The Gadfly

And The Republicans Put The Repeal On ObamaCare For Forty Days

Ed Raymond

Oh, those House Republicans. They are a religious bunch. They seem to be hung up on Genesis 7:12 and other verses referring to forty days when it comes to their endless political war against ObamaCare. They have now tried to repeal or defund it forty times by vote without success. Genesis 7:12 proclaims that when God was so disgusted with His creation, He decided to start over: “And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.” The Republicans are trying to cleanse the American people of ObamaCare with a vote downpour as God tried to cleanse the entire earth of human failings by a precipitous downpour.

   The Bible has dozens of references to “forty days,” so evidently forty is something Republicans can count up to and understand. Embalming required forty days so the person was prepared to go into a new life, the afterlife. Moses was on the mountain with God for forty days. The Israelites wandered through the wilderness for forty years, one year for each day they explored the Promised Land. In Samuel 17:16, for forty days, twice a day, morning and evening, the Philistine giant Goliath strutted in front of the Israelite army before being clobbered by David. And after the crucifixion, Jesus appeared to disciples over a period of forty days. Experts say there are twenty distinct references on how to treat the poor in the Bible. Concentrating on the number twenty would be easier than sweating over forty. If the Republicans would examine “twenty” with the same religious fervor they have for “forty,” they might discover that ObamaCare is designed specifically to assist the poor to a healthy, longer life.

What If ObamaCare Stays On The Rails Instead Of Being A Train Wreck?

The Republicans keep saying that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or ObamaCare, is totally unworkable. So instead of wasting thousands of hours and millions of dollars fighting it, why not relax, sit back, let it fail, and then say, “We told you so”? If ObamaCare fails, Democrats will have to take the blame for really screwing up.

Republicans tried the same obstructions with Social Security and Medicare in the past. But already parts of the ACA law have forced insurance companies to give substantial rebates to 13 million Americans for being overcharged. Three million uninsured young adults under 26 are now on their parents’ health insurance. Soon there will be no more pre-existing conditions ranging from hangnails to cancer that insurance companies use to prevent coverage health. The California and New York insurance exchanges are receiving premium bids below what are presently being charged.

The Republicans (not a single Republican voted for ACA) realize that if ACA is even partially successful, they will be dead meat in the next election. I think they are scared to death. They remind me of a school district in very red Republican Indiana that said it wasted $300,000 because the kids rejected Michelle Obama’s “Healthy Lunch” program. Obama-hating students dumped vegetables and fruit into garbage cans and said they would rather skip lunch and go hungry. Nothing like politics to bring out the worst in people. Republicans are doing everything they can to keep ACA from being implemented. They hope to deny coverage to many who lack health insurance and to keep millions from getting better and cheaper insurance. Norm Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute described this as “simply unacceptable, even contemptible” behavior: “One might expect this kind of behavior from a few grenade-throwing firebrands... but the fact the Republican leadership is going along with these actions takes one’s breath away.”

What Is The Republican Health Care Program Anyway?

One might think that if a political party votes forty times to repeal a health care law, it would have something to replace it. But what is the Republican health care program? They won’t say. Evidently it involves the idea of letting the uninsured poor die before the age of 65.  It will save billions in Social Security and Medicare.

I call it the LETMDY Program.
Or maybe it’s the same program we had before the passage of the ACA. Before ObamaCare, we averaged 18,000 unnecessary deaths a year from lack of health care, 14,000 Americans lost their health insurance each year, over 35 percent who applied for insurance each year were rejected, 46 million did not have insurance although 80 percent worked full-time, 100,000 patients died from infections caught in hospitals and clinics, and we spent twice as much on health care as any other industrialized country, over $8,300 per capita, for a total of $2.7 trillion. All this while the average family health insurance premium was much more than the annual earnings of a full-time minimum wage earner.

Greed seems to be the primary motivator behind health care costs, not the restoration of health of citizens. Before ACA, hospitals charged patients and Medicare $108 for a tube of bacitracin that sold for $5 at CVS pharmacies. A three-hour emergency room visit for chest pain often resulted in a $20,000 bill. Cardiac stress tests costing $2,000 were increased to $8,000 in one year after a doctor’s cardiology practice was bought by a hospital. And so it went.

Want A Quote On The Price Of Maternity Care? How About $4,000 To $45,000?

New York Times reporter Elizabeth Rosenthal in her article “American Way of Birth, Costliest in the World” covered the situation of a married couple, two professionals, who had insurance but did not have maternity coverage. (ObamaCare will cover these costs when fully implemented.) The prospective mother called the local hospital finance office for an estimate. At first the finance officer said he didn’t know, but later came up with a range of $4,000 to $45,000! Later, a 20-minute ultrasound cost her $1,191.

