$83,046 For A 3 Hour Hospital Visit – Why Are Hospital Bills So Outrageous?

The fastest way to go broke in America is to go to the hospital.  These days it seems like almost everyone has an outrageous hospital bill story to share.  It is getting to the point where most people are deathly afraid to go to the hospital.  All the financial progress that you have made in recent years can literally be wiped out in just a matter of hours.  For example, you are about to read about an Arizona woman that was recently charged $83,046 for a 3 hour hospital visit.  How in the world is anyone supposed to pay a bill like that?  I have a really hard time understanding why a visit to the doctor should ever be more than a couple hundred bucks or why a hospital stay should ever be more than a couple thousand dollars.  Outrageous hospital bills are a real pet peeve of mine and I have not even been to the hospital in ages.  What makes all of this even more infuriating is that Medicare, Medicaid and the big insurance companies are often charged less than 10 percent of what the rest of us are billed for the same procedures.  There is a reason why 41 percent of all working age Americans are struggling with medical debt right now.  It is because our health care system has become a giant money making scam.  Millions of desperate Americans go into hospitals each year assuming that they will be treated fairly, but in the end they get stuck with incredibly outrageous bills and in many cases cruel debt collection techniques are employed against them if they don’t pay.

So why do we have to pay so much for medical care?  Back in 1980, less than 10 percent of U.S. GDP went to health care.  Today, about 18 percent of U.S. GDP goes toward health care.

And considering the fact that over the next 20 years the number of Americans 65 years of age or older is projected to double that number is going to go even higher.

On a per capita basis we spend about twice as much on health care as anyone else in the world.

In fact, if the U.S. health care system was a nation it would be the 6th largest economy on the entire planet.

America spent 2.47 trillion dollars on health care in 2009, and it is now being projected that we will spend 4.5 trillion dollars on health care in 2019.

Our system is completely and totally broken, and Obamacare is going to make things far worse.  We need to throw the entire system out and start over.

A perfect example of why this is true is what happened when 52-year-old Marcie Edmonds went in to a hospital in Arizona recently to get treated for a scorpion sting….

With the help of a friend, she called Poison Control and was advised to go to the nearest hospital that had scorpion antivenom, Chandler Regional Medical Center. At the hospital, an emergency room doctor told her about the antivenom, called Anascorp, that could quickly relieve her symptoms. Edmonds said the physician never talked with her about the cost of the drug or treatment alternatives.

Her symptoms subsided after she received two doses of the drug Anascorp through an IV, and she was discharged from the hospital in about three hours.

Weeks later, she received a bill for $83,046 from Chandler Regional Medical Center. The hospital, owned by Dignity Health, charged her $39,652 per dose of Anascorp.

What makes this even more shocking is that hospitals in Mexico only charge $100 per dose of Anascorp.

These days many hospitals will do whatever they can get away with on hospital bills.

One NBC News reporter was absolutely stunned at the bill that she received after she went in for neck surgery for degenerative disc disease recently….

Once I got my itemized bill, the grand total was a little over $66,013.40!   That was for a one night stay and a four level vertebrae fusion surgery.  The charges included $22 for one sleeping pill, $427 for one dissecting tool, and $32,000 for four titanium plates and ten screws.

I brought it to Todd Hill, a fee based patient advocate who helps people decipher their medical bills. “The screws in your procedure were billed at $605 a piece for a total of $6050 dollars. We’ve seen those in our past research for $25 or $30,” he said. “In this case, the markup is tremendous,” he added.

Considering the fact that 77 percent of American families are living paycheck to paycheck at least part of the time, a single hospital bill like this can be a financial death blow.

If you have time, read this tragic story where one man was charged $11,000 and all he had was a case of bad indigestion.  Nothing was even wrong with him and now his family is going to have to declare bankruptcy.

Often medical bills are so complex and so confusing that nobody can really understand them.  A lot of the times this is probably done on purpose to keep people from understanding how badly they are being overcharged.  The following is from a recent article in the New York Times….

