By JIM RIPPY
Just when I think that I have heard it all about the waste in health care, a new headline appears.
The one today is about HCA, the nation's largest profit making owner of hospitals, being ordered to pay $162 million for allegedly not living up to an agreement when they purchased the hospitals in the Kansas City area.
An article by Julie Creswell also points out that the judge appointed an accountant to investigate whether HCA had actually provided the amount of charitable care they agreed at the time of purchase of the not-for-profit hospitals.
An excerpt from the article states, "The suit is among several problems for HCA. The company disclosed last year, for example, that the United States Attorney's Office in Miami had subpoenaed documents as part of an inquiry to determine whether unnecessary cardiology procedures had been performed at HCA hospitals in Florida and elsewhere. At stake in that case is whether HCA inappropriately billed Medicare and private insurers for the procedures. HCA has denied any wrongdoing."
Financially, Thursday's judgment is a slap on the wrist for HCA, which posted net income of $360 million in just the third quarter of last year. But the ruling may reverberate beyond HCA as communities across the country put their troubled non-profit hospitals up for sale.
I was asked today at the workout center if I did not get tired of writing about the same things in the column I write weekly. Another of my workout buddies that I have affectionately labeled the "fitness mafia members" added, "do you think it does any good to continue to write about a terribly corrupt political system and unaffordable health care?"
My answer to question number one is no. I do not get tired because maybe there are folks just like me that did not know how the corruptness in our government has brought us to the brink of destroying our way of life. The answer to question number two is the same, except I really doubt if many folks understand how fraud and waste in our healthcare system has all of the people in Congress scrambling to find a way to continue financing a terribly broken system by reducing benefits to senior citizens.
I do know that I was probably one of the most ignorant and naive people on the planet until I retired and had time to really look at what was happening to us in just the past 10 years. I still remember the original letter to the editor that I wrote many years ago exploring why healthcare costs had increased double digits yearly or over 120 percent in 10 years and inflation was less than 40 percent, along with wage increases less than 30 percent.
Today, we spend nearly 18 percent of our nation's economic output while other countries — Britain 10 percent, Germany 12 percent, France 12 percent and Japan 8 percent — rank no better than the systems in other developed nations. On some measures we are worse.
An article by Eduardo Porter describes how, in a way, private delivery of healthcare misleads Americans about the financial burdens they must bear to lead an adequate existence. He points out that our system is really just an additional tax — an indispensable cost to live a healthy life.
Today, all we hear is the cry to cut entitlements. How much do you hear or read about fixing a terribly broken delivery system? What do they do with the studies they commissioned to study the problem? If a prestigious panel of doctors, administrators and health experts tell you that out of every dollar spent on health care, 30 cents is wasted, do you just ignore the work of 18 months by these people with the knowledge/experience and keep searching for ways to cut senior benefits or entitlements? I hat that word. Or, do you just keep looking for ways to finance a broken, corrupt system?
What part of cost reduction do these people do not understand? They offer huge incentives to adopt digital medical records not only to report that it might be costing more rather than less. They use the cry of "socialized medicine" to strike fear into everyone's heart at the mention of "single payer" to remove the lobbyist payments, insurance bonuses and profits from the cost of medical treatment.
Do you want to see this country turn around? Sure you do!
We have to elect people that put the welfare of folks ahead of their selfish motives. The only way to do this is to publicly finance elections and take the control of our government from the special interest groups that finance their campaigns in order to influence how they vote on issues.
Do you want to see the cost of healthcare come down and slow the loss of jobs to other countries? Sure you do!
Take out 20 to 25 percent of the cost of administration by going to a single payer system. Stop paying for tests and procedures and start paying for outcomes. Take the hassle and pressure from the doctors and let them practice what they are trained to do. Remove their vexations.
Take a look at this website —www.pnhp.org/facts/single-payer-faq#what-is-single-payer
I challenge you to read this question and answer put together by PNHP physicians for a national health program. Ask yourself, "will we find the courage to elect people that put the folks they represent at the top of the list and the special interest groups at the bottom?" We just need to remove the Benjamins by publicly funding elections. Please take a look at www.citizenfundedelections.org before you discount this approach.
To you folks that interact on the Internet and have acquaintances, friends, relatives that do not use computers, print it out and take it to them. You will be doing a great service for them by sharing the information.