Peter 'Fish' Case: In the US, health care is all about profit, not helping people

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The head of Pfizer makes $26 million a year. The CEO for Bristol Myers-Squibb makes just under $19 million. The guy that runs Walgreens, nearly $15 million a year. Telnet Healthcare, about $4 million a year. The average starting salary in the United Sates for a teacher is around $38,000, and a teacher with a longer tenure about $58,000. Now I'm not saying that the CEOs of these companies aren't worth what they are getting paid, I'm merely pointing out the inequality of what teachers get paid. But why am I pointing it out? A teacher in California has to go on an extended sick leave because she is battling breast cancer. California will pay her through that leave but deduct the cost of her replacement from her salary, around $200 per day.

This is legislation that has been on the books since 1976. Yes, the bicentennial when everyone loved everyone, and we remembered what it felt like to have some American Pride. Well at least some of us did. The monsters who pushed that through the California legislature definitely didn't care about the people that would build the future of this country. I'm not sure where and why this seemed like a good idea; I'm not even sure how it's been over four decades old and we're only just hearing about it. But this is truly one of the sickest things I could think of: putting the burden on someone who is fighting cancer, someone who has mounting medical debts and now is faced with having two thirds of their annual salary sucked up by having to pay the person that fills in for them.

Imagine that someone put this into the school policy and left it there. Imagine that in the same state a football coach that works within the California system has to take time off from coaching so he can care for his child who is going through chemotherapy and he has to pay for his replacement. And don't you think for an instant that someone didn't start a Go Fund Me page to help mitigate the debt and the cost of the replacement. They did. But honestly that only helps feed the monster as opposed to slaying it.

We live in the only country that operates its health care system as a for-profit industry. All the while we force nearly 60 percent of our hospitals to operate as non-profits — while the Big Pharma and Healthcare squeeze them at every corner. Nearly 20 percent of the Gross National Profit goes towards health care. We live in a country where people die unnecessarily due to inadequate care or the inability to find proper care. This is all happening right under our noses, right here in the home of the free, land of the brave! I for one am disgusted by it. Then you've got a Republican Party that seems hell bent about removing all aspects of the Affordable Care Act and that includes pre-existing conditions! Our government, specifically the Republican side, is essentially allowing our for-profit health care system to kill. All the while starving local hospitals.

If you do not have health insurance in the United States, you are for the most part screwed should you get really sick. We have plans that some of us manage into our day to day living expenses that will cover catastrophic illness. So yes, in order to feel good about paying nearly $400-600 per month in premiums, you need to be in a serious car accident or get some sort of near terminal illness. We can no longer stand by and watch as teachers in California pay for their replacements while they drown in cancer debt.

Here in the United States, health care is no longer about helping people, it's no longer about living longer or better lives, it's no longer about preventative treatments or screenings. It's about profits! People like Mitch McConnell don't care about you and me, they care about the bottom line. When Bernie Sanders tries to enact a Medicare for all system and it meets with so much venom from House and Senate Republicans, you have to ask yourself: What the Hell is up with that?

Peter "Fish" Case is a man with an opinion. He offers up a weekly podcast discussion that can be heard at Questions, compliments and complaints can be sent to him at The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.



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