#355 – Dick Bernard: The Public "Lambs to the Slaughter"

Today’s Wall Street Journal had a very clear front page headline (click on photos to enlarge them).

Wall Street Journal page 1 April 4, 2011

The essentials are easily read: “Medicare”; “under the age of 55”; “cut government spending”….
The aim, of course, is not at all to “cut spending”. Rather, it is to cut government control of that spending, so as to facilitate making even more money at the hands of the helpless.
Here’s a simple example:
As it happened, today I was paying a bill to an Emergency Care facility. The essence of the bill is below.
It is a reasonable bill: the “You Now Owe” column showed $49.42.

(I had a bad sore throat, and I went to the neighborhood facility rather than wait till the next week and drive 20 miles to my primary care doctor. I had a simple throat culture to check for Strep and went home….)
The Bill is pretty self-explanatory. The apparent hourly rate for the procedure I had is $675.00 an hour (I was billed for 20 minutes). I’m on Medicare, and Medicare paid $19.61. More important, Medicare disallowed $155.97 of the bill, leaving me owing $49.42. In all, I’d estimate less than 10 minutes time with a nurse and then with a doctor during this visit. As anyone who’s visited a doctor’s office knows, waiting alone is most of the time spent.
I have no idea, of course, on what the $675 per hour figure is based. It could simply be a conjured up number. The fact of the matter is, however, that it is a number declared by the provider.
Another fact of the matter is that the entirety of that Government money at all levels is ultimately spent on all of the things government budgets are spent on: wages, materials, etc., etc. The vast majority of that spending ultimately goes to purchase something from the economy.
The issue is not the money; it is the control of the money. Apparently, in my case, the provider of the care would have preferred to ring up a tab of $225, but Medicare thought that was about $175 too much.
Without Medicare, the bill I had to pay would have been much, much higher.
Of course, the same business community that chafes at any controls on its ability to make money, has no qualms whatever in attempting to interfere with workers rights to organize and bargain. That’s just how business is…competition is good, so long as the winner is known.
So is how it goes with economics dominated by greed.
A few hours earlier, CBS’ 60 Minutes had an excellent segment on the war between banks and huge numbers of people whose homes are being repossessed. The segment is well worth watching. Succinctly, banks hired out the task of reconstructing missing documents to a firm that subcontracted out to another firm who had employees fraudulently sign paperwork for submission to Court. One person interviewed said his quota was 350 signatures an hour, for $10 an hour wages. The responsible banks refused requests for interviews, and blamed the subcontractor for their misdeeds. And these are people we trust?
Sooner than later – hopefully before it’s too late – common people, of which I am one, will realize in large enough numbers that they are being played for fools by big money and big business, and all that stands between them and disaster is a reasonably strong government which can effectively regulate the bandits among us who make a huge amount of money.