Utahns suck up federal welfare, pay skyrocketing health costs

Note Important PS at bottom!!!!

 OK, we are told that the cost of reforming health care will cripple the nation, bankrupting us all through skyrocketing taxes and bring about death panels that will decide whether we live or die based on how many hangnails we have.

Fine, even if we agree that that is the case (looney though it may be) would someone please explain the following actual, real, honest-to-god facts as reported in honest news publications:

– The Salt Lake Tribune has a lead story today that skyrocketing health care premiums — the tax we pay to health insurance companies which, our congress people assure us, have done such a bang-up job of controling costs and making things affordable through competition — have gone up 4.3 times faster than Utah wages. Premiums for the average Utahn have almost doubled since 2000, while wages have risen a pathetic 22.8 percent.

– Despite this massiveely increased spending, new data shows that life expectancy in the US is getting a bit better, but we lag way behind the rest of the world that spends a lot less. This chart ( click!) from the CIA’s fact book, puts life expectancy in the US at 50th world wide, behind such places as Macao, Norway, Japan and just about every other industrialized nation. But, hey, we’re better than Cuba!

So far, anyway.

This story from the Yahoo web site (click) points out that American life expectancycan be expected to drop in the next few years as the horrible number — 2/3 of the population  — of overweight and obese Americans gets older. Diabetes is running 10 percent of the population which almost guarantees early and expensive deaths for those people. Overweight people are a huge drain on the medical resources of the nation for a wide variety of medical concerns, from heart problems to blood pressure, joint replacement and just a general overall worse level of health, which is probably one reason insurance costs are going up.

Even if an overweight person, otherwise healthy, has trouble getting around, that adds huge costs for special transport, wheelchairs, special beds and so on.

Health premiums go up because, remember, we already have socialized medicine, it’s just administered by profit-making companies that charge us all higher premiums if their costs go up because it is us, not them, who ultimately pay the bill. They just manage the money and take a 15 percent handling fee.

 Those same companies reserve the right to kick you off their coverage (death panels?) if you cost them too much. Gotta protect the stockholders, remember.

– Not entirely unrelated, but there’s a story in the Deseret News noting that Utah will collect $4 billion in federal stimulus funds. Considering how many Utahns are so adamantly opposed to the national debt going up because of stimulus spending and potential health care reform (where were all those folks during the Bush years when the $2 trillion debt was tripling? Hey, just asking…) I am amazed that they allow the state to take what amounts to federal welfare, every penny of which is borrowed.

Of course, a lot of that money is going to education and transportation — it’s paying for all those road projects you see, and helping keep schools staffed, making it possible for construction workers and teachers to pay their ever-climbing health insurance premiums.

I might note that a huge amount of the money spent on medical care in Utah already comes from the federal government, directly or indirectly. The VA system, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP,  and the tax break that employers get for employee medical insurance, all come out of the pocket of Uncle Sam.

It is fasacinating — we see people going to town halls to defend a health care funding system that doesn’t  improve health but has doubled what it charges in eight years because a government run option will cost too much? 

We see Utahns those same opposed to the national debt taking federal welfare money that is all part of that same national debt.

Oddly enough, I can understand why, in confusing times, people tend to lash out at any and all changes — and the proposed health care change is a biggie. But, as even Rep. Rob Bishop admits, staying the way we are is not acceptable.

What I’d love to see is single-payer universal health care that collects from everyone (not the cherry-picked healthy like insurance companies do now, but everyone, healthy and sick) and pays for everyone. Call it a tax, call it a premium, but it would be a lot more fair. It is how Medicare works now, more or less, and Medicare has a 4 percent or so overhead, not 15 percent. None of its administrators makes $250 million a year, either.

Single payer is not that complicated, and would get rid of the thousands of people the insurance industry hires to turn down payments requests, not to mention the huge bureaucracies that hospitals and doctors and clinics have to maintain to do battle with the insurance industry’s bureaucracy. Countries like England, Norway, Japan, and others, all with healthier and longer-lived populations than the US has, use that system. Canada too.

And people in those countries don’t go bankrupt because of a medical crisis. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Yes, it would help if a lot more of us would quit eating so much junk food and get out and walk a mile or two a day. That’s that personal responsibility thing you hear so much about. Utahns, from what I can gather just by looking around, arn’t too good at that one either.


PS: Needless to say, right after I wrote this I checked out The Onion and saw their take on health care reform which is, honestly, probably rather frighteningly accurate. Check it out at: (click):

an extract: 

Though there remain irreconcilable points, both parties have reached some common ground in recent weeks. Senate leaders Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) point to Congress’ failure to pass legislation before a July 31 deadline as proof of just how serious lawmakers are about stringing along the American people and never actually reforming the health care industry in any meaningful way.

