Health Care: It’s a Union Thug Thing

Across the country, we are seeing the battle of the health care debate being waged at town hall meetings. Union members are fighting to show support for real reform and make their voices heard. In an absurd and ironic tactic, right wing pundits have linked ‘union thugs’ to the issue of better health care. Union thugs of lower income brackets, thuglets, and especially women thugs, are the most affected by the shameful state of health care in the richest country in the world. With millions of uninsured, health care is increasingly becoming a luxury most people simply can’t afford. Since the majority of people get coverage through their work, fear of losing insurance keeps people in dead end jobs, and often fearful to organize because of the reality of getting fired. The Commonwealth Fund  estimates that 64 million working age women (seven out of ten) had “problems accessing needed care because of costs”. Meaning they had to skip a recommended treatment, test, or medication. Women use the health care system more for preventive care such as pap smears and pre-cancer screenings. Yet this is the logic that penalizes women in general with higher costs for insurance.

What do we want from our health care system?

  1. Affordable, quality health care for everyone
  2. A sustainable system that provides this

( Check out clips from countries profiled by PBS that cover everyone with better results )

The price of a for–profit system:

  1. High costs of prescription drugs: Americans pay the highest costs in the world for prescription drugs. We pay exorbitant costs for drugs, much more than other countries would ever pay, and much more than they cost to make. But there is no large bargaining power to negotiate the price, and when it can, such as Medicare Part D, we don’t. (In fairness, some programs do negotiate – the Veterans Affairs bargains for prescription drugs, while in contrast Congress passed a bill in 2001 saying they cannot bargain for Medicare Part D. A study from 2007  shows Medicare Part D paying almost 58 % more for the 5 most common medications )
  2. High administrative costs: 31% of every health care dollar goes towards administrative costs. (The New England Journal of Medicine estimated in 2003, that a single payer system would save 350 billion on administrative costs alone)
  3. Unnecessary procedures: high tech and costly procedures are not only expensive and useless; they can be dangerous to your health.
  4. Coverage denied: A for-profit system makes its money off of people being sick, but not too sick. People are denied coverage for pre-existing conditions, while at the same time others are provided ‘excess care’ such as the costly, unnecessary procedures.

A For-Profit system would go out of business if we were all healthy.

The Physicians for a National Health Program have been fighting for a single payer system for years. They point out that market based reforms have been implemented in various ways for forty years. It has never worked, and it never will. If our goal is health, we need a not for profit system.

Better care:

1. Physicians have to navigate their way through all the different plans, and ration the care they give a patient depending on what their insurance will cover. If a person is uninsured, they have to pay for the care themselves. The inability to pay forces people to forego needed care.

2. Incentives for health!: The system will be cheaper when people are healthier. Instead of keeping people away from pre-cancer screenings, daily vitamins, and yearly checkups, these would be part of the system. Staying healthy is cheap.


1. As the Physicians for a National Health Program  say: the current system is “a patchwork system of for-profit payers. Private insurers necessarily waste health dollars on things that have nothing to do with care: overhead, underwriting, billing, sales and marketing departments as well as huge profits and exorbitant executive pay. Doctors and hospitals must maintain costly administrative staffs to deal with the bureaucracy.”

Because of lower administrative costs, emphasis on wellness, and a large risk pool, overall costs would be much lower with a single payer. Negotiating better prices for prescription drugs would save billions each year – and would even give an incentive for research on cost effective medications, because that is what the health care system requires. Current research gravitates towards the money makers – Viagra and Prozac – rather than medications for things such as diabetes.

Another group, ‘Mad as Hell Doctors’, will be touring the country soon on a mission to educate the public on the myths and facts of what real health care reform requires. They will be making a road trip starting early September.

More than ever, working families need health care reform. The current system leaves too many out, leaves too many sick and too many bankrupt. When union members are called thugs for standing up for a humane and more sustainable system – well, the pundits must be right: Health Care – it’s a union thug thing.


About Musings over Coffee

Fitness enthusiast. Love to travel, mess up recipes, ponder random things, get riled up about the news, all of which nearly always coinciding with one of my favorite things in the world: Coffee.
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