The $3.6 Trillion/Year Healthcare System that Failed the Nation

The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort docks in New York, Monday, March 30, 2020. The ship has 1,000 beds and 12 operating rooms that could be up and running within 24 hours of its arrival on Monday morning. It’s expected to bolster a besieged health care system by treating non-coronavirus patients while hospitals treat people with COVID-19. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

This November is the time to hold All members of Congress, states and local officials for their criminal negligence and total disregard for our national health.

From what we have seen and heard about our healthcare system, it makes us wonder what went wrong?

No doubt, America has the best hospitals in the world without any competition, and it has the best research labs in the world and has the best medical colleges in the world. The highest Noble Prizes in medicine all of this did not translate to what we see today as the nation faces the Coronavirus, a country without adequate health care system to deal with this pandemic. We found out that we lack ICU beds in the tens of thousands. We lack hospital beds in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions.

We found out we require hospitals and clinics in almost all areas of the country, not only urban areas where essential hospitals closed but in rural areas where private health care companies abandoned towns completely. Our public healthcare system is missing. We also found out that we lack adequate supplies of ventilators in hospitals.

We also required medical masks and garbs all over the country with some of New York hospital staff to use garbage bags for cover. With significant public health budget cuts in New York, the city and state forced to seek the help of the US hospital ship “Comfort” to provided added beds and for the town to set up a field hospital in Central Park.

It is so ironic that local and state governments compete to give tax breaks in hundreds of millions to Amazon to locate its distribution centers, while not seeking any support from Amazon to set up health care centers to serve its employees or demand Amazon provide full health insurance to all of its employees and provide paid sick leaves.

What we spend annually on health care is close to $3.6 Trillion or what amounts to 17% of the GDP, almost five times what we spend on the military. Though the military budget is fully funded by tax dollars, here the costs are shared by all parties with the federal government sharing the costs but not all the costs.

We also found out that our policy of relying on China as a critical source of medical supplies and equipment put our country in grave danger. Major pharmaceutical companies shifted manufacturing to China to produce on the cheap rather than keep it in the US to maximize profit pure and simple. In a breakdown provided by Al-Jazeera, these are the breakdowns;

  • Health Insurance Costs $ 2.1 Trillion or 58%
  • Costs of medications $ 540 Billion or 15%
  • Operating Costs of Hospitals and staff $ 800 Billion or 22%
  • Costs of medical supplies and devices $ 160 Billion or 5%

The costs of healthcare in the US shared by employees, employers, and federal and state governments, hence the problem. A single-payer system will save trillions in both tax dollars and private funds and provide the nations with a healthcare system universal throughout the country irrespective of regions and whether urban or rural.

The report also noted that the costs of health care insurance increased by 740% since 1984, while wages in the health care sector did increase only 24%. Unlike other Western nations, with universal health coverage, the US system leaves behind 28 million mostly in the food, service, and retail industries. Even Obamacare, which touted as a significant success of the Obama Administration, did not solve the problem being too expensive, in favor of the healthcare industry, and leaving tens of millions behind.

With the hope this major crisis will pass without significant irreparable damage to the national population and the economy, it is time to overhaul the entire health care system for the nation what we have now proved to be a total failure.

Special Note: Thanks to reporter Mohamed Al-Minshawi of Aljazeera for his research, and I took the liberty of using much of the materials in his report. Thank you, Mr. Al-Minshawi.

Author Details

Sami, a Palestinian-American and a US Army Veteran (66-68), recipient of the “soldier of the month award and leadership award from the 6th Army NCO Academy, is an international legal and business consultant with over 40 years of international experience, in construction, hospitality services, conservation and defense, in the Middle East, Europe and North Africa. Sami is a holder of BA, MPA in Public and Environmental Affairs, Jurist Doctor from Indiana University. While at IU he was elected class president, student government president and chairman of the Indiana Students Association, Active in peace movement as a co-author of the pre-amble for the One State for All of its people and voluntary service program SalamNation. A frequent contributor on national and international affairs. He resides in the United States.

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