Wednesday, February 6, 2008


"Managed Care" was supposed to be the solution to rising health costs. HMOs would cut out the waste and keep an eye on doctors who ordered unnecessary tests and procedures, saving consumers big money. But it was the HMOs that made the big money–by restricting care.

Their philosophy was summed up by Richard Rainwater, cofounder of the for-profit HMO Columbia-HCA: “The day has come when somebody has to do in the hospital business what McDonald’s has done in the fast-food business and what Wal-Mart has done in the retailing business.”

Poll after poll shows that a majority of Americans want a national health system that guarantees care for everyone. In fact, a Wall Street Journal survey found that more than half of those asked would be willing to pay $2,000 a year extra in taxes to guarantee health care for those who don’t have access to it.
What exists in the U.S. today is really two health-care systems: one for the haves and one for the have-nots. For the rich, no expense is spared in using the latest techniques and technology on medical problems.

For the rest, health care is “rationed.” Drugs and treatments that could help people live longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives are often beyond reach because of a bewildering array of restrictions–imposed in the interests of the bottom line.

So it’s no surprise that the most important factors determining a person’s health have nothing to do with diet or exercise or smoking. The most important factors are social class and race.

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