No Healthcare For Aussies

I think we’d all agree that Australia is a big country. In fact, it’s not a country at all, but a continent like North America. So, it would be sensible to assume it’s a pretty big place with lots of people. It’s actually almost twice the land mass of India.

Julia A. Seymour would disagree. In fact, Ms Seymour would find it thoroughly acceptable for the whole population of Australia to be without any form of health service whatever.

According to Ms Seymour of the Business & Media Institute, people like me should not have healthcare insurance. Apparently, it’s fine for non-Americans to live and work in the USA, but they must not be included when statistics about health insurance are compiled.

In an effort to undermine Michael Moore’s film “SiCKO”, Seymour and her ultra right-wing colleagues at the BMI are challenging Moore’s figure for the numbers of persons in the US living without health cover. 10,000,000 – she says – are not US citizens and should therefore be excluded from the statistics.

In fact, she implies in her article that if you, citizen or not, are an owner-occupier and have a computer, then you can afford health insurance and its purely a matter of personal choice if you don’t have it. Given that for most people the cost of adequate health cover comes close to the cost of mortgaging a second home, this conclusion seems a little unfair.

Seymour is, in fact, utilizing quotes from a book: “The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save American Health Care” by David Gratzer. As capitalism has failed miserably in that task over the last two hundred years in this country, it seems unlikely Mister Gratzer has found “the cure”, as he professes. When we consider his credentials, however, his enthusiasm for a capitalist approach to the problem appears more clear.

David Gratzer is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, another of those right-wing “think tanks” like the AEI and Heritage. Let us, for a moment, consider the commitment of the Manhattan Institute to America’s public health.

In it’s 1996 report “Buying A Movement”, the ultra-conservative [inaccurate – see note here] organization “People for the American Way” describe the Manhattan Institute as advocating:

“………privatization of sanitation services and infrastructure maintenance, deregulation in the area of environmental and consumer protection, school vouchers and cuts in governmental spending on social welfare programs……”

This hardly seems a recipe for improving America’s healthcare. Dig a little deeper, though, and the waters become even murkier.

The Manhattan Institute doesn’t publish a list of its corporate sponsors. That’s probably just as well. It’s happy to proclaim financial links to charitable foundations like Koch and Scaife, but makes more effort to conceal “donations” from Exxon Mobil, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and prominent tobacco companies like Phillip Morris, Brown & Williamson, and R.J. Reynolds.

Sourcewatch tells us that:

“…….a 1997 R.J. Reynolds memo reveals RJR’s intent to use the Manhattan Institute as a third party to help the company reduce the public’s perception of danger from exposure to secondhand smoke:

“Devise ways to educate the public about epidemiology and put risk in perspective. For example, work with Steven J. Milloy, Michael Fumento, CEI Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Manhattan Institute [my bold] and others to put together a 1/2-hour or 1-hour TV show explaining epi[demiology] and risk. Create an epi/risk website to educate the general public, maybe working with the Harvard School of Public Health. Do the same for journalists.”

Of course, Sourcewatch is one of those stinking liberal organizations not to be trusted, but in this instance it’s sources are verifiable. The memo, containing numerous other devious schemes to indoctrinate Americans into believing smoking is cool and the dangers grossly overrated, can be read HERE. Note 7 is pertinent, but as an object lesson in deceiving the American people, the whole memo is worthy of perusal.

Suddenly Julia A. Seymour’s persuasions are somewhat less than compelling, but just suppose her figures are correct after all.

She opens her article by stating:

“Michael Moore was wrong about health insurance. So were President Bush, Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), presidential candidates former Sen. John Edwards and Gov. Mike Huckabee and The Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, People magazine and Time magazine, as well as CNN, CBS and ABC.”

Well now, that’s an awful lot of well-informed people and organizations that got it wrong. What they say is that around 50,000,000 Americans are without health insurance. Ms Seymour argues that figure is way too high. Take out the 10,000,000 non-citizens like me, who live here just because we love America so much and don’t deserve healthcare, and subtract the numbers of people so well off they don’t even bother with it because they’re too busy enjoying their own home and playing on their computer, and you are left with a figure of around 20,000,000 – or, says Ms Seymour, a mere 7% of the populace.

Ms Seymour, however, is not content with that number. She pares it down still further by juggling the statistics until she arrives at – to Ms Seymour – the more agreeable figure of between 8.2 million and 13.9 million.

That’s much more acceptable. After all, if we average out those figures to just 12,000,000, it’s only the total population of Zimbabwe, or Angola, or Cuba – and who cares about them anyway?

Unfortunately, Ms Seymour has made a grave error in her calculations. By removing the 10,000,000 of us who are not citizens she is simply playing with words. While the figures quoted by Moore and others are classified under the terms “Americans without health insurance”, it is ludicrous to assume the statistics must only refer to citizens, and not other US inhabitants living under the umbrella – albeit, leaky – of American healthcare. We permanent residents get sick as readily as citizens. We also pay the same amount in taxes. So, in this instance, her argument is seriously flawed and utterly unacceptable as a means of reducing the figure she is trying to achieve.

