News Item: Supreme Court Lets Health Law Largely Stand
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday left standing the basic provisions of the health care overhaul, ruling that the government may use its taxation powers to push people to buy health insurance.
News item: Stockton, California, To File For Bankruptcy Protection
Stockton, California, said it will file for bankruptcy after talks with bondholders and labor unions failed, making the agricultural center the biggest U.S. city to seek court protection from creditors.
“Retirees are not going to be happy,” said Dale Ginter, who represented retired Vallejo workers in that city’s bankruptcy. “My prediction is that retiree health care is cut. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it cut to zero.”
The news hit this morning that the Supreme Court upheld the ACA act (frequently called “ObamaCare”). Regardless of your position on this, it might be good to take a look at the over all question: what about health care?
The city of Stockton, CA just decided to declare bankruptcy partly because of looming health care obligations of their retired employees. Other cities are in the pipeline for this problem, which will undoubtedly continue to spread.
In an increasingly out-sourced world, with people working at jobs that are not quite like the jobs of yesteryear, a growing percentage of Americans simply do not have/can not afford health care.
Of all the books I have read about the actual problem, “what can we do about health care?”, the best book I’ve read is The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T. R. Reid (New York: The Penguin Press. 2009). T. R. Reid is a respected and experienced journalist. He also has lived and worked as a journalist in many different foreign countries. He also has a bad shoulder. From the book:
“On the personal level, I was hoping to find some relief from my ailing right shoulder, which I bashed badly decades ago as a seaman, second, class, in the U.S. Navy. In 1972, a navy surgeon (literally) screwed the joint back together, and that repair job worked for a while. Over time, though, the stainless-steel screw in my clavicle loosened; my shoulder grew increasingly painful and hard to move. By the first decade of the twenty-first century, I could no longer swing a golf club, I could barely reach up to replace a lightbulb overhead of get the wineglasses from the top shelf. Yearning for surcease from sorrow, I took the bum shoulder to doctors and clinics in countires around the world.”
An international journalist, with a bum shoulder… This unique perspective certainly gives Mr. Reid a unique perspective from which to study this issue. Here are a number of key quotes from his book:
Government and academic studies report that more than 20,000 Americans die in the prime of life each year from medical problems that could be treated, because they can’t afford to see a doctor. That doesn’t happen in any other developed country. Hundreds of thousands of Americans go bankrupt every year because of medical bills. That doesn’t happen in any other developed country either.
Efforts to change the system tend to be derailed by arguments about “big government” or “free enterprise” or “socialism” — and the essential moral question gets lost in the shouting.
All the other developed countries on earth have made a different moral decision. Countries that are just as committed as we are to equal opportunity, individual liberty, and the free-market have concluded that everybody has a right to health care — and they provide it. One result is that most rich countries have better national health statistics — longer life expectancy, lower infant mortality, better recovery rates for major diseases — than the United States does. Yet all the other rich countries spend far less on healthcare than the United States does.
The primary issue for any healthcare system is a moral one.
If we want to fix American healthcare, we first have to answer a basic question: should we guarantee medical treatment to everyone who needs it?
All the developed countries I looked at provide health coverage for every resident, old or young, rich or poor. This is the underlying moral principle of the health care system in every rich country – every one, that is, except the United States.
How many people go bankrupt because of medical bills? In Britain, zero. In France, zero. In Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland: zero. In the United States, according to a joint study by Harvard Law School and Harvard Medical School, the annual figure is around 700,000.
For all the money America spends on health care, our health outcomes are worse on many basic measures than those in countries that spend much less.
The United States is the only developed country that relies on profit-making health insurance companies to pay for essential and elective care…
All the other developed countries have decided that basic health insurance must be a nonprofit operation. In those countries, the insurance plans – sometimes run by government, sometimes private entities – exist only to pay people’s medical bills, not to provide dividends for investors… The U.S. private insurance industry has the highest administrative costs of any health care payer in the world.
And here is the simple summary of his solution:
• Problem: Too many people without health care.
• Solution: Health care for all.
The ACA is now the established law of the land. There will still be many political battles to come. But, for me, there is always the simple brilliance of the Geritol commercial that I remember from so many years ago (watch that old commercial here):
“We’ve got so much to be thankful for. We’ve got our health and when you’ve got your health you’ve got just about everything.”
The older I get, the more I realize just how true these words are. And health care is pretty connected to the whole idea of “you’ve got your health…”
Karl Krayer and I have just completed our 12th year of monthly presentations of business books at the First Friday Book Synopsis.
Our webmaster (thanks, Dana!) has just uploaded a number of these on our companion website, 15minutebusinessbooks.com. When you purchase one of our presentations, you receive the handout, which includes representative key quotes from the book, and an outline of the content of the book. In addition, you receive the audio of our synopsis in an MP3 format, which you can listen to on your computer, load into your iPhone/iPod, of use in any other way you would like.
The way to take maximum advantage of this is obvious – listen to the recording while following along with the handout. This is what the participants at our live monthly event do each month. But you can get plenty of information by listening alone while you work-out or drive, or just by reading the handout alone.
