Guest Post: Health Care - Let's Liberate the Masses

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Dylan Ratigan

I work for the General Electric Company. It is, at least at NBC Universal, a very nice place to work and I am very lucky to work there.

You meet lots of interesting and accomplished people, there are lights and cameras and action.

And GE is a good company, with well-established systems to hire, transfer, promote and sometimes fire the hundreds of thousands of people that make up the business.

One perk of being a GE employee is that you get special access to a GE product store where you can buy things like stoves and other GE Appliances at discounted employee rates. A nice perk, especially if you need a well-crafted stove.

But if you decide you want to buy your appliance someplace else, no problem, the GE Appliance Store is there if you want it at any time, but there is certainly no obligation to buy there. And they certainly don't pay me in expensive GE stoves, because I would much rather have actual money that I could then go and use it to buy any stove I want, maybe even a smaller, cheaper one since I live in New York City. Or if I didn't need a new stove, I could just use the money for something I did need.

The same is true for all of the non-health insurance I have. They have nothing to do with where I work, so I can change my homeowners insurance and car insurance at any time, and the insurers are forced to compete based on my preferences.

And yet that is exactly the opposite of how the Employer-based Health Care model works: they decide your choices, and if you don't like their limited selection, you end up having to forgo their entire subsidy and pay for the plan you want completely out of pocket. It would be like getting partially paid in stoves that you don't need and can't sell.

However, when you compare my predicament to the 47 million people without health insurance, I couldn't seem more whiny. The fact is that GE does provide me with excellent health insurance, so this really has nothing to do with benefiting me personally. But the cost of health insurance in this country is out of control, and it is not only keeping millions from accessing proper medical care, but it is also hobbling our large companies in the global marketplace and strangling at birth many of the small businesses we need so desperately to get job growth going.

Meanwhile, innovative health care programs like the Mayo Clinic are out of reach of most of the 174 million Americans currently on Employer-based health care, protecting the majority of insurers from competing against the Mayo Clinic's amazing advances. This in turn prevents the smarter, less-expensive large scale health care companies from growing large enough to cover the currently uninsured.

As it stands now, being forced into an Employer-based health care system encourages the exorbitant spending that is bankrupting our country.

Imagine, if you will, that you are going out to nice steakhouse tonight with every person that you work with. Now imagine that everyone in advance knows the total bill will just be split up equally at the end, no matter how much each of you orders. How many people do you think will order just a salad when they know that they will be paying for part of your double filet? Now imagine that half the bill will be paid by your company, except with the caveat that they get to pick the restaurant. Would this system ever work for a group lunch at your company? So why would we use it for something as important as health care?

So as we all watch this bill make its way with 564 Proposed Amendments on its first day, pay close attention to the employer voucher option being offered by Ron Wyden, which seeks to directly address this massive flaw. And once again, we must ask if our government really does work for the taxpayers and the well-intentioned doctors and hospitals who care for them? Or do they work for the entrenched insurers, employers that wish to stifle employee competition, employee benefit Management companies and unions that make billions or wield their power based on the current broken system and are lobbying hard to keep it that way? This will be yet another litmus test.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Enkidu's picture

Dylan - As I live in Canada & the UK I'm not sure who you work for now? I thought you worked for CNBC (your presence was one of the few reasons to watch that mad rubbish) which is owned by GE. However, I thought you had moved channel - is that also owned by GE? By-the-way, from an outsider's point-of-view, it is baffling why the American people have not staged an uprising about holiday entitlement, health care, wars, rich guys, robbers...

Danz Gambit's picture

Dylan quit CNBC, which is owned by NBC Universal, and after a short hiatus, re-surfaced at MSNBC ... which also is owned by NBC Universal ... which is owned by GE .. which is owned by ... ?


I like Dylan, but I wish he'd get a different gig.

Anonymous's picture

which is owned by GE ... which is owned by the Sheinhardt Wig company

Anonymous's picture

Why are you talking about robbers when you're the looter proudly making off with goods that are the side-effect of violence from the state-run cartel?