Hospital care tends to be the most confounding, and experts say the charges you see on your bill are usually completely unrelated to the cost of providing the services (at hospitals, these list prices are called the “charge master file”). “The charges have no rhyme or reason at all,” Gerard Anderson, director of the Center for Hospital Finance and Management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Why is 30 minutes in the operating room $2,000 and not $1,500? There is absolutely no basis for setting that charge. It is not based upon the cost, and it’s not based upon the market forces, other than the whim of the C.F.O. of the hospital.”

And those charges don’t really have any connection to what a hospital or medical provider will accept for payment, either. “If you line up five patients in their beds and they all have gall bladders removed and they get the same exact medication and services, if they have insurance or if they don’t have insurance, the hospital will get five different reimbursements, and none of it is based on cost,” said Holly Wallack, a medical billing advocate in Miami Beach. “The insurers negotiate a different rate, and if you are uninsured, underinsured or out of network, you are asked to pay full fare.”

It has been estimated that hospitals in the United States overcharge their patients by about 10 billion dollars every single year.

Medical bills are the number one reason why Americans file for bankruptcy.  As I mentioned earlier, approximately 41 percent of all working age Americans are struggling with medical debt.

And health insurance is not as much protection as you might think.  According to a report published in the American Journal of Medicine, of all bankruptcies caused by medical debt, approximately 75 percent of the time the people actually did have health insurance.

And if you can’t pay your bills, many hospitals will come after you ruthlessly.

In fact, collection agencies sought to collect unpaid medical bills from approximately 30 million Americans during 2010 alone.

If you don’t cough up the cash they are demanding you can even end up in prison.  The following example comes from CBS News….

How did breast cancer survivor Lisa Lindsay end up behind bars? She didn’t pay a medical bill — one the Herrin, Ill., teaching assistant was told she didn’t owe. “She got a $280 medical bill in error and was told she didn’t have to pay it,” The Associated Press reports. “But the bill was turned over to a collection agency, and eventually state troopers showed up at her home and took her to jail in handcuffs.”

Although the U.S. abolished debtors’ prisons in the 1830s, more than a third of U.S. states allow the police to haul people in who don’t pay all manner of debts, from bills for health care services to credit card and auto loans.

But why do these bills have to be so high?  It is not like many doctors are getting rich these days.  In fact, many of them are going broke.

So what is the deal?

Well, as a recent article by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts explained, there are a whole lot of people pulling profit out of the system other than just doctors these days….

There are two main reasons that US medicine is so expensive. One is that profits are piled upon profits. In addition to wages and salaries for doctors, nurses, and medical personnel, the American health care system has to provide profits for private hospitals, diagnostic centers, insurance companies, and for the accountants, attorneys and management consultants made necessary by the enormous litigation and regulatory compliance cost. American medicine is the most regulated in the world and the most criminalized.

And another big factor is that the rest of us have to make up the difference for the patients that are not profitable.

It has gotten to the point where some doctors in certain kinds of practices barely make any profit on Medicare and Medicaid patients.  In fact, in many cases doctors actually lose money treating them.

An article posted on medicalcostadvocate.com has some outrageous examples of the difference between what you and I are billed and what Medicare pays out for the exact same procedures….

A patient in Illinois was charged $12,712 for cataract surgery. Medicare pays $675 for the same procedure. In California, a patient was charged $20,120 for a knee operation for which Medicare pays $584. And a New Jersey patient was charged $72,000 for a spinal fusion procedure that Medicare covers for $1,629.

So not only do we pay very high taxes to support Medicaid and Medicare, we also have to pay higher medical bills in order to make up the difference for the money that doctors and hospitals are not seeing from those patients.

Unfortunately, Medicaid and Medicare are expected to grow dramatically in the years ahead.

For example, it is now being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to Medicaid.

And enrollment in Medicare is projected to grow from 50.7 million today to 73.2 million in 2025.

How in the world can our current system possibly handle this?

And please don’t tell me that Obamacare is the answer.

The truth is that Obamacare is going to take everything that is wrong with our health care system and make it even worse.

For a good summary on this, please see this article.

In the years ahead it is going to get even harder for those that are not dependent on the government for health care….

-Approximately 10 percent of all employers plan to drop health insurance coverage entirely because of Obamacare.