Here’s a testimonial from the CEO of a mid-sized, growing company. He knew that a client was a fan of one the books we had presented, and wanted to discuss the book’s implications for his business. The CEO purchased our synopsis from our site, read over the handout (he did not have time to listen to the audio), and then met with his client. The client had read the book – the CEO had not. As they discussed the book, it was clear that our handout had provided enough of the important content that the CEO actually had a better grasp of the key content and transferable principles of the book than the other person had, who had actually read the book.
If you have never ordered from us, you might want to read the FAQ’s to understand where these presentations and recordings were made, and learn a little more about what we offer. Some of these were presented by my colleague Karl Krayer, and the others were presentations I made.
Here is a partial list of the new titles now available on our site. And more are coming each month.
Book author(s) Richard Wiseman
Presented at FFBS in 2010 March
|The Design of Business
Book author(s) Roger Martin
Presented at FFBS in 2010 February
Book author(s) Susan Scott
Presented at FFBS in TYBTL
|The Healing of America
Book author(s) TR Reid
Presented at the Urban Engagement Book Club
Book author(s) Robert Bloom with Dave Conti
|Mastering the Rockefeller Habits
Book author(s) Verne Harnish
Book author(s) Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Presented at FFBS in 2010 February
Book author(s) Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner
Presented at FFBS in 2009 December
Book author(s) Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Presented at FFBS in 2010 March
Book author(s) Kevin Maney
Presented at FFBS in 2010 January
Book author(s) Seth Godin
Presented at FFBS in 2009 January
|Tyranny of Email
Book author(s) John Freeman
Presented at FFBS in 2010 January
Next Thursday, January 7, at noon at the Urban Engagement Book Club sponsored by Central Dallas Ministries, I will present a synopsis of the book The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T. R. Reid. It provides great and comprehensive information about the health care issue, and if you have the time, I invite you to attend. (Details here). For me, it has been an important book to read.
Here are a few key quotes from the book:
Twenty two thousand Americans (USA) die each year from treatable diseases (because they do not have health care).
Does a wealthy country have an ethical obligation to provide access to health care for everybody? Do we want to live in a society that lets tens of thousands of our neighbors die each year, and hundreds of thousands face financial ruin, because they can’t afford medical care when they’re sick?… Every developed country except the United States has reached the same conclusion: Everybody should have access to medical care. Having made that decision, the other nations have organized health care systems to meet that fundamental moral goal…
At the start of the twenty-first century, the world’s riches and most powerful nation does not have the world’s best health care system. But we could… We can heal America’s ailing health care system – and the world’s other industrialized democracies can show us how to do it.
Whereas all other nations work from the time the line turns blue to introduce a healthy new person into their health care system, the United States first attends to its poorest mothers and newborns in the hospital on delivery day… Until we adopt a health care system that encourages it, preventive health care sill remain largely inaccessible to far too many Americans.
(Though there is legitimate debate re. the health care rankings of countries, this is clear and not in dispute): there is a coterie of developed countries that are providing quality health care, distributing it fairly and equitably – and doing all that for much less money than the United States is spending.
This is an unusual, surprising dedication for a book on health care. But it is exactly the dedication by the author T. R. Reid for his superb book The Healing of America: A Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care. Near the beginning of the book, he describes how many of the health care systems in other countries, that actually do work better than our own system, are not examples of “socialism,” as some (many) charge. Here’s a key excerpt:
“So the problem isn’t “socialism.” The real problem with those foreign health care systems is that they’re foreign. That offends the mind-set – sometimes referred to as American exceptionalism – that says our strong, wealthy, and enormously productive country is sui generis and doesn’t need to borrow any ideas from the rest of the world. Anybody who dares to say that other countries do something better than we do is likely to be labeled unpatriotic or anti-American… The real patriot, the person who genuinely loves his country, or college, of company, is the person who recognizes its problems and tires to fix them.
So, what about the Eisenhower dedication? In 1944, then General Eisenhower had envisioned “months of painful slogging across a shattered German countryside. But then his forward commanders reported an amazing discovery: a broad ribbon of highway, the best road system anybody had ever seen, stretching straight through the heart of Germany. This was the autobahn network…”
As President, facing the need to build a true highway system in the United States, Eisenhower remembered this German system, and fought for – no, basically mandated – the same plans to be ultimately built here, the aptly named “Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways” (our Interstate Highway System).
The lesson was clear. First, stare firmly at the problem, so that you can identify the exact nature of the problem. Then, ask, where in the world —I mean, literally, where in the world, is there a solution to borrow from, learn from? And if the solution comes from elsewhere, that’s ok. We’re not proud. We can learn from others. We really are more concerned about fixing our problem than we are about our own (maybe too arrogant) reputation.
This is the subject of Reid’s book – where can we borrow from, learn form, to fix our broken health care system. The underlying principle – to learn from anywhere and everywhere – is a pretty good business lesson for us all to embrace.