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'Until we recognize the depth of the internal threat from the collusion that drives the medical-financial-industrial-complex (the MFIC),' writes Smith, 'we won’t change this system to one that truly values health and life over profits.' (Photo: Pixabay/CC0)

U.S. Healthcare System Culls the Wheat from the Working Class Chaff

Donna Smith

Americans are an oddly and beautifully diverse lot, but the healthcare industry has us all figured out.  For decades now, maintaining control over American lives and any vestige of the American dream has become increasingly the purview of big business. And no one relishes and maintains more direct control over the health and safety of every American life than the healthcare industry.

No terrorist group is stronger or more threatening. No political candidate is more menacing – not even Donald Trump.  Standing ever at the ready to pass judgement on the value or lack thereof of your life, my life, and every American life stands the health care industry and its stockholders. Until we recognize the depth of the internal threat from the collusion that drives the medical-financial-industrial-complex (the MFIC), we won’t change this system to one that truly values health and life over profits.

The MFIC includes all the obvious suspects – the for-profit health insurance industry, big Pharma, medical device manufacturers, the giant hospitals and providers’ groups, and the collection agencies and financiers who keep the flow flowing.  I have to add to that group all stockholders in these corporations who cannot reasonably assert any deniability about profiting personally from the pain of others. If you own stock in one of these areas, you are supporting the slow, sure genocide of those Americans deemed expendable by the healthcare system.

I am sorry to tell Bernie Sanders and those who worked so hard to support his campaign that the control maintained by the oligarchy is far more sinister than even what Bernie’s campaign highlighted.  For almost a decade, I have written about the need for single-payer, improved Medicare for all.  Others have supported single-payer reform much longer than I have, and the healthcare industry knows exactly how to scare the bejesus out of most Americans on this issue – so don’t anyone reading this ever deny that you know now and you have known for a very long time that people are being euthanized for the sake of profit.

My husband, Larry, and I have often talked about how exactly people who have no healthcare access or no healthcare coverage or costs too high to afford actually just go off and die.  Some commit suicide, and we hear the horrific stories.  Others needing care they cannot get or afford slowly drift into worse health over the course of months or years of denials of appropriate care, no way to afford co-pays and deductibles, and the resulting consequences to jobs and income.  It’s insidious and devastating, but it is a pattern now well known to our elected officials, their MFIC campaign contributors, our employers, and many others. There are no unknowns here.

The healthcare industry may not like to acknowledge it publicly, but every part of the industry has an incestuous relationship with the others.  Hospitals need insurance companies.  Medical device sellers need insurance companies and finance companies.  Provider groups need insurance companies.  Big Pharma needs and has everyone in their back pockets.  The only group really not vested in all of this are the patients – all of us who at some point in our lives have needed healthcare.  We pay insurance companies.  We pay medical device sellers.  We pay big Pharma.  We pay hospital and providers.  But we are only valuable to the MFIC to the extent that we are able to boost their profits.  Once that ability to boost profits is compromised by lack of coverage, no cash or credit, we are finished.  Sadder still, in some ways, are the situations in which treatment that is unnecessary or even dangerous is ordered with full knowledge of that danger by the medical professionals involved.  Trust me, our death panels have only one criteria – what is the patient’s current bank balance, insurance coverage and credit rating.  No government official stands between U.S. patients and our doctors. No sir and no ma’am.  It is the financial wing of the MFIC that decides who lives and who dies – and every single provider knows that.  Every single medical provider (sadly our physicians too) either decides to play the game and play it well or risk their own business collapse.

So, back to the question my husband and I often ask one another about how people just fade away from engagement with our healthcare system and eventually die earlier and more painfully when medical care is denied in the U.S.  Since that process has begun for me, I can now begin to document that.  I have insurance.  I always have.  But the $600/month premiums and the co-pays are making it impossible for me to actually get the care I need that would make the quality of our lives so much better.  So even if I know that I need further treatment for an infection I’ve had since March, the left hip that is now so damned painful that I use a walker sometimes (when I am not afraid an employer will see that and judge me too weak to work – oops, guess the cat is out of the bag on that), and my continued breathing issue in my post-MRSA period, I am left to self-treat and self-medicate.  And dental insurance?  What a joke, and what a racket.  We pay $50/month for that coverage too, and my teeth are slowly rotting away.  We cannot afford to do root canals and crowns, so once they hurt too much or once they get infected, my teeth get pulled.  And how do employers see people with missing teeth, people using walkers even occasionally or those seen taking medications to get through the day?  Come on.  You and I both know exactly how they see us when our health falters – we become liabilities and a drag on our employers’ bottom line(s).

So, I will slip away in my health status.  I am not having regular cancer checks.  I haven’t had a PAP smear since 2011, and I because I am a uterine cancer survivor, PAP smears were supposed to be part of the routine for me for life.  That’s just one example of the issues that start falling through the cracks.  My insurance is through Kaiser Permanente of Colorado right now, and they clearly do not have an interest in assisting a 61-year-old cancer survivor with other health issues.  I am too expensive for the MFIC.  Millions of other Americans are too.  And unless we start really exposing the slowly, steady genocide of the working class being efficiently carried out through what is laughingly labeled as a healthcare system (and every piece of its profit-sharing machine from shareholders right up to our providers who fail to speak up in order to protect their own hides), we will not upend it all and create the kind of system that values health over killing for profit – a single-payer, improved Medicare for all for life system. 

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Donna Smith

Donna Smith

Donna Smith is the former executive director of Progressive Democrats of America and currently a Medicare for All campaign surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders.

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