America’s Health Care System is Broke

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:35 pm

Health care costs are rising at 10 to 15 percent per year, and employers are struggling for ways to pay these costs, which typically represent 15 percent of their labor costs. Many are shifting the costs to their employees by demanding high deductibles and co-pays, and in some cases contracting with HMOs who make their money more by denying care than providing it. But what else can companies do? They are competing with manufacturers in countries that have taxpayer-paid universal health care systems, and these competitors need not add health care to the costs of their products. Of course, our manufacturers can send their work abroad, but then American jobs are lost.

Rising health care costs are the result of only one thing – a medical community that has switched from being humanitarian medical centers to for-profit corporations. The industry has run amok. They are inefficiently operated, and they love it, because inefficiency is where they make much of their profits.

Medicare and private insurers are incurring 20 to 30 percent of their costs from unnecessary and inappropriate medical testing, and another 30 percent in exorbitant administrative waste. Wisconsinites are supporting 400 for-profit insurance companies compared with the ONE nonprofit contractor in each Canadian province.

The 30 percent waste is not exclusive to government systems. It also exists within the private sector. It is the profit motive that is driving up health care costs, and this motivation exists on all fronts: hospitals, physicians and insurers, including for-profit HMOs.

For-profit entities are obligated by law to seek the highest profits possible for their shareholders, and cutting care helps achieve this goal.

The United States and South Africa are the only two industrialized countries that do not have universal health care for their citizens.

More than 45 million Americans, or 15 percent of our population, are totally without health care insurance and just show up at the emergency room for treatment, which is the most expensive form of rationing possible.

The E.R. charges sometimes force them into bankruptcy, where the losses are shifted to those who are insured or to the taxpayers.

More than 18,000 Americans die prematurely every year because they lack coverage – which is six times more than the victims of 9/11. Another 50 million Americans are underinsured and are a mishap away from bankruptcy and the societal costs that result.

Why do we allow this? Because our politicians are paid to allow it. It’s called "$100 million per year in political contributions given by our health care and pharmaceutical industries."

Political money got us into this mess, and eliminating political money will be the only way of getting us out of it. Unless, of course, business leaders force the issue and demand change.

The solution is a universal health care system paid for not by employers but by the taxpayers. That’s right; the system must be funded by the very same people who are paying the bill today: we the taxpayers.

We pay the current medical costs through many circuitous routes, the most obvious being that when employers pay for medical insurance, they add those costs to their product price and we pay at the cash register. We also pay with deductibles and co-pays and with the cost-shifting that medical providers do to offset losses resulting from serving the uninsured.

We taxpayers are therefore paying 100 percent of the nation’s medical costs already, through our employers, but in the process we are driving jobs out of the country and accepting substandard health care.

We need a universal, single-payer system like Canada’s, but with better funding and without their wait times. Our most popular single-payer system is Medicare, which has no wait times. But both Medicare and our private insurance systems are rife with misuse and overuse.

But look at what universal health care offers Canadians:

¥ Canadians have a life expectancy two years longer than Americans (79.3 years compared to our 77 years). They are fifth in the world in longevity, compared with America at 26th.

¥ Canada’s infant mortality rate is 35 percent lower than ours, because mothers are not priced out of (i.e., denied) prenatal care.

¥ We spend $5,267 per-capita on health care, compared with Canada’s $2,931, because Canada’s administration costs are 8 percent, compared with our 30 percent.

¥ We spend more dollars on health care than any other country (15 percent of GDP compared with Canada’s 9 percent), yet our system of care is ranked by the World Health Organization at 37th in the world (France is first, Canada is fifth.).

¥ On a per-capita basis, the United States has twice as many MRI scanners as does Canada.

¥ On a per-capita basis, we have fewer hospital days per visit as do the Canadians.

¥ On a per-capita basis, we have fewer doctor visits as do the Canadians.

But that’s not what the for-profit health care interests will tell you. They are deathly afraid that the United States is going to implement a similar efficient system and their profits will dry up. When they tell us about the long wait times in Canada, they fail to tell us they’ve included all patients with future appointments.

They fail to tell us that 90 percent of Canadians prefer their health care system to ours. They fail to tell us that only a handful of Canadians head south for their elective procedures, and many are already in the States when they decide to order them. And they fail to tell us that "they" includes a group of special interests in Canada that wants to open their system for profit taking too, and are helping to kill the idea in America.    

If we do it right, there will be no wait times, and we can replace Medicaid, BadgerCare and 40 percent of worker compensation costs, all for the same dollars we are paying today. And we might even get Medicare to buy into our system, too.

Then Wisconsin businesses can compete with the rest of the world. What’s not to like about this?

Jack Lohman is a lifelong Republican in Colgate, a retired owner of a Milwaukee

diagnostic testing laboratory company and the executive

director of He can be reached at

– September 16, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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