There Is No Healthcare Debate

There is no ‘healthcare debate’. The arguments against reform don’t exist.

My part-time work is merely to get me out the house for a few hours each day. Money’s always useful, but it’s not the primary reason I do what I do.

Recently, the company I worked for was taken over by another. The new one offers its employees ‘health benefits’. I received details via the US mail.

Three health plans are offered: the most ‘Basic’ starts at $118 per pay period (fortnightly) for a single person with no dependents. Note, I did say it was the most basic. The second plan gives a bit more cover and rises to $189 p/p/period, and the third is $100 more than that.

For an employee with a dependent spouse the ‘Basic’ is $252 and the ‘Premium’ rises to $581. For a family of two adults with children – $371 for the ‘Basic’, $994 for the ‘Premium’.

These sums have to be paid every fortnight.

The average employee of this company earns $10 an hour. Working a forty hour week means a gross fortnightly pay packet containing $800, less taxes, Medicare, Social Security, and possibly union dues.

If he’s single and on the ‘Basic’ plan, he’ll pay around 17% of his earnings to the company’s medical insurance. Prescriptions will cost extra, and god help him if he ever needs hospitalization.

Being single, and probably young, he may just scrape by on the $500, or so, he’ll have left to live on for two weeks.

It’s hardly worth mentioning that the cost of these plans is prohibitively expensive for those employees with dependents. Unless, of course, they happen not to be one of the drivers earning ten dollars an hour, but on the management team and taking home substantially more.

And that’s what it’s all about. A three tier system where the poorest workers have the least cover, and the top brass bask in the sunbathed splendor of their gold-plated ‘Premier’ health plan – at close to $1,000 a fortnight.

In front of me at this moment I have the last salary slip I ever earned before leaving Britain and moving to America. In the ‘Deductions’ section is an entry for ‘National Insurance’. National Insurance is what all working Brits are obliged to pay the UK government for healthcare.

Payment of the National Insurance contribution grants free access to a doctor, a hospital, and medical treatment ranging from an ingrowing toenail to heart replacement. It covers X-rays, MRIs, CAT scans, and every other hospital procedure. It covers not just the worker paying the National Insurance, but also his wife and children. Prescriptions cost a ridiculously tiny, nominal, sum regardless of the type of pill.

For this gold-plated health service my last salary slip shows I was charged 7.5% of my gross salary. Compare that to the service our US employee would receive if he contracted for the ‘Basic’ plan at 17% of his salary – more than double what I paid.

Even the ‘Premium’ plan (which, if he had a family, would cost him in excess of 120% of his salary) does not provide total coverage free of ‘co-pays’ and other ‘deductibles’.

Is there anything to debate about healthcare reform in the United States?

You decide.

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7 Replies to “There Is No Healthcare Debate”

  1. That’s as good a real-life comparison of the two systems as I’ve seen, RJ.

    I’d add that even though Medicare is trumpeted as wonderful – it doesn’t cover everything for seniors, as the NHS does.
    I’m covered by my husband’s Medicare, but we both pay monthly private insurance supplements totalling $400-500 and have to pay for medications, to keep our cover as near total as possible. My maintenance meds would be free in the UK and cost me $42 a month, in addition to the insurance supplement.

    I don’t understand the resistance to single payer – I really don’t. I can understand the insurance companies resisting, but not ordinary people. As WWW says – it has to be the result of brainwashing over many years.

  2. Pharmaceutical and health care companies are extremely connected, powerful and rich. On top of it all they roam around the corridors of the congress as if it’s their backyard…. They dine and wine with the right people, they pay (bribe) millions in the form of so called “campaigned” contributions, they have the cooperate media on their side at all times…. what chance does the average Joe/Jane have???

  3. No, there is no debate. The system as it is, well, I use that term loosely here, is ridiculous for a “developed” country as the USA.
    How are they failing to see the urgent need for basic human right/need? An affordable public health service…

  4. It is now 11% employee’s NI and 12.8% from the employer, so 23.8% in total.

    However, and this is a key point, it is not just the NHS this pays for. The other main part is the State Pension and this rate I’ve quoted is for someone who has not contracted out of SERPS (State Earnings Related Pension Scheme).

    It also covers your Job Seeker’s Allowance (dole money) if you lose your job. So you are quite right RJ, we are still well covered in the UK for these 3 main areas of welfare.

  5. I am always amazed how, in a country where free choice is so important to the individual, people live with the way that the insurance companies dictate their medical care. They have to change doctors when the insurance company says so, their treatment is limited to what the insurance company says it will cover, and the co-pays seem entirely random. The insurance companies exist to make money (which they do, very nicely). I can’t see why this is preferable in any way to handing your money to the government for the much-feared “socialised medicine”. I’d much rather an accountable government was ultimately in charge of my health care than a greedy insurance company.

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