SilverIsKing's picture

Dylan, this may be a bit off topic but can you tell us if Dennis Kneale is as big a douche bag in person as he appears to be on TV?  Thanks.

jdun's picture

The health care bill will only work one way. It gets rid of private sector responsibility. So in fact you will only have one choice and a very bad one at that.


Government is never the solution to anything. Anybody that think they are is either very naïve or have the intelligent of a child.


aldousd's picture

well, I can't say they have the intelligence of a child, but I'm pretty sure it won't work. lots of people voting with their dollars isn't perfect, but it is better than a few people drawing it on a blackboard.  I'm also very appalled at the above Enkidu's suggestion that we should have an entitlements revolt. Now THAT is scary stuff.

Enkidu's picture

Scary stuff? Hmmm... well, it is with bemusement that we on the outside watch the richest country in the world offer such poor benefits to the citizens of that country. I know, of course, that this is red rag to bull etc. but health care in UK and Canada are not bad at all - its greatest advantage is that you don't even have to think about it. When some nasty bodily misfunction occurs you just pop off to visit a free doctor and then go to a free hospital. The docs/nurses etc are just as good as your in the US - in fact, they often work there, as I understand. Even when you lose your job you just carry on as normal - visiting the same doctor and clinic. Also, once you get used to the fact that the state provides things it is not so bad. In the States your education is somewhat provided by the State. It is just a different system - kinder, more humane - not alarming!

SWRichmond's picture

The purpose of government is not to offer benefits.

"You are not to inquire how your trade may be increased, nor how you are to become a great and powerful people, but how your liberties can be secured; for liberty ought to be the direct end of your Government."

See anything about health care in there?  I didn't think so.

TumblingDice's picture

Liberty and credit based money...I wonder if they can ever be reconciled in the end.

My personal view is that it is still possible to leave liberty untouched and preserved as long as the government does a straight up socialization, as in offer medical care as a straight up positive right. But that is impossible to do in this system of corporations offering their own insurance, with incredibly expensive medical education and the debt overhang inherent with the use of FRNs. Now it is only possible to negotiate a compromise that in the end will favor everyone that is providing the service now and hurts the American taxpayer/debt slave.

lookma's picture

By "richest country in the world" do you mean most "indebted country in the world"?

Enkidu's picture

Yes, you are right - it is difficult to describe anything these days because of all aspects of so-called 'balance sheets' - but I meant in that the US has the largest military (by a huge margin), is the largest world consumer, largest polluter, etc. etc. Yes, they have tons of debt denominated in cheaper and cheaper dollars. To be honest I don't know any more what wealth vis-a-vis debt - debt seems to be wealth too. 

Anonymous's picture

People with blind reliance on the "market" are the the ones who are naive. Healthcare is the perfect example as countries that have government run systems provide better care for less than the US.

You are truly a fool if you believe that a system with layers upon layers of private, profit taking companies means a better, more effective system in every instance.

lookma's picture

The US does not have a free market in healthcare.  You are comparing government programs, not government v. the free market.

But its easier to bury one's head into the sand and throw around meaningless political talking points, however divorced from reality they may be, than to challenge one's own ignorance and chose to learn.

JohnnyChimpo's picture

Unfortunately, most of our health care is provided by nonprofit institutions.

bluelou's picture

Reply To jdun:

"private sector responsibility" is a vague notion.  "Government is never the solution to anything" is a mantra.  Contrary to what you may have been told, notions and mantras are not facts.  

Think originally and you might get somewhere.  If private sector responsibility is on the watch with respect to health care why are the private sector inefficiencies and inadequacies so glaring?

If gov't is never the solution to anything why do we need securities market regulations?  Why do we have public utilities commissions?  Why have a social welfare system (Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid/AFDC, etc.)?

I'm not giving you the answers.  Find them yourself.  Ignorance is a choice to be unaware.  You can break free of this.







Anonymous's picture

"If gov't is never the solution to anything why do we need securities market regulations?"

Oh oh oh....I know this one!!!

So we have a definition for the phrase REGULATORY CAPTURE.

