Seumas on Health Care

Is it too much to ask for factual accuracy in a newspaper?

UnitedHealth is the largest healthcare corporation in the US, making billions of dollars a year out of cherry-picking patients and treatments, squeezing costs and restricting benefits to 70 million Americans forced to get by in the developed world\’s only fully privatised health system.

The US does not have a fully privatised health care system, nothing like. For one thing, "privatised" means that it was once a socially provided system which was then returned to the private sector. As the US system has never been fully socially provided, "private" might have done, but "privatised" is simply incorrect.

It\’s also entirely incorrect because the US system is not fully private either. With Medicare, Medicaid, the VA and so on something like 50% of the US system is in fact socially provided. In the UK, it\’s 90%. What we have here is a difference in emphasis, not the complete divide that Milne is suggesting.

Last month, UnitedHealth agreed with insurance regulators in 36 states to pay out $20m in fines for failures in processing claims and responding to patient complaints. That follows a string of other fines over delayed payments, Medicare fraud and "cheating patients out of money" in New York State.

It\’s a different way of doing it, for sure, but then that\’s the way the US does its regulating, through the courts. It might not be the best system ever but it contrasts quite nicely with how the NHS Trusts deal with their own failures, doesn\’t it? Wasn\’t that manager in line for a £250,000 pay off for presiding over the deaths by infection of 100 or so people before the mob started to bay?

a compelling indictment of the US health system – under which 18,000 Americans die a year because they are uninsured.

Interesting number I\’ve not seen before. Anyone know where it comes from?Worth contrasting that with the 100,000 Americans a year who die because they do get medical treatment though, isn\’t it? And how many does the NHS kill?

I agree with him that the current reforms don\’t look all that good, and that recent ones have not performed as advertised: but why is it necessary to make such statements clearly not grounded in reality to try and bolster the case?

4 comments on “Seumas on Health Care

  1. The misunderstandings about the US healthcare system are astonishing. Anyone without a job is automatically enrolled into state healthcare programmes, as you mentioned Tim.

    The problem is that most people get health insurance through their employer, but people who have low paid jobs don’t get insurance because their employers can’t afford it – so it’s actually better sometimes to be unemployed than in a low paid job. Major trap for the US economy.

  2. I have seen the 18,000 figure before. I believe its a high end estimate.

    Compare it with the 19,000 who die of infections caught whilst in hospital.

    I believe it was Megan McArdle who pointed this out recently – and asked would you prefer universal health care or a ‘war on unclean hospitals’ because you can’t have both…

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