Yegparian: Health, Absurdity, and Math

There are a lot of terrifying myths being floated by mostly Republican, extremist, bought-and-paid-for-by-insurance-companies types about the healthcare reform being discussed by the U.S. Congress. Actually, with that body being in recess, the whole country is now engaged first-hand through the town hall meetings being organized by its members with their constituents.

You’ve read, heard, and seen what is going on at these gatherings. The most extreme, or sometimes ill-informed, people, organized by anti-reform lobbying groups, are sent to disrupt these meetings. So, the strategy of the anti-reform forces is obvious—sow fear, confusion, and disruption, resulting in sure failure. This is much like the Turks’ denial campaign: just plant a seed of doubt and the dirty deed is as good as done.

You can get all this and more elsewhere. Here, I want to present and play with some numbers on this issue. Here goes.

The annual tab for healthcare in the U.S. is $2,500,000,000,000 (that’s two and a half trillion dollars).

We’re told the proposed plan will cost an extra $1 trillion over ten years. That’s a tenth of a trillion, or .1, trillion dollars per year. Remember, the Bush tax cuts for the rich, earlier this decade, cost the same trillion, and benefited very, very, very, very, very few people.

Currently, the private system in place has about 20 percent overhead (read profit and avoidable paperwork).

The U.S. has 47 million uninsured people. It turns out that only 31 million would benefit from the proposals floating around. Why? The remainder is undocumented aliens whom the plans won’t cover according to President Obama.

So this means that for only 4 percent more annually (.1 trillion divided by 2.5 trillion), we can cover 10 percent more of the country’s population (31 million divided by 307.2 million, the current U.S. population estimate). This seems like a bargain to me. In terms of real dollars, this means a cost to the country overall of $326 per person per year. Or, in other terms, each newly covered person costs $3226.

All these numbers seem pretty cheap to me for what we’d get in return: Far fewer emergency room visits (the most expensive kind of medical care) by people who wait until a condition is severe because they don’t have coverage. Better overall public health since communicable diseases would be checked and contagion would be less likely. Even the private sector benefits, since people would be able to have coverage independently of their workplace, reducing costs to employers/companies, many of which have problems competing with overseas firms because the latter’s countries do provide publicly funded healthcare. The 20 percent overhead is eliminated because publicly run programs have no need for profit, just like Medicare, which senior citizens are largely satisfied with. This public plan would provide competition to the private insurance that would still exist, making the latter more efficient; after all, that’s what the moneyed class always harangues us about: “competition breeds efficiency, it’s the capitalist
way, the market balances these things out.” With all this, no plan is perfect, this is planet Earth and its designers are human. But, it’s better by far than the current arrangement.

So why would anyone oppose this? Simple. They either stand to lose the boatloads of money they’re making at our expense, or they’re ill-informed and misled by their chosen sources of “trustworthy” information (Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin come to mind), or they’re simply extreme ideologues.

The vast majority of the population does not fit into any of these categories. The vast, overwhelming majority of the country’s people would benefit from healthcare reform. Remember Nataline Sarkissian (wasn’t that the result of a “death panel” provided courtesy of the much ballyhooed private medical insurance industry?) and decide accordingly. Then let your federal representatives know you support the healthcare reform principles espoused by Obama.


Garen Yegparian

Asbarez Columnist
Garen Yegparian is a fat, bald guy who has too much to say and do for his own good. So, you know he loves mouthing off weekly about anything he damn well pleases to write about that he can remotely tie in to things Armenian. He's got a checkered past: principal of an Armenian school, project manager on a housing development, ANC-WR Executive Director, AYF Field worker (again on the left coast), Operations Director for a telecom startup, and a City of LA employee most recently (in three different departments so far). Plus, he's got delusions of breaking into electoral politics, meanwhile participating in other aspects of it and making sure to stay in trouble. His is a weekly column that appears originally in Asbarez, but has been republished to the Armenian Weekly for many years.