3greenlights's picture

A GE employee on ZH... whoa, does that make Dylan a "moronic blogger...?" Any thoughts, Charlie?

MinnesotaNice's picture

+10... that is just amazing that Dylan wrote a piece for ZH... that says a lot about what audience ZH is attracting... people are flocking to and participating in disseminating the truth...

Anonymous's picture

First Cramer defending flash trading and now Dylan defending GE and the healthcare bill. I think a memo was issued.

Anonymous's picture

I don't think you are being fair here. I also respectfully ask you to re-read what he said. I don't see him defending GE or necessarily defending the healthcare Bill, quite the contrary.

When Dylan left CNBC and Fast Money coincided with me turning the channel.

Even though his questions can run on for days, if you want fair and balanced he is one of the few you will find.

Anonymous's picture

insurance carriers are not forced to compete, that game has been rigged for years. The states are usually the referee, here in MA they say its a model system but its bleeding $$ already. LESS FOR MORE

Commander Cody's picture

Competition breeds innovation.  The private sector produces, the government consumes.  We are all destined to die of consumption.

Anonymous's picture

Enkidu- dylan's new show "The Meeting" is on MSNBC, which is owned by GE-just as CNBC is.

Enkidu's picture

Jeez - that is alarming!

River Tam's picture

Similar to Public Schools versus private in Florida. You pay property tax for public schools and get no benefit for your property tax payment if you choose to enroll your children in private school.

Anonymous's picture

So the fact that kids of people who cannot (even with some phony voucher program) get an education has no value to you? What an incredibly limited way of thinking.

Come to think of it, I get no value from you being able to drive on roads that I pay for.

Anonymous's picture

How exactly does not being able to read, or APPLY basic math help the poor?

How does memorizing fairy tails about the Civil War being fought to free slaves, and learning think like the herd, qualify as education?

Anonymous's picture

Dylan, you need only ask yourself one question: Are the employees of GE, including your boss, also working under the same insurance program you are?

The day CONgress, the government workers, and all those who are trying to take over the health care insurance program sign up for the same program, I'll agree.

And you do not strike me as someone who would buy the notion that 47 million people who do not have health insurance (would someone, Anyone, please tell me how "they" figured that one out?) all of them cannot afford it, so why do you repeat the same lies?

Indeed there is much wrong (and right) about our health programs in this country, but if you think having the Federal Government monopolize it is the answer then you have lost all common sense, deny history, and command no respect.

Anonymous's picture

I'm not Dylan and I don't work at GE but I tell you that there are various group benefit coverages within GE . What's more, what people don't understand, is that GE makes
most of the decisions and pays all the bills. The insurance company just collects an administration fee unless a single person's bill exceeds a fixed amount, like $250,000 at
which point actual insurance kicks in where GE has to pay a deductible and co-insurance until an out of pocket max is reached.

Lower level employees have higher copays,
less benefits and may even be more restricted in
the list of providers available. It costs the administrators a lot of money to manage all these group plans, all these provider contracts with/within a single corporate entity but you never hear that side of the debate/expense.

Insurance companies compete for GE's business that keeps this cost down and creates its own unique abuses. Trust me, anyone who has a say in GE's choice of administrator is flagged in the computer system and all co-pays are waived and all treatments get special attention and approval.

Anonymous's picture

So GE is partially self-insured? They pay medical bills up to $250,000 per person, 'out of pocket', out of earnings or borrowing money, like a deductible, THEN insurance kicks in like a Catastrophic program would?

Anonymous's picture

the trouble with the health care bill antis is that they promote the NHS comparison. now, the NHS is probably THE most centralised universal provision system in the world. look at France and tell me its so bad.

Anonymous's picture

France is the size of Two Californias. Talk to me when the European Countries comprising some 400,000,000 people, consolidate and offer insurance to everyone, "free" of charge.

You who compare some pissant countries to the disUnited States are ignorant in the extreme to think that you can insure 500,000,000 people.

