Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Since you operate out of Japan you may not be as sensitive to one of the nastiest forms of rent extraction in the USA -- the medical industry. People in the USA spend 50-100% more for delivered medical services as people in other countries and get far worse overall service, as measured by infant mortality, longevity, percent of the population with access to routine medical services, etc.

Almost a third of the total expense for medical services is incurred in the form of 'insurance' that is massively parasitic. It increases cost and decreases outcomes by rationing services on the ability to pay and delaying services until people die. And a large portion of insurance industry income goes to a very tiny portion of the industry's executives.

And then there is run-amok big pharma, almost entirely motivated to find patentable new 'treatments' a large portion of which offer little if any improvement over existing medicines but produce harmful side effects. This has spawned another profitable specialty for law firms - class action lawsuits on behalf of victims of the side effects of these new 'wonder' drugs, devices and procedures. Significant portions of the profits of both the pharma and the law firms takes the form of TV adverts which pollute broadcast and cable television.  Taken together these form a grotesque 'fitness landscape' whose chief outcome is wealth extraction on behalf of the very rich.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Jan 22nd, 2012 at 10:05:32 AM EST
grotesque 'fitness landscape'

word... it has to be experienced to be believed.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Jan 22nd, 2012 at 10:40:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do not have a direct experience indeed (save for TV adds perhaps). But my impression is terrifying for a long time, and I can imagine, it gets ever drearier.

Medical service as rent extraction? Sure, whenever a human need is turned into hostage taking. One advantage of public government as an exclusive (or dominant) rentier is that its price is set (by reasonable governments) closer to actual costs rather than the rip value. Which actually can facilitate service exchange better than the free markets as we know them.

by das monde on Sun Jan 22nd, 2012 at 11:22:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Last night I watched a doco on the Mafia (Arte, a themed evening, after "Godfather III")

They talked about a medical clinic, built and operated by cosa nostra, where everything cost five times the "real" price (i.e. when it finally got cleaned up, they reduced costs five times with no lowering of the quality).

This is both an exact illustration of rent extraction in itself, and an interesting parable of private medical care in general.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Jan 23rd, 2012 at 04:17:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Chefs, Butlers, Marble Baths: Hospitals Vie for the Affluent
The bed linens were by Frette, Italian purveyors of high-thread-count sheets to popes and princes. The bathroom gleamed with polished marble. Huge windows displayed panoramic East River views. And in the hush of her $2,400 suite, a man in a black vest and tie proffered an elaborate menu and told her, "I'll be your butler."

[...] Pampering and décor to rival a grand hotel, if not a Downton Abbey, have long been the hallmark of such "amenities units," often hidden behind closed doors at New York's premier hospitals. But the phenomenon is escalating here and around the country, health care design specialists say, part of an international competition for wealthy patients willing to pay extra, even as the federal government cuts back hospital reimbursement in pursuit of a more universal and affordable American medical system.

[...] "These kinds of patients, they're paying cash -- they're the best kind of patient to have," she added. "Theoretically, it trickles down."

A waterfall, a grand piano and the image of a giant orchid grace the soaring ninth floor atrium of McKeen, leading to refurbished rooms that, like those in the hospital's East 68th Street penthouse, cost patients $1,000 to $1,500 a day, and can be combined. That fee is on top of whatever base rate insurance pays to the hospital, or the roughly $4,500 a day that foreigners are charged, according to the hospital's international services department.

But in the age of Occupy Wall Street, catering to the rich can be trickier than ever [...] She pointed to the recent ruckus at Lenox Hill Hospital, where parents with newborns in the intensive-care unit complained that security guards had restricted their movements and papered over hospital security cameras in their zeal to please Jay-Z (real name Shawn Carter) and Beyoncé Knowles, whose daughter was born on Jan. 7 in a new "executive suite."

The system works great for the people. Real people, you know.
by das monde on Mon Jan 23rd, 2012 at 08:17:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Occasional Series