-According to one recent poll, 83 percent of all doctors in the United States have considered quitting the profession because of Obamacare, and we were already projected to have a severe doctor shortage in the years ahead even before Obamacare came along.

We are heading into the greatest health care crisis the United States has ever seen, and none of our leaders seem to have any answers.

In a recent article entitled “11 Signs That The U.S. Health Care System Is Heading Straight Down The Toilet“, I detailed a lot more reasons why our health care system is a national disgrace.  If you can handle some more ranting I encourage you to go check that article out.

I am just absolutely disgusted with the condition of our health care system.  It is dominated by government bureaucrats, pharmaceutical corporations and the big health insurance companies.  It is a giant money making scam that seeks to drain as much money from the rest of us as possible.

So do you have a hospital bill horror story to share?  Please feel free to share your thoughts below….

17 Facts That Prove That The Average American Family Is Getting Absolutely Pulverized By This Economy

How in the world does the average American family survive in this economy?  The median household income is a little bit less than $50,000 a year right now.  So let’s call that about $4000 a month.  But before any of that money gets spent, you have to take out at least $1000 in taxes.  That leaves about $3000 a month to pay all the bills with.  With that $3000 you have to pay the mortgage (or rent), make the car payments, make the student loan payments, pay for power and water, pay for health insurance, pay for home insurance, pay for car insurance, pay the phone bill, pay the Internet bill and pay the cable bill.  On top of all that, every member of the family needs three meals a day and the cars need to be filled up with gasoline or they won’t go anywhere.  Of course I haven’t even mentioned expenses that don’t happen every month such as car repairs or new shoes.  No wonder so many families are feeling so financially stressed!

The truth is that American families are getting squeezed harder than they have been in ages.  The number of good jobs is declining, incomes are going down, and the cost of living just keeps going up.

The following are 17 facts that prove that the average American family is getting absolutely pulverized by this economy….

#1 The cost of a health insurance policy for the average American family rose by a whopping 9 percent last year.  According to a report put out by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust, the average family health insurance policy now costs over $15,000 a year.

How in the world can most families afford that?  Yes, in many cases employers are paying for at least a portion of that, but still that seems absolutely outrageous.

#2 Due to rising costs, a lot of employers are completely getting rid of health plans for their employees.  In fact, the percentage of Americans covered by employer-based health plans has fallen for 11 years in a row.

#3 The number of uninsured Americans continues to rise.  Things have gotten so bad that an all-time record 49.9 million Americans do not have any health insurance at all.

#4 At this point, most American families are tapped out financially.  According to the U.S. Labor Department, incomes and spending were both down for the second straight year in 2010.

#5 At the same time, the employment picture continues to look worse with each passing month.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of layoffs in the United States was up 14 percent in August.

#6 Even if you do have a job that doesn’t mean that you are doing much more than surviving.  According to Paul Osterman, a professor of economics at MIT, approximately 20 percent of all employed Americans are making $10.65 an hour or less.

#7 The amount of debt that the average American family has piled up is absolutely staggering.  The median yearly wage in the United States is just $26,261, but the average American household is carrying $75,600 in debt.

#8 Consumer confidence is extremely low right now.  If the U.S. economy was in good shape, the Consumer Confidence Index would be up around 90.  Instead, it is sitting at 45.4.

#9 Nearly every recent survey shows that the American people are feeling really depressed about the economy right now.  In fact, one poll found that 80 percent of them believe that we are actually in a recession right now.

#10 Many consumers are seriously starting to cut back on spending again, and that is not a good sign for the U.S. economy.  According to one recent study, 40 percent of all Americans have cut back on their spending within the last 60 days.

#11 It certainly does not help that millions of good jobs have been shipped out of the country.  Sadly, the trend of offshoring our jobs is going to continue to accelerate if something is not done.  According to Professor Alan Blinder of Princeton University, 40 million more U.S. jobs could be sent offshore over the next two decades.

#12 There is a lot of fear in the workforce right now.  According to Gallup, 30 percent of all employed Americans are worried that they will be laid off soon.

#13 Today, there are 5.9 million Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 that are living with their parents.  That is putting an even greater strain on the budgets of many families.

#14 American families have gotten very accustomed to using plastic to pay for things.  Today, the average U.S. household has 13 different credit cards.