There isn't a country on earth, besides China (good luck over there) that attempts to insure 500,000,000 people.

putbuyer's picture

This article is a virus

Anonymous's picture

Two issues with this example. Anybody is free to go shopping for health insurance within their state, just like stoves. However, the shopping is limited by two very important issues not brought up by the author - first each State limits competition within their State and Companies are able to qualify their health plans under the IRS code. Nothing prevents a person running out get their own health coverage or meet their need; but, it will be costly because it generally won't meet the qualified plan rules and one will have to use after tax dollars for it.

Most consumer products that are needed for the mass use do not have these influences or limits. And stoves do not have these limits.

Don't like the Company Plans? First get the States to lift the restrictions on competition and second qualify all health care under the same IRS rules.

Then you can compare stoves, auto and health insurance.

chunkylover42's picture

ding, ding, ding!


Pizza Delivery Man's picture

If you want healthcare the military is an option. I did (many years ago) and I elect to have private insurance. I think the VA sucks a big fat and veiny cock.

Dylan - Why don't you quit GE and give up your healthcare benefits and join the Marines? You can have all the socialized medicine you want.

On a lighter note I really do love your reporting.

nhsadika's picture

No young person wants healthcare until they are in a car accident.  We expect our nation to protect us from bogeymen - $1+ trillion defense budget - how "democratic" a choice of public spending, just as long as the tax payer doesn't blow it on his own health!

Did you ever think the whole game is from corporates who want "socialized" bomb making, and "war making?"   Let there be no mistake, there will be no public run healthcare plan... I expect the corporates to come to rest on a plan that allows them to increase their customer base!

It has all been prearranged I assure you - even Obama will give on the public option.  The theatrics are just there to suggest a public debate.

Cheeky Bastard's picture

WHAT; Dylan Rating actually wrote an article for ZH; I'm not quite sure how should i interpret this. If, really this article is written for the sole purpose of being published on ZH; then i need to pick up my jaw from the floor and congratulate on the, whats the word I'm looking for; courage maybe. Anyway i now need to read the article.

DaddyWarbucks's picture

Good well made points.

"And once again, we must ask if our government really does work for the taxpayers and the well-intentioned doctors and hospitals who care for them? Or do they work for the entrenched insurers, employers that wish to stifle employee competition, employee benefit Management companies and unions that make billions or wield their power based on the current broken system and are lobbying hard to keep it that way? This will be yet another litmus test."

There is already more than enough eveidence to answer this question. The problem is that most don't like the conclusion so they keep asking the question over and over again.

As one who has owned and operated small businesses most of my life let me add some more ingredients to the soup.

A person who is a W-2 employee in the U.S. enjoys some legal protection against pre-existing condition clauses. For example a woman who is hired during the seventh month of pregnancy cannot be denied coverage for the birth and related medical services.

You can be assured that GE brings more weight to the bargaining table than a 10-25 person shop. As one can imagine that shop doesn't get the same plan choices or rate schedules that GE does.

If one is self employed it is even worse. An attorney who does work for me now and then explained that it is virtually impossible for her to get maternity coverage as part of an Individual policy these days. At the same time an illegal alien or "low income" person gets "free" maternity services; "free" of course means that we pay for it with our tax dollars.

My grandfather who lived in the pre-insurance era was actually better off than us because he at least did not have to pay prices that had been inflated by the insurance parasite.

This state of affairs is a tragedy of historic proportions.

Anonymous's picture

Healthcare does not work properly in a market based system. Free markets are not the end all solution for everything in the entire universe, they are a tool societies can use for the benefit of society as a whole. They are USUALLY the best solution we know of for product innovation and pricing. When they are not the proper tool for a certain subset of things (such as the military, or health care, etc) it really is not that big of a deal. Get over it, for some products and services the free market is not beneficial and that is obvious to pretty much everyone outside of American Republicans.

nhsadika's picture

Agree 100%  That doesn't mean we'll be able to efficiently create a single entity like the provinces in Canada would be havoc.

But their data is interesting.  Just one expense that is way out of wack.

The cost of malpractice insurance is $100,000 for many obstetricians and even higher for some surgeons in the US. A noncomplication C-Section delivery is about $6000k in the US if you pay out of pocket (physician makes about $3000+).  

