If there's a lesson to be learned from the finance or the auto industry crises (and the soon-to-come credit card industry crisis), it's corporate management doesn't put the long-term interests of the company's stakeholders before a quick profit. Why should they? They can just as easily turn a quick profit and jump ship. All that long-term stuff requires intelligence and patience, and obviously doesn't pay.
The NY Times has an article up about the growing health care crisis. One of the major culprits opposed to a system that covers working people and non-working people alike is the corporations that make excessive profits from health care as it exists.
The article's been linked to all over the internet because of the story of Starla D. Darling, a pregnant, laid-off Archway Cookies factory worker who, upon learning that her insurance would run out in several days, rushed to her midwife, induced labor, and had a Caesarean section so that the birth would be covered. The insurance company denied the claim anyway, and now Darling is stuck with a bill almost twice as large as that from her first child.
While this particular case is certainly extraordinary, what the Times article highlights is that people are generally less able to use the medical industry when they don't have insurance (duh). That takes its toll on the medical industry:
M. Harvey Brenner, a professor of public health at the University of North Texas and Johns Hopkins University, said that three decades of research had shown a correlation between the condition of the economy and human health, including life expectancy.
"In recessions, with declines in national income and increases in unemployment," Mr. Brenner said, "you often see increases in mortality from heart disease, cancer, psychiatric illnesses and other conditions."
The recession is also taking a toll on hospitals.
"We have seen a significant increase in patients seeking assistance paying their bills," said Erin M. Al-Mehairi, a spokeswoman for Samaritan Hospital in Ashland. "We've had a 40 percent increase in charity care write-offs this year over the 2007 level of $2.7 million."
In addition, people are using the hospital less. "We've seen a huge decrease in M.R.I.'s, CAT scans, stress tests, cardiac catheterization tests, knee and hip replacements and other elective surgery," Ms. Al-Mehairi said.
This is the absolute worst place to be cutting back in a depression. Not only does it only ripple out and eliminate other people's jobs, as drops in consumer spending always do, it makes people sicker, which only prolongs the amount of time needed to get the economy going again.
During a recession, spending on infrastructure should increase for a country to work its way out of economic hard times. And health care is the foundation of our country's infrastructure because everything else depends on healthy people.
Considering the bankruptcy of conservatism, I wouldn't be surprised if Darling's case gets used by Republicans to point out how people try to cheat their insurance companies, and the real problem here is insurance fraud. But the real culprit is that the insurance industry knows its days will be numbered if a viable alternative to private insurance (like the program proposed by Obama) were implemented, and its accomplices are the medical industries, like the pharmaceutical industry, that weren't willing to take an opportunity to recession-proof their corporations when it presented itself.