“People should know that every day we are working without their best interests in mind,” Reid said. “But the goal here is not to push through some watered-down bill that only denies health care to a few Americans here and a few Americans there. The goal is to recognize that all Americans have a God-given right to proper medical attention and then make sure there’s no chance in hell that ever happens.”

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18 Responses to Utahns suck up federal welfare, pay skyrocketing health costs

  1. Doug Gibson says:

    Charlie, Why do you think President Obama took single-payer off the table? He has indicated support for it in the past?

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  3. Charles Trentelman says:

    he claims he hasn’t, and if he really has I’m beyond disappointed — cowed by all the screamers and death panel advocates? Clever political strategy to let the oppoinents make fools of themselves early then counter attack later? An idiotic idea that the American people actually want to discuss something in a reasonable manner?

    hard to say, but there’s more than a trillion dollars (the amount we spend that other countries don’t) out there fighting reform.
    Frankly, I think greed will win.

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  5. Michelle says:

    I think one of the distinctions that gets lost in all the screaming is that single-payer does NOT equal single-provider. The government is not going to be running your hospital, choosing your doctors, setting your appointments or anything of the such.

    I really think that the best solution is single-payer. Unfortunately, the big insurance companies who have been collecting our premiums have no qualms about using that money to pay lobbyist to protect their existence, which is why single payer is not going to happen.

    The public option is a second-best solution, and hopefully people will be able to think around the noise and remember that it is a public “option”. Not a requirement, not a mandate, an option. Can’t get insurance somewhere else? Great, you have an OPTION. Don’t like your insurance provider or their rates? You have an option. Right now, we don’t have that at all. The public option if handled properly could also be a great wake up call to the insurance companies when they have to compete for those premiums, when employers have more choices that they can actually afford to extend those benefits to their employees.

    (OT the captcha for this posting? $1.7-billion jenkins LOL)

  6. craig41 says:

    compromise in the name of ‘bipartisanship’ but with republicans essentially saying they’ll vote against anything democrats have no choice but to pass it on their own. whether they do it by breaking up the bill in the senate and taking advantage of reconciliation rules on the part most hated by the right (public option) so they only need 50 votes, or just work on getting the centrist dems on board, the public option will get through the senate.

    in the house the progressive wing is solidifying, with some added support of online fundraising from ultra left wing public option loving commies like myself, to the point where they will have more influence over the bill than the blue dogs (who’ve already agreed to the public option, or at least enough of them have).

    the bottom line is republicans over played there hand. democrats, as they always do (it’s painful for me to watch), were letting repubs set the narrative, and were bending over backwards to get their votes, until it became clear they wouldn’t get any of their votes (or an alternative plan, they’re really living up to that ‘party of no’ nickname aren’t they). they could have had a bipartisan co op plan that would have basically left the industry at status quo (co ops are a non starter, they’d never get big enough to allow them to negotiate with providers competitively so it would leave us $6 billion more in debt, and insurance companies still calling all the shots).

    thankfully republicans realized that co ops sounded like something stalin would vote for, didn’t hatch say something like another term for a government run plan? so they gave it what is soon to replace the elephant as the parties mascot, the notorious thumbs down. too bad for public option opponents, good for supporters like me though. and to think, they could have killed it by just compromising a little tiny bit.

  7. Doug Gibson says:

    Howard Fineman of Newsweek was on MSNBC last night and he said that the U.S. Senate could not implement the public option through a reconciliation (forcing a 50 plus 1 vote) I don’t know particulars. Anyone else clued into this?

  8. Catherine Burt says:

    Utah used to have a public option for working, low-income families who could not get health insurance from their employer(s). They paid for the insurance and got the same benefits as medicaid recipients did…. I thought it was a good idea and wonder what happened to it. As it stands, public assistance is all or nothing. No one who is using it today is paying anything for it.

  9. laytonian says:

    Charlie says ” The VA system, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, and the tax break that employers get for employee medical insurance, all come out of the pocket of Uncle Sam.”

    Don’t forget all of the current and retired federal government employees. WE have the same FEHBP (health insurance) plan options as Congress does.

    Then you have the city and state government employees.


    Doug, “single payer” was a comment Obama made a long time ago, and it’s VERY different than the public option being discussed — which would hardly harm insurance companies because it will only be open to those who can’t otherwise afford/get insurance for various reasons AND it’s NOT going to be free. The most popular proposal says that those who use the public option will pay NO LESS than 11% of their income for it.

    Public option isn’t welfare.

    I’m one of the few who believes that Obama is actually handling this correctly. Let everyone boil over, fight it out….and then step into the arena with the lions.

  10. Charles Trentelman says:

    laytonian is right — i forgot all the state’s government workers. Utah government health insurance is handled by a non-profit that has very low overhead.