Malpractice is far less in Ontario - $25,000.  And the get this, the physician reimbursement for that C-section in Ontario it is $514.85 (6x less) - all the fees are online, just take a look.

So you have a physician in the US paying $100,000 in malpractice - that seems efficient!  You also have tons of little bureacracies running in the private world, trying to support an ever increasing profit motive.  It is absurdly, comically inefficient.

Anonymous's picture

Great link, thanks!

All insurance companies have the same thing but it varies between them so it is proprietary information. Since there is no objective information on quality, shopping
would only lead to the bad side of town as
even the base, the medicare amount, is based on nothing more than zip codes and the rents required to maintain a practice in one versus another.

"So you have a physician in the US paying $100,000 in malpractice - that seems efficient!'

Somehow when a baby is stillborn because the
physician decides that a vaginal delivery provides a greater return than a c-section (no anesthesiologist to cut into the profit base, especially in an HMO) and then loses a lawsuit as a result that it is the fault of the legal system! Tort reform is the call! Not, Excessive Incompetence in the Medical Profession!

chunkylover42's picture

Take a look at LASIK eye surgery.  It is considered a luxury and is generally not covered in most insurance plans and is not eligible for medicare reimbursements.  In other words, it's the closest thing we have to unfettered free markets within health care.  And the prices have come down dramatically since the procedure was developed due to technological innovation and competition.  Once you buy the equipment necesary, the marginal cost of one more patient is very low.  Once the second doctor in town opens his practice, you better believe he's going to attract customers with lower prices more/better services, or some combination.

We use insurance to pay for every little medical expense.  This is absurd.  The answer is less insurance, not more.

Anonymous's picture

I think Dylan makes some excellent points. One way or another, we are going to have to give up this insane mess we have now (or that turd of a bill in Congress) and go with one of two choices:

1. Complete free market, one where insurance companies actually have to compete and provide INSURANCE, just like they do for homes and cars, no employer mandates, just good old basic insurance; OR

2. A UK, Canadian or dare I say FRENCH system. The French system is just about like Medicare is now: insurance for everyone, with supplemental private plans to cover the extras.

Bankster T Cubed's picture

Hi Dylan!   -  Guess what?   We are all simply fucked.   Because the same monster that owns our financial system, that manipulates our markets as we're seeing, that suckers savings from citizens 24/7, that steals shamelessly from the Treasury because it owns the Secretary of the Treasury, completely totally owns and controls our government.   The giant vampire squid is no fairy tale.   Whatever congress passes will definitely be a gift to the vampire squid, and will suck blood from us.

economicmorphine's picture

Mr. Ratigan:

Nobody is "forced into an employer sponsored health care system".  You are incented to use it, but not forced.  If you were a person of conviction, you might choose not to use it, or to get your own health care plan.  If you truly believed what you wrote, you might even choose to pay for a plan that gives you access to the Mayo Clinic, if that's what you want.

I am self employed.  I used to work for GE, and I still have a clock radio I bought from the company store.  It was a second, but the thing was indestructible, not like GE's current business lines which, as I understand it are basically in media and financial derivatives.  Since leaving, I have moved to Texas.  My dentist, my pharmacist and an increasing percentage of all of my medical care providers are across the Rio Grande or, if you are Mexican, el Rio Bravo del Norte.  The care is equal to and in many cases better than what I can get on this side of the river.  The providers charge a reasonable rate for their services and I am happy with the quality of the product.

That's what people of conviction do.  So please, keep NYC the hell out of Texas.  You folks have screwed enough things up.  Life works well here.  We don't need you or your arrogant opinions.  We will get by.




Anonymous's picture

Across the Rio Grande? I can hear homeland security now "This guy Morphine is going to be big trouble".

Pretty soon you will be forced to buy a health insurance policy. And if you don't pay, it will be deducted from your paycheck/tax returns or if you really wanna play dirty and not pay for it Uncle Sam will deny you a passport and put you on the TSA blacklist.

Ha how do you like that?