#15 Many American families are not making it at all in this economy.  Last year, 2.6 million more Americans dropped into poverty.  That was the largest increase that we have seen since the U.S. government began keeping statistics on this back in 1959.

#16 For many American families, living on food stamps has become a way of life.  Today, there are more than 45 million Americans on food stamps and we keep setting a brand new record almost every single month.

#17 Things have gotten so bad that many American families are selling off whatever they can in order to survive.  For example, down in Florida hundreds of people have been selling off their burial plots in an attempt to raise cash.  The following is an excerpt from a local news report about this new trend….

Sellers are posting online, using burial plot brokers, and also funeral homes to market the real estate. Some of those advertisements show single plots starting at about $1,000, while family plots can go for up to $50,000.

Most American families are living in a state of almost constant financial stress.  Way too many parents are spending way too many sleepless nights wondering how in the world they will be able to keep their heads above water for another month.

Very few families seem to have “extra money” for stuff these days.  Yeah, there are the “privileged few”, but most people are really struggling to get by.

In America today, if you are able to keep your home from being foreclosed and you are able to put food on the table and clothes on the backs of your family then you are doing pretty good.

Sadly, as our current economic crisis deepens, the average American family is going to have an even more difficult time trying to survive financially.

So do you have any tips to share for how the average American family can survive in this very tough economy?  Please feel free to share your ideas and thoughts below….

National Debt

It really is hard to find the words to describe the true horror of the national debt.  The U.S. government has been on the greatest debt binge in all of human history, and a day of reckoning is coming that is going to be so painful that it is going to shock America to the core.  We have lived so far above our means for so long that none of us really has any concept of what “normal” is like anymore.  The United States has enjoyed the greatest party in the history of the world, but now this decades-old party is ending and the bills are coming due.  It was Dick Cheney who famously said that “deficits don’t matter”.  Well, try telling that to the nation of Greece right about now.  The horror that Greece is just beginning to experience is a preview of what is going to happen to us as well.  Only when it happens to us it is going to be so much worse, because when we go down we are going to bring the entire global financial system down with us.

What we have done to future generations is beyond sickening.  Previous generations entrusted to us the greatest economic machine in the history of the world and we destroyed it.  Now we are leaving to our children and our grandchildren an economic future that has been totally wiped out and a national debt of more than 14 trillion dollars that we expect them to repay.

In Washington D.C. these days, there is a lot of talk about the debt ceiling.  But whatever the politicians do, it is not going to solve our debt problems.  If the debt ceiling does not get raised, we move the financial pain into the present.  World financial markets would crash and that would be followed by a devastating economic nightmare.

If we do raise the debt ceiling, that will “kick the can down the road” a little bit farther.  However, world financial markets will still crash eventually and our eventual economic nightmare will be even worse.

Well, can’t we just “inflate our way” out of debt?

No, unfortunately things are just not that easy.  If we try to inflate our way out of debt, interest rates will likely rise just as quickly as inflation does, and that would be absolutely catastrophic.

Before interest rates even reached 20% we would hit a point where it would take every single dollar taken in by the federal government just to pay the interest on the national debt.

Meanwhile, rapidly rising inflation would devastate the value of all of your bank accounts and every other single financial asset that you own.

So no, inflating our way out of debt is not going to work.

At the moment, the U.S. federal government is able to borrow gigantic quantities of money at super low interest rates.

When that changes, all hell is going to be unleashed.

The following are 41 statistics about the national debt that are almost too crazy to believe….

1 – As of June 20th, the U.S. national debt was $14,344,524,186,068.19.

2 – 30 years ago, the U.S. national debt was approximately 14 times smaller.

3 – It took from the presidency of George Washington to the presidency of Ronald Reagan for the U.S. government to accumulate one trillion dollars of debt.

4 – Since then, we have added more than 13 trillion dollars of additional debt.

5 – The United States government is responsible for more than a third of all the government debt in the entire world.

6 – If you divide up the national debt equally among all U.S. households, each one owes over $125,000.

7 – Mandatory federal spending is going to surpass total federal revenue for the first time ever in this fiscal year.  That was not supposed to happen until 50 years from now.