Latest posts by Garen Yegparian (see all)


  1. There are only three things needed to fix the American health care system despite which political side of the fence you are on. 1. Stop benevolent healthcare benefits for illegal aliens and the cottage industries that have developed in other countries sending them to the US for undeserved free healthcare at taxpayer expense. 2. Stop the slip and fall lawyers from suing the pants off of anyone and anybody they can driving up healthcare costs for doctors malpractice insurance as well as prescribing a whole bunch of unnecessary “cover your vuddig” health tests to be sure you didn’t “miss” anything for fear of being sued. 3. Fix the abuses in SSI/Medicare/Medicaid that exist today for people receiving undeserved benefits and cheating the system.

    There is NO reason to have a gov’t takeover of our healthcare system, period! It is just a power grab by the government and nothing else. Don’t believe for a second that you will still have affordable private health care options once the government takes healthcare over. The private insurers will all be put out of business.

    Lastly, I question some of the numbers being presented in garen’s article. Last time I heard the health care HMO profit margin was only about 3.5%. The number of uninsured people also is in question. How many of those do not want to pay for private health care?

    Keep the faith and God bless America!

  2. Since when did affordable health care become a bad thing? If we will not have affordable private health care option that means that the non private option is the more desirable one. People are not stupid and they will chose whatever is best for them. The fear that the non private option will be the better option by private industry is why they are fighting tooth and nail not to change the present system. I thought that this country is for having choices. I want to have a choice as do many others and having no choice but only the private sector is nothing but communism.
    We are keeping the faith as our government is bailing out our private financial system. The health care system will be next if nothing is done.
    Good will bless America only if we have a choice.

  3. It is hard for me to believe that people can lack such informed judgement [naive] to think that once the gov’t has their own health care option available, that there will even be other private health care options as they are all going to be put out of businesss due to the non-competitive nature of the gov’t. Then we will all have truly one option, the gov’t’s plan. Enter communism as you state above.

    To address affordablility, today, there are full range of health care plans available to meet the needs and fit the budgets for those who desire it and are willing to pay for it. Shop around. You won’t believe the variety of plans available that can be purchased. The key is “and are willing to pay for it”. Yes people are not stupid, but they are cheap. People see nationalized healthcare as a cheap alternative to what is out there especially if it is provided for “free”.

    I for one am not willing to give some third party impersonal entity the right to decide what is best for my health. Basically to give away my liberty to chose the health care I want for a free nationalized plan.

    Does anyone ever wonder why none, and I mean NONE, of our Senators or Congressmen, etc. do not have to endure this proposed health care plan? The reason is that they chose for themselves a completely different health care plan.

    When ALL of our elected officials, including the president, have to use the same healthcare plan as we do, then I’ll be all for it.

    Let’s not even discuss the gov’t bail out of our financial system! [Another power grab!]. Yes, something has to be done to fix our current healthcare system. The three items I started this thread with!

    I hope I gave you some provocative discussion and thought.

    Keep the faith and God bless America!

  4. Provocative discussions are conducted between informed individuals where decimation of disinformation and fear should have no place. Just to put your argument to rest, UPS and Fedex compete very well with the US postal service (a government run entity). For your information, you can also buy many private health insurance policies in France, England, Sweden, and Canada IF you want to besides the government option. So much for your disinformation and fear factor (there is more news in this world than Rush Limbaugh).
    I also see that you are for improving the SSI/Medicare/Medicade. Those are government run programs the last time I checked. I would think that by the same argument you are for abolishing those programs altogether.
    I would also conclude that you would be for the George Bush privatization program for Social Security (another government run program, darn!) where your retirement money should have been invested in the Stock Market or better yet given to Madoff (he looks like such a nice trustworthy guy).
    While we are at it, why don’t we privatize our armed forces too.
    Your notion that the financial system’s gov’t bail out was a power grab takes the cake. Even Bush agreed that if he did not initiate the gov’t bail out, there would now be no America to bless, even for God.
    Is this provocative enough for you! Anonymous people, are they trustworthy?

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