AND NOW, for something a little less local — but no less relevant.
Nearly every poll of American voters shows that, overwhelmingly, the main issue they are concerned about is health care.
Questions of access to, and affordability of, health care are at the top of almost every American family’s list of long-term concerns.
Often in these polls, the number two and three items on the list are pretty far down.
Almost invariably, when I’m talking to people from any walk of life, these are the main issues that stress them out the most personally:
1. Having inadequate or no health care coverage;
2. Not being able to get ahead in life because health care coverage is too expensive and/or binds them to a certain job or place;
3. If they’re under 40, having huge amounts of college loan debt and wondering if it’s possible to ever pay it off.
That’s about it. Some combination of those three things applies to just about everyone I know over 18.
You’d think the national media would be most focused on these main topics of water cooler conversation all over the country.
Yet, the mainstream media and its punditry choose to focus on much more divisive issues with much less relevance to the average person.
Concern about Russian influence on our elections, to name one example, is so far down the list of voter worries that in many polls it doesn’t even get a statistically large enough response to be adequately measured.
That means that quite literally, almost no one cares about it. But judging from media coverage, you’d think that’s just about all people care about.
Ideally, this presidential campaign really should be about little else but solving the problem of American health care’s increasing lack of affordability and access — problems even the Affordable Care Act was largely unable to solve, and in some cases might have made worse.
Yet health care remains largely an afterthought to any number of mind-numbing battles in our ongoing, endless culture war.
Ask yourself: Who does this really serve in the end?
The irony of our current system is that the only entity satisfied with it is the health care insurance industry itself, which, though comprising competing businesses, essentially operates as an all-controlling monopoly.
Doctors don’t like it, patients don’t like it, hospitals don’t like it, employers don’t like it, employees don’t like it, and most politicians are frightened of it.
Nobody really likes the current system other than the insurance industry itself, which takes your money — in some cases for decades — and still reserves the right to deny coverage, no matter how long you’ve paid for the benefit and what your doctor advises.
That’s the “freedom” we’re told we can’t give up!
We put up with it because we’re told the alternative would be even worse.
Will it though?
It is frankly bizarre that of all the candidates running, it is almost impossible to hear any of them say what is clearly obvious: That we already have almost no freedom with regard to health care.
There is a huge and distinct voting bloc of people from many backgrounds who could be brought together on that one salient point. Yet, it almost never happens.
Once you strip away the scare tactics and complacency, you see there is almost no constituency outside of the insurance industry that really loves our current health care system — not even the rest of the business world itself.
What isn’t mentioned nearly enough, by politicans or by the media, is that most of the private sector actually has little use for the current system and would probably like to see it go away.
Too few Americans understand that, if they get insurance through their employer—which is how most Americans are insured — their employer pays a very significant amount of the premium.
In most cases, at least 50 percent by law.
On average though, employers pay about 70 percent of their employees’ health care costs.
Not a typo – seventy percent!
I certainly don’t speak for my employer, but it’s a safe bet that most business owners would prefer not to be required to spend that kind of money.
While our media/political infrastructure virtually obligates us to see everything in terms of a strict Democratic vs. Republican, Blue State vs. Red State divide, what we have today is neither truly competitive free market capitalism, nor nanny-state Euro-style socialism.
In my view, what we have is a single segment of the economy virtually holding the rest of the economy hostage.
If you don’t know what the phrase “Stockholm Syndrome” means, Google it to see an explanation of why we seem so weirdly attached to a system almost all of us agree doesn’t work as well as we need it to.
The impacts go far beyond just health care. One of the main complaints Americans have about the economy is that, no matter how good the stock market is doing or how strong the employment picture is, their actual wages never seem to go up very much, if at all.
There’s a lot to unpack there, for sure.
But the simple truth is that with health care costs increasing at a double digit percentage most years, a lot of employers simply can’t afford to give raises even if they wanted to. The money goes instead to cover increases in employee health care premiums.
So you could make the case, as many economists have, that the health insurance industry is capturing the raise you should have gotten. Year after year.
None of this is to excuse corporate greed, of course, nor to romanticize other industries at the expense of the insurance industry.
The point is, what might be the most important issue in your life is the one you’re often encouraged to think about the least.
Ask yourself why that might be?