8 – Between 2007 and 2010, U.S. GDP grew by only 4.26%, but the U.S. national debt soared by 61% during that same time period.

9 – The federal government has borrowed 29,660 more dollars per household since Barack Obama signed the economic stimulus law.

10 – During Barack Obama’s first two years in office, the U.S. government added more to the U.S. national debt than the first 100 U.S. Congresses combined.

11 – The U.S. national debt is currently rising by well over 4 billion dollars every single day.

12 – The U.S. government is borrowing over 2 million more dollars every single minute.

13 – The U.S. government borrows an average of about 168 million dollars every single hour.

14 – The combined debt of the major GSEs (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Sallie Mae) has increased from 3.2 trillion in 2008 to 6.4 trillion in 2011.  Thanks to George W. Bush, Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress, U.S. taxpayers are guaranteeing that debt.  This is debt that is not even included in the $14.3 trillion national debt figure.

15 – Some experts estimate that the unfunded liabilities of the U.S. government for programs such as Social Security and Medicare are in the neighborhood of 60 trillion dollars.  Other experts claim that the total for federal government unfunded liabilities could be well over $100 trillion.  But what almost everyone agrees on is that it is going to be virtually impossible to even come close to meeting all of those obligations.

16 – The U.S. government currently has to borrow approximately 41 cents of every single dollar that it spends.

17 – The total compensation that the federal government workforce earned last year came to a grand total of approximately 447 billion dollars.

18 – The level of government waste in this country is absolutely mind blowing. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services has just announced a brand new $500 million program that will, among other things, seek to solve the problem of 5-year-old children that “can’t sit still” in a kindergarten classroom.

19 – In the past, the U.S. government has spent $2.6 million dollars to study the drinking habits of Chinese prostitutes and $400,000 dollars to pay researchers to cruise bars in Buenos Aires, Argentina to find out why gay men engage in risky sexual behavior when drunk.

20 – The cost for the first week of airstrikes on Libya was 600 million dollars.  Keep in mind that the leader of the opposition in Libya has admitted that his forces contain large numbers of the same “al-Qaeda fighters” that were shooting at American troops in Iraq.  So we are going broke and we are helping al-Qaeda take power in Libya at the same time.

21 – Just one day of the war in Afghanistan costs more money than it took to build the entire Pentagon.

22 – In 1980, government transfer payments accounted for just 11.7% of all income.  Today, government transfer payments account for 18.4% of all income.

2359 percent of all Americans now receive money from the federal government in one form or another.

24 – Back in 1965, only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid.  Today, one out of every 6 Americans is on Medicaid.

25 – Back in 1950, each retiree’s Social Security benefit was paid for by approximately 16 workers.  Today, each retiree’s Social Security benefit is paid for by approximately 3.3 workers.  By 2025 it is projected that there will be approximately two workers for each retiree.

26 – U.S. households are now actually receiving more money from the U.S. government than they are paying to the government in taxes.

27 – Back in the 1950s, corporate taxes accounted for about 30 percent of all federal revenue.  In 2009, corporate taxes accounted for just 6.6 percent.

28 – The U.S. national debt has increased in size for 54 years in a row.

29 – If the U.S. government was forced to use GAAP accounting principles (like all publicly-traded corporations must), the U.S. government budget deficit would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 trillion to $5 trillion each and every year.

30According to a shocking U.S. government report, interest on the national debt and mandatory spending on entitlement programs will absorb approximately 92 cents of every dollar of federal revenue by the year 2019.

31 – A recently revised IMF policy paper entitled “An Analysis of U.S. Fiscal and Generational Imbalances: Who Will Pay and How?” projects that U.S. government debt will rise to about 400 percent of GDP by the year 2050.

32 – The U.S. government spent over 413 billion dollars on interest on the national debt during fiscal 2010.

33 – Approximately one out of every four dollars that the U.S. government borrows goes to pay the interest on the national debt.

34 – It is now being projected that by the year 2021, interest payments on the national debt will amount to $1.1 trillion dollars a year.

35 – If interest rates move up even slightly, the interest on the national debt is going to be a whole lot worse.  A recent article in the Huffington Post laid this out really well….