A normal vaginal delivery in the U.S. runs about $30,000, a C-Section about $50,000. However, Medicaid pays an average of $9,131 for vaginal births and $13,590 for C-Sections. According to the organization Childbirth Connection, women with insurance pay out another $3,400 on average for miscellaneous treatment. As an example, removing the placenta is often a separate charge. A splash of gentian violet to disinfect the umbilical cord costs $20 in the maternity room—but you can buy dozens of splashes in a bottle of it at Walgreen for $2.59. An epidural shot to relieve pain runs $750 in the U.S. but only $100 in Germany.

If You Hate ObamaCare And Love The Republican Health Care Plan, You Will Support Everything The Old System Did To This Victim

Rosenthal, who covers health care for the New York Times, had another health care article  on August 4 titled “In Need Of A New Hip, But Priced Out Of The U.S.” This article catalogs all of the horrors of health care and insurance vulture policies in this country. The main character in this story of greed, fraud, and incompetence is Michael Shopenn, an architectural photographer with health insurance. He had so much pain from a bad hip he needed an artificial hip joint, so he checked to make sure his health insurance would cover it. Oh no, said the insurance company: “You have a pre-existing condition related to an old sports injury. We will not cover the joint.”
  So Michael checked with a friend who could get an implant from the manufacturer for $13,000 (costing the grand sum of $350 to manufacture), the list price with no markup. Then Michael got an estimate from the finance officer of his Boulder, Colorado, hospital for the hospital charges. These charges would run about $65,000—without the surgeon’s fee. So altogether, the implant would run about $100,000, give or take more thousands hidden in medical bills.

So Michael checked prices overseas in Asia and Europe. He found a deal in Brussels, Belgium, for $13,660—for everything associated with the implantation of the artificial joint. That price covered all doctor’s fees, operating room, medicine, a hospital room for five days, another week in rehab, crutches, and a round-trip airline ticket from Boulder! And Belgium hospitals have infection rates among the lowest in the world—and don’t operate gift shops!  Michael said after his overseas experience, “We have the most expensive health care in the world, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best. I’m kind of the poster child for that.”

Rosenthal has discovered that joint manufacturers often employ doctors, consultants, and other middlemen to sell implants. There are as many as 13 levels of profit-making entities between the surgeon actually implanting the joint and the manufacturer making it for $350. (Asian manufacturers make the same joint for $150.) By the time the implant is in the operating room, it may have a price tag of $50,000 to $60,000 on it. That’s why some hospital charge as much as $223,000 for a joint implant. Welcome to the bizarre world of U.S. medicine ObamaCare is trying to change. A Twitter response from a reader of Rosenthal’s story: “American medical costs would be hilarious if they weren’t a national disgrace that led to actual pain and suffering.”

E-mails, Tweets, And Letters To Rosenthal Reveal More Horrors About U.S. Medical Care

*** “I am a Canadian citizen living in the USA. If I needed a medical procedure I would go home for it. No doubt in my mind whatsoever. I have health insurance through my job here, but it’s peanuts compared to the care I can get for free at home.”
*** “I had an aortic dissection in Australia. We called an emergency number, a doctor answered and we described my condition and she demanded that I be in an emergency room immediately... I was in the hospital for three weeks, ten days in Intensive Care. I had many scans, a team of vascular doctors, meds—all at an incredibly low cost. No charges for the team of doctors. Estimated cost in the USA was about $300,000. My cost in Australia was about $38,000, all inclusive.”

*** “I recently went to Mexico and had a vertical sleeve gastrectomy (a form of bariatric surgery in which the size of the stomach is reduced by 80 percent). I had a uniformly fantastic experience. My surgeon was one of the most experienced in the world in this type of procedure; his staff was caring and professional; the clinic was clean and comfortable. By going to Mexico, I was able to get the entire procedure plus my three-day hotel stay for $8,700, a fraction of what it would have cost in the U.S.”
*** “I had my gall bladder removed in India. It was the same procedure, laproscoptic, that I would have had in America. The final cost was $1,300, compared to the $16,000 estimate in the U.S. I believe our medical system is a travesty; built around overly requiring services (and certifications), while letting the poorest of us go without anything. As for India—my digestive system started rebelling immediately after the procedure. I would recommend either going to Thailand instead (where the food is more familiar to us gringos) or flying out of India after the procedure.”

*** “A few times I had excellent medical care in Europe. Two years ago I went to three doctors in New York for a diagnostic. I did a ton of medical tests, nobody could find the source of my severe pain. A doctor in Europe just listening to my symptoms and asking if I bicycle, diagnosed me: pudendal neuralgia (a nerve was depressed). No treatment, just no bicycle and big physical effort for a few months and the pain indeed disappeared. The cost of the doctor (one of the best in that country) appointment: $50.”

ObamaCare Is Based On Three Simple Ideas

This is why the Republicans hate ObamaCare. 1) It gives all Americans access to affordable insurance, even if they have pre-existing conditions. 2) Healthy people need to buy insurance to share the costs with those who are not healthy. 3) Government subsidies will allow all to purchase health insurance. Of course, if you are an immortal Republican, you will never need health insurance. A forty-day prayer indulgence should always relieve hemorrhoids.