Archives For universal healthcare

America’s hospitals have been growing. The bigger they get, the more power they have — to set prices and force insurers to pay more. Patients foot the bill via higher premiums, copays, and deductibles. It’s one factor behind the nation’s increasing health care costs….

According to an audited financial statement, UPMC made $948 million in profits from 2011-2012. And while tax returns show it spends just two percent of its yearly budget on charity care….

Jeffrey Romoff, makes almost $6 million a year. That makes him the highest paid CEO of any large nonprofit hospital in the U.S., according to a recent analysis by TIME. Romoff also has more than a dozen administrators that take in annual salaries of over $1 million, and according to the city, he has access to a private chef, chauffeur, and a jet, as well as one of the most expensive office spaces in Pittsburgh….

“I think they’re going to be hard pressed to prove how they’re operating the same way as the Little Sisters of the Poor or the Catholic Church, true genuine nonprofits. UPMC? I’m afraid not,” Ravenstahl told “CBS This Morning.”

Source: Nonprofit hospital makes billions: Should it get a tax break? – CBS News.

I have been volunteering for a non-profit homeless shelter for over nine years now and the above descriptions show absolutely no similarity to any of the words above. We serve thousands in the local community each year on a shoe-sting budget, often wondering where the money will come from to stay open.  To hear of a corporation declaring a non-profit status while paying multi-million dollar salaries and gaudy perks is simply unconscionable to me. Forgetting all that how can a “non-profit” company declare almost a $billion in profits???

I have been collecting numerous articles about healthcare costs over the last few months and it seems that hospital costs are a major reason for the ever-increasing burden on all of us. There is little or no consistency on what each charges for similar procedures. There doesn’t seem to be much of an austerity mentality when it comes to hospital buildings and salaries.  Where I do see similarities is between hospital accountability and military expenses accountability. In other words there is little to no accountability in either one.

I do applaud the fact that President Obama was able to get a meager advance toward universal healthcare but where the focus should now be  is on cost containment. Get that in line and more coverage can be provided.  The simplest and most often used solution for healthcare cost containment is single-payer system. Much of the rest of the world discovered that decades ago and therefore don’t begin to be burdened with run-away costs as we are.  Since we stubbornly refuse to use the tried-and-true solution we will have to find something else.

Why aren’t my fiscally conservative friends in Washington screaming for that to happen.  The only solution they seem to see is to cut back on how many can get healthcare. Their only solution is to kill Obamacare and then attempt to do the same with Medicaid and Medicare and that as usual is no solution at all!

Apple CEO

A Senate panel late Monday accused Apple (AAPL) of using what it called a “complex web of offshore entities” to dodge billions of dollars in U.S. income taxes.

via Lawmakers say Apple dodged billions in taxes – CBS News.

If we could just manage to get a Centrist party in control of those folks in Washington one of the first things I would want them to attack is our bloated tax code. The 10,000 plus pages of rules are at the core of the above article. Of course businesses want to minimize their tax load in order to increase their profits.  That is, after all, what the free enterprise system is all about. Profits are the sole driver.

One of my major themes in my life lately has been around the word “Simplify”. Our world is just getting too complicated when it doesn’t have to be. Let’s throw out those 10,000 pages and replace them with just a handful. Let’s take away the means for corporations to move massive amounts of their income into tax exempt entities.

Let’s just make income well, income. If it comes in it is income and you pay a certain percentage of it as taxes to support our government and its business. For the individual that means you pay the same rate for income for profits from your investments as you do from the sweat of your brow. That means if you inherit income you pay your taxes on that amount in order to pass part of your windfall on for the common good.  You didn’t earn it so it is taxable income to you. For corporations money coming in is income; doesn’t matter if it was from a foreign sale or one in the U.S.

Lets Get a Centrist party in power and direct them to simplify our tax code. After they accomplish that then I would want them to give us “real” universal healthcare; not that pretend extremely watered down version called Obamacare. But first things first I guess and that is getting centrists into power in our government. Click on the logo below to see more about that.

Centrist Party

I was a small business owner for six years after I retired from the big business corporate world. But being a sole proprietor with no employees I really don’t have a good view of just what small businesses are really about. The Republican political leaders say small businesses are the growth engine of our country and we shouldn’t tax them by taking away the Bush tax cuts for those making over $250,000 annually.

How many of the so-called small businesses were like mine just a guy in a shop building things for customers? How many hire more than a handful of employees? I decided to look into this.

Here is a link to a bunch of numbers in this area:  http://www.census.gov/econ/smallbus.html 

  • There are approximately 29 million business in this country
  • Of those 29 million about 22 million are business with no employees
  • Only one million firms have more than 9 employees
  • Only 90,000 (0.3% have more than 100 employees
  • Across the United States, small business failure rates rose by 40% between 2007 and 2010
  • Only about one if five small businesses will be in existence five years after its creation

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The One That’s Out….

August 3, 2012

You know the more you read and observe about this Politics thing, you got to admit that each party is worse than the other. The one that’s out always looks the best. – December 31, 1922  – Will Rogers

In some ways not much has changed since Will’s day. For the most part the polls always seem to indicate that the party out of power has the lead in the early stages of most elections. They say that is true because we Americans don’t really start to consider who we want in our government until at least September of an election year.

But I must agree with the other part of this quote that each party is worse than the other. I had hopes that when Obama as campaigning in 2008 that it would be different this time. That there was finally someone seeking the Oval office who was as compassionate for the least of these as I was. I must admit that I am somewhat disappointed in President Obama’s actions since then. But I can’t place all the blame, and maybe not even the majority of it on him. I never anticipated the mean-spiritedness of our country in the last four years. Could any person have overcome that? I don’t know.

