Originally posted on the DailyKos on Mar. 15, 2011
The Japanese have an enviable healthcare system. Everyone is covered and they spend about half of what we spend in the United States.
Here’s how things shape up when you compare healthcare costs and life expectancy in the OECD to the United States.
This Societe Generale chart from a recent article in The Economist tells you everything you need to know. The Japanese spend a fraction of what we do, cover all their citizens, and have a far better life expectancy than Americans.
Note, as usual, the U.S, and our free-market, profit driven healthcare system is the pathetic outlier. We spend way, way more and get miserable results. Our life expectancy is by no means the envy of the world.
When the next large scale disaster strikes in the United States, we’ll be in a bind. If it’s on the scale of what just happened in Japan, this country and its citizens would be in a world of hurt. Since we have abdicated our collective societal healthcare needs to the insatiable profit greed of Wall Street, we have 60 million with no access to healthcare.
What would happen to all these Americans at the mercy of our capricious, dysfunctional and depraved American healthcare system in a large disaster is unfathomable?
Tens, hundreds of thousands would likely be severely injured requiring extensive and expensive healthcare. Many, perhaps most of these people would either not be insured or dangerously underinsured. This reality would add a particularly gruesome uniquely American overlay for the world to ponder in horror.
In California, certainly ground zero for a massive earthquake, we’re now learning that some victims of Blue Shield are facing cumulative rate hikes of up to 86%!* This means people will drop their already woefully inadequate junk, bare bones insurance coverage, which we know is coverage in name only.
Wondering how this country would address the healthcare needs of a huge uninsured and underinsured population in the aftermath of a national catastrophe is a long overdue discussion. And don’t count on the traditional media to begin it. Would we have millions of gravely injured Americans facing healthcare-related financial ruin and bankruptcy? Or would the barbaric reality of our profit-driven healthcare system crumble before the scrutiny of the world.
I suspect (or maybe I’m engaged in magical thinking) the latter. The government would have to intervene in a massive show of force. Nationalize the insurance companies? Require the for-profit parasites to cover everyone? Regulate rates so ordinary Americans could afford to get coverage? Institute community rating and guaranteed issue across the board? Massive open enrollment to Medicare and Medicaid?
Everything would have to be on the table, and perhaps we’d be on our way to single payer.
Right now, you can help us move California to single payer. When the for-profits in California fall (as they will), it will only be a matter of time for the domino effect to ripple across much of the nation.
Does everyone know that in Canada, single payer began at the provincial level in Saskatchewan and then eventually , as more provinces embraced universal health care, the federal government got on board. This is how it will happen in the United States, but it will take all of us.
Nyceve is on the board of California OneCare.
*Editor’s Note: Blue Shield canceled the planned rate increase soon after this essay was published.