Add the 10,000,000 back into the calculation, and the figure Ms Seymour arrives at by her own arithmetic becomes 22,000,000.

Or, slightly more than the total population of Australia.

Filed under:

AUTHOR’S FOOTNOTE: The above article was written to highlight the absurdity of those who argue over figures; that the number 50,000,000 is unacceptable, yet 20,000,000 is much less so.

I would simply respond: “Is the figure ‘1’ acceptable?

Julia Seymour grandly announces that only 7% of “Americans” fall through the health net, as though it is to be applauded as a success. Only 7%. Let us take this figure and remove the ‘%’ sign. Imagine, if you will, a small village of just 100 inhabitants; a close-knit community of, say, 40 families. 37 of those families enjoy good health, and when they get sick the local doctor makes them better. 3 families cannot afford health insurance, so when an influenza epidemic hits the village the doctor refuses to treat the members of those three families because he won’t get paid. If you lived in that village and knew those families, what would you do? What would all the other families in the village do? I don’t need you to answer. I know your response. You would unhesitatingly rush to help in whatever way you could – even if it was just to assist in running the mercenary doctor out of town. Those three families represent about 7% of the village population. They’re the 7% that Julia A. Seymour and her well-heeled, capitalist, cronies would consider acceptably expendable.

RJ Adams

10 Replies to “No Healthcare For Aussies”

  1. Sometimes I think it would be good if the law says, if one person is without healthy insurance, then everyone is without health insurance. But, if one has it, all have it. Hows that? Bush’s spokesman said they couldn’t figure out what the fuss was about when they decided to veto health care for poor children – Well, they can just go to the emergency room, can’t they? These people are soooo out of touch with the real world, they should be placed in a home for the totally comatose.

  2. One thing that doesn’t get mentioned enough is the exorbitant costs that are at the root of the problem. Everyone has come to the conclusion that insurance is the main culprit but the fees charged by the medical profession may have been what caused the insurance companies to reject procedures- like the film said, $60,000 to reattach a finger – how outrageaous is that and the chances of the finger being functional are nil.

    The medical profession pretends they are there to help you, but the first thing they ask is not “where does it hurt?” but “how are you going to pay?” If you can pay, they will send you to every diagnostic machine they own – after all, that is almost pure profit for little effort and the longer they take to find out what the problem is, the more they can make off you. Of course all medical folks, the pharmacy companies, the insurance companies etc don’t want universal care. Their last concern is human welfare and their biggest concern is the high cost of their own insurance for malpractice or drug recalls and lawsuits- which brings me to my next point.

    When a doctor does botch your case it is almost impossible to get them to pay to repair it – hell they send you a bill for their mistake and refer you to a specialist in Rochester. Try and get another expert witness doctor to testify against them in court so that you can sue. Not going to happen. My neighbor’s daughter had to have three operations to repair the damage done by another doctor and never even got an apology.

    The following is from a CBS news story found at

    The nationwide autopsy rate is low, only 6 percent of deaths are autopsied. But even of that small percentage, Burton says experts find a 40 percent misdiagnosis rate.
    “Out of those 40 percent, about 10 to 12 percent are significant. In that — had that diagnosis known — been known prior to death, at a minimum, the patient probably could have been discharged alive from the hospital during that hospitalization,” she says. What’s more, despite all the advances in modern medicine, the rate of misdiagnosis hasn’t essentially changed in 100 years.
    Dr. Mark Graber studies the problem of misdiagnosis and is the Chief of medical services at the Long Island Veterans hospital. Graber sees the problem of misdiagnosis partly stemming from overconfidence.

    “I don’t think anybody is really adequately addressing diagnostic errors,” Graber says.

    There is no requirement to report misdiagnoses and no national data bank. As a result, Graber says there’s almost no way to know how often misdiagnosis occurs.

    “The problem is the doctors were given to believe — you can learn all this at one point in time; keep it in your head; and pull it out when you need it,” Weed says and adds, “Well, that’s just not true.”

  3. I forgot to make my point. Stay away from all doctors if at all possible. The body is able to heal most things on its own and by and large, all the doctors do is mask the symptoms while the body does its healing. I read once that the Canadian doctors DO let people wait for many minor things because the problem resolves itself whether they see the patient or not. I’m not talking about cancer and heart blockages, but the 90% of other things.

    In its report, To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that 44,000 to 98,000 Americans die each year not from the medical conditions they checked in with, but from preventable medical errors.

    Way more dangerous than terrorists!!!

  4. Flimsy Sanity: No matter what the country doing the surveying, the results are always the same: wherever the doctors go on strike, the death rate goes down. ‘Nuff said.

