Where's The Morality? 45,000 Deaths Per Year--The Real Cost of The Current Health Care "System"

by: Paul Rosenberg

Sat Sep 19, 2009 at 16:30


A new study (prepublication draft here) by Harvard researchers finds that lack of insurance is responsible for about 45,000 deaths per year.  This is the equivalent of the ninth-leading cause of death according to CDC statistics--none of the others of which can be reduced to zero by a simple act of Congress.  A 1993 study put the figure then at 18,000 deaths annually.  The new study was an update of the earlier one.

Reuters:

Nearly 45,000 people die in the United States each year - one every 12 minutes - in large part because they lack health insurance and can not get good care, Harvard Medical School researchers found in an analysis released on Thursday.

"We're losing more Americans every day because of inaction ... than drunk driving and homicide combined," Dr. David Himmelstein, a co-author of the study and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard, said in an interview with Reuters.

Overall, researchers said American adults age 64 and younger who lack health insurance have a 40 percent higher risk of death than those who have coverage.

The findings come amid a fierce debate over Democrats' efforts to reform the nation's $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare industry by expanding coverage and reducing healthcare costs.

BTW, using the EPA's standard valuation for a human life, $6.9 million, that works out to an annual cost of $310.5 billion--about 1/8 (12.5%) of the total 2.5 trillion spent on health care.

On Friday, guest host Lawrence O'Donnell began Countdown's healthcare coverage by reporting on the findings:

Unfortunately, O'Donnell didn't stay focused on the report for long, but it was the introductory frame he used.

Paul Rosenberg :: Where's The Morality? 45,000 Deaths Per Year--The Real Cost of The Current Health Care "System"
Our Versailles masters have made the judgment that talking too much about the uninsured will "turn off" those have insurance, and those are the only voters that matter.  This assumption rests on conservative morality that people only care about themselves--unless, of course, they get whipped up over abortion, or ACORN, or imaginary death panels, or whatever.

But the very essence of the liberal vision is that we are all in this together.  That's what Locke's Social Contract Theory was all about: government is legitimated by the fact that none of us can securely enjoy any liberty by ourselves.  Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are secured by our mutual agreement, far beyond our capacity to secure them individually by ourselves.

Of course, Locke was hardly the first liberal. There was this Jewish fellah, name of Jesus who said, "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

So I sort of have to wonder why we can be having this health care debate without the whole thing being constantly framed in terms of our general welfare.  You know, like it says in the Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America....

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States;

So, where are liberal values in this debate, anyway? Where are America's founding values?

Why is the health-care debate so damned un-American?


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Agreed (4.00 / 1)
Our Versailles masters have made the judgment that talking too much about the uninsured will "turn off" those have insurance, and those are the only voters that matter.  This assumption rests on conservative morality that people only care about themselves--unless, of course, they get whipped up over abortion, or ACORN, or imaginary death panels, or whatever.

Much of the rhetoric around ACORN, death panels, and abortion (not to mention taxes and government take overs) is really about penalizing the undeserving to assert that others (self included) are deserving.  It's actually not self-interested (I don't just mean it's not really in their self-interest, I mean it is other regarding, in its own way.)

That said, it's certainly true as you said that those Democrats who are pushing this approach do think it's about self interest, which is why they are incapable of responding appropriately - to tell someone 'don't worry, you won't pay the estate tax' (one of my favorite examples) is wholly irrelevant, which is why it does not work.

Your alternative, on the other hand, is exactly what is required.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


Small Minds Attuned To Small Problems (4.00 / 2)
They're very, very good at the small stuff.  It's what they've devoted their entire lives to.  But--not to denigrate the small stuff--the details they've mastered don't mean a thing if they aren't put together properly.

There actually is a time and place to pull out most of the responses they've come up with.  But that's way on down the line after the big-picture debate about basic values has been fought and decisively won.

Instead, these small-minded operatives are determined that we never will have any sort of meaningful mention--much less discussion (or, God forbid, debate)--of just what liberal values are, and why they matter.

Which is why they are totally incapable of winning anything, even if they sometimes actually want it.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
Preach it, Brother Rosenberg! (4.00 / 3)
Maybe I'm feeling feisty today because, for the first time since I was a little kid, I heard the story told on a major media outlet (Bill Moyers last night) of the CIO's perfidious betrayal of the left. It was delicious. (George Meany was proud of never having walked a picket line. When Lane Kirkland died, Time eulogized him as "Lane Kirkland, Anti-Communist.") To add icing to the cake, class warfare was actually mentioned as the real genesis of Republican -- and Democratic -- beggar-thy-neighbor social policies. I honestly thought for a minute that I'd died and gone to heaven.

