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Beyond Dollars: The Real Cost of the U.S. Health Care System 

By Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, www.NewsTarget.com

 
The real cost of our modern health care system isn't at all what you might think. It's not the cost of paying for prescription drugs, surgical procedures or medical imaging tests. The real costs goes way beyond that, because it's the cost of losing our global competitiveness as an industrialized nation.

How can health care costs make an entire nation uncompetitive? Consider the fact that General Motors spends $1,500 per car health care costs alone. That's a huge financial burden that simply doesn't exist in countries like Japan or Korea where medicine is substantially more affordable for a number of reasons, including the fact that those nations have no FDA protecting a national drug monopoly.

Across corporate America, companies are finding that paying the extravagant health care costs of U.S. workers is driving them flat out of business. Due to the nature of the increasingly global marketplace (or what author Thomas Friedman calls the "flat world" economy), U.S. businesses are forced to cut costs or nosedive into bankruptcy. And part of the cost-cutting equation involves shifting jobs overseas to countries where not only are the wages lower, but the health care costs are substantially lower as well.

India's workforce is not merely attractive because the people work for fewer dollars per hour, it's also because health insurance in India (and throughout Asia) is acquired at a fraction of the price of health insurance in the U.S. Just how small of a fraction am I talking about? Consider this:

In Taiwan, working citizens are covered for merely $20 per month (in U.S. dollars). That $20 per month pays everything: Dental, maternity, prescription drugs, surgical procedures, imaging tests, you name it. Co-pays are stunningly affordable too. A $50 cash co-pay gets a citizen a collection of prescription drugs that easily exceed $1,000 in retail cost here in the U.S.

Similar cost efficiencies are present throughout Southeast Asia, in countries like Thailand, South Korea, China, Malaysia and even the Philippines. In fact, health care is so darned affordable in these countries that hoards of Americans are fleeing the U.S. medical system on "medical tourism" trips that include airfare, a five-star hotel, a grand tour of a fascinating nation and a complete surgical procedure ... all for a fraction of the cost of the surgical procedure alone in the United States.

That's how expensive and inefficient organized medicine has become in the U.S. People can actually fly half-way around the world, take in a full vacation, and get the exact same procedure done (in a modern, high-tech medical facility, too, by the way) for a lot less than the same procedure at the hospital down the road.

So now we're not just exporting our jobs, our dollars and our intellectual capital in this country, we're also exporting our medical industry. We're driving customers away from the U.S. in droves, and we're driving businesses out of business at the same time.

It's not just the private sector that's suffering from this either: The public sector is going broke, too, thanks to medical costs. Cities, counties and states are almost universally overdrawn in terms of their future health care obligations to retirees. Most such benefits programs have zero funds set aside, and with health care costs continuing to escalate at a rate that vastly outpaces inflation, by the time today's workers start retiring and claiming their health benefits, there's hardly a city or state in this entire nation that will be left financially solvent. Organized medicine is, truly, about to bankrupt this country at every level imaginable.

How Did This Happen?

And yet, all the talk about solving this problem is little more than a distraction from the real problem. So-called "solutions" to the health care crisis in this country add up to clumsily cutting benefits and shifting costs to other parties. They do nothing to address the fundamental cause of the health care cost tar pit in which we now find ourselves solidly stuck.

What are those fundamental causes? Namely, that the system is essentially operated like an organized crime ring, where the aim is to maximize profits, not to serve the public good.

How do you maximize profits? It's easy: You monopolize the domestic drug market (thank you, FDA), you keep people sick by avoiding any discussion of prevention, you stomp on the competition by outlawing or discrediting alternative medicine, and you create a regulatory environment where manufacturers and promoters of junk foods, soft drinks and other disease-promoting groceries are allowed to spend unlimited dollars on promotion and propaganda (especially to children).

In any such system, billions of dollars in profit will always flow to the drug companies. The negative side effect, of course, is that, practically, the entire nation will be sick and diseased:

You see, the cost of our modern health care system is not found in the dollars and cents that might be shown in a colorful chart. The real cost is less obvious. It's the loss of productivity, the loss of jobs, the loss of longevity and quality of life. It's the loss of the health of an entire generation of children who will never be as healthy as their grandparents because their own mothers failed to follow even basic prenatal nutrition (not to mention what they fed those kids while they were growing up).

You'll see it hit home even harder in the months and years ahead. General Motors, I predict, will either go bankrupt or be bailed out, perhaps in a protection manner, by the federal government. Which means, of course, that taxpayers will be indirectly subsidizing the financial insolvencies caused by our system of monopoly medicine.

These acts are just "band-aids" on a system that is hemorrhaging at its core. Our highly corrupt system of organized medicine is bleeding this nation dry. Families, cities, states, corporations and entire governments are squarely positioned to be financially obliterated by organized medicine. And, believe me, there are plenty of other nations ready to take our place as the dominant economic force in the world. China comes immediately to mind...

Real Wealth Is Great Health

I say we cannot experience economic growth by paying each other higher and higher fees for the symptomatic treatment of ubiquitous diseases. The fact that well over half our population is chronically diseased, and 40 percent or more are taking daily prescription drugs, and billions of dollars are flowing into drug company coffers does not make us a wealthy nation.

We are fooling ourselves if we think that economic "prosperity" means owning stocks in a Big Pharma company that's making a windfall because half the nation is chronically diseased, with another wave of disease on the way (diabetes and Alzheimer's, take your pick). True prosperity simply cannot be achieved without health. A nation without healthy people is ultimately a nation without a healthy economy. Ultimately, if we continue on this path, our entire nation will only end up bankrupt, diseased and jobless.

The solution to all of this, of course, is to immediately redirect every available resource into preventing disease and promoting health. It's a reallocation of energy that will probably never occur, however, for one simple reason: there's no money in prevention. Our current system of for-profit medicine only rewards the treatment of sickness. And thus, by its very nature, it precludes any incentive for the promotion of health.

The U.S. system of medicine is the most expensive system in the world, both in terms of what it costs up front, and what it costs society in the long run.

ęCopyright 2005 Dr. Joseph Mercola. All Rights Reserved