    And I am really tired of the misinformation spread regarding Canadian health care. If i want to see my doctor for ANYTHING, from chronic disease to a hangnail, i just call her up and go in the same day. This, because of the ability of medical receptionists here to put aside ten minutes of every hour for ’emergencies’. And no, i don’t have to pay a cent. And if i do have to get medicine, all i pay for are the dispensing fees (approx. $6.).

    Healthcare is given to everyone, even if they just stepped off the boat. Of course, this system is abused incredibly (ie. mums from Hong Kong flying in to the Children’s Hospital to have a c-section on a day they feel is ‘lucky’, then flying out the next day)… but who cares? We’re the second highest taxed people in the world, and if we didn’t have a socialist health care system, there would be a revolt.

    We don’t, however, have a similar dental program. We started one, but the dentists said they weren’t making enough money. As a result, there are a lot of poor people with rotten teeth, something that the dental colleges try to counter by creating dental clinics where third and fourth year students can practice on clients for practically nothing. Maybe one day…

  5. PM – your comment reminded me of an old Pink Floyd track from their album “The Final Cut”, referring to politicians and others of their ilk: “Take all your overgrown children away somewhere, and build them a home, a little place of their own…..” where they can continue to play their wargames and other amusements without it troubling the rest of us.

    Al – yes, the old cliches have not been around a long time for no reason.

    Flimsy – your point is excellent. When doctors’ priority is profit rather than their Hippocratic Oath, the whole system falls apart. I agree with you also about staying away from them, except in dire emergency. I’m not even sure procedures like chemotherapy are worthwhile (even if affordable). I know of very few who were cured permanently by such methods, and for most it just prolongs the suffering and the inevitable.

    Anan – the British NHS is similar. Dental health has always been low priority there also. Hence the “nation of the bad teeth”, though fluoride seems to have been one of the government’s better ideas.

  6. Hey Kids…I live in a VERY rural section of upstate NY…I HAD insurance for near 20 years & preventative medicine was o.k. We “lost” it when my now late husband reached his “maximum lifetime benefit” of $250 thousand…for LIFE. (we had NO IDEA) In his case a genetic blood disorder and 2 hospital stays (1 surgery, removal of his spleen) maxed him out FOREVER even tho we religiously paid for 20 YEARS. Ill spare you the hardships but Ill tell you this…Its NOT the cost of preventive care thats driving us broke and its not about the lawsuits (there is a fairly high standard for “medical negligence” better known as malpractice. You must reach that standard before an attorney will accept a case)

    ITS THE INSURANCE COMPANIES feeding PARASITICALLY off the practice of medicine in the USA. They have become the 800 lb. gorilla in every examining room. It is now the faceless insurance beancounters guarding against “unneccesary” healthcare making EVERY HEALTHCARE DECISION??? America does NOT NEED MORE INSURANCE…simply put we NEED UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE FOR ALL. Sorta like the healthcare our POLITICIANS ENJOY PAID FOR BY US. (FREE to them) The other thing americans must do is KILL ALL THE LOBBYISTS. They are largely responsible for the current healthcare for profit that has devastated thousands of families just trying to cope. It is to our great shame that we spend OBSCENE amounts for more military “defense” ($15 BILLION A MONTH in Iraq alone) yet have NOTHING left for healthcare…(50 million without care…9 million of them are our future, OUR KIDS) or education or just about any other socially progressive idea that might actually make us more secure.I am more fortunate then some as I am not the face of the “poor”, I have remarried, I own my home and have good credit, I am blessed with a small town nurse practicioner that takes her patients care to heart and she does all she can but she is swimming against the tide and being overwhelmed. Here’s a final thought…Most americans didnt need Mike Moores doc *SICKO* to know the “system” is nonexistant not just broke…their own stories told them, heres our most recent…about 3 years ago my current husband (fine cabinetry/self employed) stepped on a nail…a trip to the ER, a week of antibiotics and $10,000 YES 10 THOUSAND U.S.D later (not counting prescriptions) were still paying it off.
    Thanks for reading my rant…I dont think Im alone…B

  7. In it’s 1996 report “Buying A Movement”, the ultra-conservative organization “People for the American Way” describe the Manhattan Institute as advocating:

    -I agree with most of what you say here, but get your facts straight – People For the American Way is NOT an “ultra-conservative organization,” in fact it is a very liberal group.

  8. BrooklynBrenda – welcome to Sparrow Chat. You’re right that most Americans – that’s all but the stinking rich – don’t need Moore’s film to know the truth about their healthcare system. It’s so sad that so many have to go through so much and still nothing gets done to remedy the situation.

    Matt – you are absolutely right. I’ll make the excuse of having a “senior moment” whilst writing it. Welcome to Sparrow Chat.

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