But I do know I expected more from Mr. Obama than he has been able to deliver. He had a change to bring us up to the rest of the world with universal healthcare but he backed away from that much to early in the process.  He had a chance to put our tax structure back to requiring those who are the most fortunate among us to pitch in a little more and he broke down and allowed the rich to keep their tax breaks that Mr. Bush lavishly gave them.

So, yes I am beginning to admit that each party seems to be worse than the other but I am not going to go that one step further and say that the one that is current out looks the best. The current out party could be more accurately labeled the do-nothing party. I can’t imagine our country if those yahoos actually get the reigns of government for another eight years as they did in the Bush administration. They almost brought the country down with their de-regulation schemes then so what could they damage this time around?

In my mind there is only one alternative and that is to keep the do-nothings out of power and hope that things might actually change in our poisonous environment in the next four years. Maybe then someone else can step up and actually make the changes I think are necessary to make us a compassionate nation.

But what do I know…..

Source: Is Canada Too Smug About Its Economic Future? – Businessweek.

Over the past four years, Canada has been feted as the country that does practically everything right. Its banks are beloved by everyone from economist Paul Krugman to Moody’s Investment Service (MCO), which rated them earlier this year as the safest in the world.

While U.S. politicians bickered for years over free-trade deals with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama, Canadians signed several pacts and launched free-trade talks with 50 other nations. Its economy has grown faster—and its debt has stayed smaller—than its Group of Seven peers.

Another success of Canada not mentioned in the quote above is that they have universal healthcare so thousands of citizens are not bankrupted each day due to overwhelming medical bills. When we were in Canada on vacation last year we mentioned that we spend about $1,000 per month on our health insurance and deductibles. My new Canadian friends were shocked to hear that.  They generally spend less than $50/month.

I want to celebrate Canada’s universal healthcare in this post. Here are some things that Wikipedia says about it:

Health care in Canada is delivered through a publicly funded health care system, which is mostly free at the point of use and has most services provided by private entities.[2] It is guided by the provisions of the Canada Health Act of 1984.  The government assures the quality of care through federal standards. The government does not participate in day-to-day care or collect any information about an individual’s health, which remains confidential between a person and his or her physician. Canada’s provincially based Medicare systems are cost-effective partly because of their administrative simplicity. In each province each doctor handles the insurance claim against the provincial insurer. There is no need for the person who accesses health care to be involved in billing and reclaim. Private insurance is only a minimal part of the overall health care system.  Competitive practices such as advertising are kept to a minimum, thus maximizing the percentage of revenues that go directly towards care.

The politicians who strongly oppose universal healthcare in the U.S. frequently state that those who have it are very unsatisfied with it. But if you actually ask them here is what Canadians say:

Canadians strongly support the health system’s public rather than for-profit private basis, and a 2009 poll by Nanos Research found 86.2% of Canadians surveyed supported or strongly supported “public solutions to make our public health care stronger.” A 2009 Harris/Decima poll found 82% of Canadians preferred their healthcare system to the one in the United States, more than ten times as many as the 8% stating a preference for a US-style health care system for Canada

I am a graph guy so I will close this post with a graph about the costs of our disjointed system compared to universal healthcare in most other countries:

Maybe now that we have the Supreme Court decision about our meager first step at universal healthcare we can start approaching what our Canadians neighbors are so proud of. I know in the title of this post I promised an ode, which is usually a song, but looking at the facts I do have music in my mind about future possibilities.

Source: Presidential campaign inevitably boosts war with Iran – latimes.com.

This should be a very somber topic for all of us but given the Republican presidential candidates it seems to be otherwise. The eagerness to go to war is far too dominant in those folks. One thing I am very disappointed in President Obama is his war stances. They were pretty much the opposite of what he campaigned on. He seems to be just one of the gang now; the change mantra has all but disappeared. Here are some stark words from the source article:

The truth is, Americans are not a peace-loving people. We pretend otherwise because it seems wrong to admit that the United States is a nation that has mostly benefited from war. We were not like the contented Canadians, who patiently waited for the Mother Country to bestow self-government. We went to war and tossed the British out. Through one war with Mexico and relentless wars with Indian tribes, we became a country that spanned a continent. The Spanish-American War and the First World War marked our arrival on the world stage. And the Second World War left us as one of the two preeminent powers on the planet…..

Put in less idealistic terms, our country is a national security state built on the vast military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about. Our government and our economy are permanently geared up for war, and very few Americans can remember a time when this was not so. It’s hard to imagine any president resisting the temptation to use this awesome force and even harder to imagine that a majority of Americans would ever elect a man who would.

These are very somber but true words about our country that we all need to recognize. President Eisenhower, who was one of the most famous generals in our history warned us in the 1950s that if we did not fend it off we were headed toward an uncontrollable military-industrial complex. It seems that very few of our leaders since that time have heeded his words. Our military has eaten up a large portion of our tax dollars.  The vast majority of it goes to the weapons providers, not the kids who are din uniform. It doesn’t seem to matter if we are in a full scale war at the time or not the Pentagon constantly insist that to “keep us safe” they must have more and more.

The best thing that was done after defeating Japan in World War II was to dictate to them that they could not have a standing army.  The perhaps unintended consequence of that action was to allow them to put that money into their civilian industry that would  a mere twenty years later threaten our economic dominance. Most countries in the world realize that if they spend on a war machine they have to take the money from somewhere else to make that happen.  Instead of spending on weapons most other industrialized countries have chosen to spend it on their citizens, many in the form of universal healthcare among other things. We could have done likewise but chose a different more destructive path. It is not too late to change our minds…

But what do I know…