  11. laytonian says:

    Wouldn’t it be interesting to know how many people **already** have some type of government-provided/assisted health insurance?

    Qualifying military veterans
    Civilian federal employees
    Retired civilian federal employees
    State and city government employees
    Retired state and city government employees
    Retirement-qualified senators & congressmen
    Any business that can write off medical insurance costs

    If you think about, how many of us insured folks DON’T have some sort of government help with our insurance?

    If you’re really old like me, you can remember when you could deduct ALL of your annual medical expenses.

  12. ctrentelman says:

    I think the assumption is that between a third and half of all medical care in this country is paid for by government now — maybe more, when you add it all up. Actually, we should be grateful, because that has guaranteed a steady cash flow even in hard times that has kept a whole lot of medical industry jobs alive that wouldn’t have otherwise — jobs, no doubt, held by a lot of the very people who now scream that the government is wasting money on stimuli and medical care. During the Depression doctors had to take vegetables as payment — any doctors having to do that these days?

    How many Utah businesses would shut down today if all accursed entitlements were shut off? Sort of like the medicare folks screaming against government medical care — sorry to say it, but an amazingly large number of people simply have no clue.

  13. laytonian says:

    Charlie’s right.

    Businesses forget that every dime they spend is a tax-deductible “cost of business”.
    When the worker drives to work, he gets no tax break….but the business owner can write off their mileage (over 50-cents a mile right now!)

    Healthcare and homebuilding are likely the two biggest businesses in the nation right now. We now know what happened to homebuilding, when greed took over: a crash. When’s it going to happen to healthcare?

    Meanwhile, this morning, watching Betsy McCaughey come onto the Daily Show, and not even be able to find the references she claims are in the healthcare bill, shows the idiocy of the opponents.

    But they’ll believe McCaughey, who gave Sarah Palin her “death panel” verbage. “It’s in there somewhere and it’s just too big to find”. Liars.

  14. leftofutah says:

    Let’s hear what the least powerful amoug us think…and would you like a lolly-pop? After all, it’s all about the childred, right?


  15. Karen says:

    No matter how you slice it, it will always be the less fortunate(those at or below poverty…..and those just barely above the poverty mark) that will get screwed out of decent health care. I have been there, done that, and will be back there again come the end of January when my husband, daughter, and I lose the temperary health care coverage given to us by Tricare. My husband has the privlage of going to the VA for medical issues, but my daughter and I are left to figure out how we will be taken care of if any medical issues arrive. I will be working a part time job, but I will not be able to afford health care for my family. Why is it that the rich get all the freaking benifits??? I thought it was the MEEK WHO SHALL INHARITE THE EARTH, NOT THE ONES WITH THE MOST MONEY TO FLASH AROUND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. ctrentelman says:

    he said the meek shall inherit the earth, but he should have been more specific as ot the rights and priveleges appertaining thereto…

    hey, karen, check ur email — contact me if you’d like to talk about all the ways health care is making your life miserable….anyone else, too

    charles trentelman

  17. just a citizen says:

    For a number of years I was paying a monthly premium to Regence/Blue Cross for my Part D prescription coverage as a Medicare supplement. The last year I had it, it was $89 a month and ready to increase to $92. Then I got a notice from AARP telling me of a Part D plan they endorse. It had NO monthly premium and provided care equal to or better than what I had from Regence.

    When those of us at the meeting asked how this could be done, we were told that Secure Horizons — and Regence and all the others — are already paid for my Part D (and yours, too) by the government. The monthly fees we’ve been paying to Regence and others like them is what’s called “An Administrative Fee.” That can be translated to “Pure Profit.”

    Yup. Those folks are sure looking out for our welfare aren’t they?

  18. Rosemary Hoffman says:

    Those of us who are lucky enough to have insurance and are paying taxes are already paying for medical care given to the uninsured and indigent. That’s part of why hospital bills keep rising. (BTW, despite rumors to the contrary, not one proposed plan provides for medical coverage for illegal immigrants.)

    It has been known for at least 50 years that the poor use emergency rooms as general care facilities. This is a highly inefficient and expensive use of ER facilities, but if you work all day and the urgent care center closes at 6, where do you take your sick child? It’s no fun to sit in an ER waiting room for 3+ hours, but that’s all that’s available.

    A Canadian friend couldn’t believe how cruel our current system is. It’s cruel to those afraid to change jobs, or afraid of losing their jobs because they’d risk their health insurance. It’s cruel to those who have saved and still lose everything because insurance didn’t cover catastrophic bills or the company dumped them. Ever hear of an impoverished insurance company?

    Don’t think catastrophic can’t happen to you. One car accident or child with serious medical problems can do it.

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