washington Jr.
Abusing the Abused: Philly Police Abuse Case Typifies All-Too-Common Misconduct by US Prosecutors
Terry Tempest Williams - Brooke Williams
Rejected by the BLM
Binoy Kampmark
Neither War Nor Peace: Shimon Peres, Israel and History
Patrick Cockburn
This Battle for Mosul Will Not Be the Last
Joyce Nelson
Trudeau Bullying on Trade Deal
Thomas Mountain
Revolutionary Islam and Regime Change in Ethiopia
Serge Halimi – Benoît Bréville
The Limits of Eloquence: the Failures of Barack Obama
Mel Gurtov
America’s Dangerous Moment
Jerry Kroth
Questions for Obama Before Leaving Office
Michael Garrity
America is a Nation of Laws: Collaboration and Its Discontents
October 18, 2016
Srećko Horvat
The Cyber-War on Wikileaks
Zoltan Grossman
Stop the Next President From Waging the Next War
Jim Kavanagh
Hillary’s Hide-and-Seek
Robert Fisk
After Mosul Falls, ISIS will Flee to Syria. Then What?
Ted Rall
The 4 Things Hillary Could Do To Close the Deal Against Trump
Pepe Escobar
Why Hillary Clinton is a Bigger Concern for China than Donald Trump
Colin Todhunter
World Wide Fund for Nature: Stop Greenwashing Capitalism, Start Holding Corporations to Account
David Macaray
Whiskey Workers Go on Strike: I’ll Drink to That
James A Haught
After the Election, Back to Important Things
Arturo Desimone
How a Selective Boycott Can Boost External Support for Palestinians
Russell Mokhiber
If Chris Wallace Asks About Street Crime He Should Also Ask About Corporate Crime
Mark Kernan
Moloch in Paris: on the Anniversary of COP21
Carol Dansereau
The Hillary Push: Manipulation You Can Believe In
Andre Vltchek
Will They Really Try to Kill the President of the Philippines?
Sean Joseph Clancy
The Wreckage of Matthew: Cuba and Haiti
October 17, 2016
Paul Street
Pick Your Poison? Presidential Politics and Planetary Prospects
Patrick Cockburn
US Allies are Funding ISIS (and Hillary Knew All Along)
David Swanson
What Hillary Clinton Privately Told Goldman Sachs
Fran Shor
A Rigged System?