And now this -- Jesus, Locke and the Preamble to the Constitution in successive paragraphs. Maybe we can get control of this argument after all, and send the capitalist freebooters and their right-wing goon squads back to the Slough of Despond where they belong.


[ Parent ]
I've always said ... (4.00 / 1)
that we could fight fire with fire .. meaning .. if the Right wants to go all religious .. lets go there .. because we have the better leg to stand on so to speak ... talking about peace .. helping your neighbor .. and all that ... I know it is an old and worn out cliche .. but there is not "Outside the box" thinking going on in Democratic circles in D.C. .. who creates the talking points for most DC Democrats? .. cause those talking points suck .. it's why more readers here need to get involved with local party politics .. the only way we are gonna change it is from the inside .. basically .. we need to take back the party from the corporate whores

[ Parent ]
This teas up (0.00 / 0)
the central question for progressives:

Is it moral to oppose a bill that substantially reduces issues around health care access if it does not include the public option?

I can't answer that question any other way than no.


Except That (4.00 / 2)
It's not clear how much of a difference a bad system would make. It's devilishly hard to make out the impacts of having insurance in name only for most conditions.

After all, a big part of why we have the worst health care outcomes among all industrial nations is because of "great leap forward" we took back in WWII, which vastly expanded coverage then, too.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
Or in other words.... (4.00 / 1)
If, forty years ago, you'd asked a guy with a stall in the Fulton Fish Market why he paid off the Mafia, he'd have just rolled his eyes. Then he would have told you in no uncertain terms to go back to Canarsie, or the CCNY Sociology Department, or wherever the hell it was you came from, before you got hurt.

A protection racket is a protection racket is a protection racket. Without breaking some knuckles in the health care industry (or to put it in polite terms, without a robust public option)  you can't guarantee both access and adequate care without bankrupting the government. What's more, once Cigna and Wellpoint and Genentech and Bristol-Myers Squibb get done stuffing their own pockets, there'll be plenty left over to buy senators.

Fuck what happens to the rest of us.


[ Parent ]
Always with the hypotheticals.... (4.00 / 1)
Is it moral to oppose a bill that substantially reduces issues around health care access if it does not include the public option?

If the final bill actually does what you suggest -- at this point, it's difficult to see exactly how that could be possible -- then let's talk.

In the meantime, I think Chomsky and Taibbi have a better take on this than either Ezra Klein or Digby.


[ Parent ]
A co-author of the study is single payer advocate... (4.00 / 4)
Dr. Stephanie Woolhandler, of PNHP, which released the study on Thursday of last week.

There's a lot of good research material at PNHP; it's unfortunate that neither they, nor their policy prescription, have been at the table. Thanks for putting this up.

I am in earnest -- I will not equivocate -- I will not excuse -- I will not retreat a single inch -- AND I WILL BE HEARD.  


As is Dave Himmelstein, also quoted in the piece. (4.00 / 2)
They've both been fighting for single-payer, and fighting against the for-profiteers and their servants in government, for more than 35 years.

Single-payer, of course -- according to Obama -- is the only way to get truly universal coverage.


[ Parent ]
Gee! (4.00 / 1)
He did?!? Then why didn't progressive blogs advocate for it? Say, back in 2008?

I am in earnest -- I will not equivocate -- I will not excuse -- I will not retreat a single inch -- AND I WILL BE HEARD.  

[ Parent ]
Obama admitted it THIS year. (0.00 / 0)
"why didn't progressive blogs advocate for it?"

I don't know. I DO know that many "progressive" blogs seem to support and/or excuse many anti-progressive positions and actions of Obama and the D leadership.

And -- of course -- such "progressives" also peddle the evil-lesser scam, which translates to "vote for Ds no matter how anti-progressive their positions and actions are."  


[ Parent ]
I know that Ian Welsh was very good (4.00 / 2)
about consistently addressing how awful it was that Obama and the Dems were allowing the health care reform argument to be framed almost entirely in terms of dollars and cents (once again, allowing the Rethugs to set the terms of the debate). I wish more bloggers had hammered away at that early on.

The amazing thing to me... (4.00 / 2)
... is that dollars and cents works on single payer. In fact, it's the only proposal with evidence that shows money savings based on experience in other countries. Nevertheless, except for tiny chinks of light like this one, the media blackout continues -- and in the "progressive" blogosphere, too.

I am in earnest -- I will not equivocate -- I will not excuse -- I will not retreat a single inch -- AND I WILL BE HEARD.  

[ Parent ]
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