According to a recent note from the sage of Dallas based Hayman Capital, highly respected Kyle Bass, a move back to 5% (2006 levels) in short term interest rates will increase annual U.S. interest expense by almost $700 billion annually. This is against current U.S. government tax revenues of $2.228 trillion (CBO FY 2011 forecast).

36 – If the U.S. national debt (more than 14 trillion dollars) was reduced to a stack of 5 dollar bills, it would reach three quarters of the way to the moon.

37 – A trillion $10 bills, if they were taped end to end, would wrap around the globe more than 380 times.  That amount of money would still not be enough to pay off the U.S. national debt.

38 – If Bill Gates gave every penny of his fortune to the U.S. government, it would only cover the U.S. budget deficit for 15 days.

39 – If you were alive when Jesus was born and you spent one million dollars every single day since that point, you still would not have spent one trillion dollars by now.  But this year alone the U.S. government is going to add more than a trillion dollars to the national debt.

40 – If you went out today and started spending one dollar every single second, it would take you over 31,000 years to spend one trillion dollars.

41 – If the federal government began right at this moment to repay the U.S. national debt at a rate of one dollar per second, it would take over 440,000 years to pay off the national debt.

You might be depressed after reading all of those statistics about the national debt, but there is some good news.

If you would like to help address this problem, the federal government is actually taking online donations that will go towards paying off the national debt.

Try not to laugh.

The national debt is a problem that should have been handled 20 or 30 years ago.

But it wasn’t.

So now what we have to look forward to is a very bleak future.  Even if we totally scrapped our current monetary system and repudiated the debt, the transition would be “rocky” at best and we would not enjoy anything close to the standard of living that we are enjoying today.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of our politicians in Washington D.C. would never even dream of abandoning the current system. Most of them still totally believe in it.

But this current system is headed for an inevitable collapse.  There is no way of getting around it.

Even most of our top politicians are now admitting that our current state of affairs is “unsustainable”.  They just don’t have the guts to do anything about it.

A horrific economic collapse is coming.

It is going to change the world.

You better get ready.

The Coming Economic Hell For American Families

Tens of millions of American families are about to go through economic hell and most of them don’t even realize it. Most Americans don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about things like “monetary policy” or “economic cycles”.  The vast majority of people just want to be able to get up in the morning, go to work and provide for their families.  Most Americans realize that things seem “harder” these days, but most of them also have faith that things will eventually get better.  Unfortunately, things aren’t going to get any better.  The number of good jobs continues to decline, the number of Americans losing their homes continues to go up, people are having a much more difficult time paying their bills and our federal government is drowning in debt.  Sadly, this is only just the beginning.

Since the financial collapse of 2008, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. government have taken unprecedented steps to stimulate the economy.  But even with all of those efforts, we are still living in an economic wasteland.

So what is going to happen when the next wave of the economic crisis hits?

During one recent interview, Peter Schiff made the following statement….

If you look at the economic relapse that’s going on right now, look at Friday’s abysmal job numbers, look at the housing numbers, understand that all of this is taking place with record monetary and fiscal stimulus. What happens if we remove those supports?

At the end of June, the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program is slated to end.  The U.S. Congress and state legislatures from coast to coast are talking about budget cuts.  The amount of borrowing and spending that has been going on is clearly unsustainable, but will the U.S. economy start shrinking again once the current “financial sugar high” has worn off?

Already, all sorts of bad economic news has been coming out and all kinds of economic indicators are turning south.  The American people are becoming increasingly restless.  One new poll has found that 59 percent of the American people disapprove of Barack Obama’s handling of the economy (which is a new high).  According to another recent poll, 63% of Americans say that they feel “not good” or “bad” about how the U.S. economy is performing.

If most Americans had good jobs, could afford their mortgages and could pay their bills, the economy would not be such a big issue.

Unfortunately, times are really tough for American families right now and they are about to get a lot tougher.

*Jobs*

The official unemployment rate just went up to 9.1 percent, but that figure only tells part of the picture.

There are some areas of the country where it seems nearly impossible to find a decent job.  Millions of Americans have fallen into depression as they find themselves unable to provide for their families.

According to CBS News, 45.1 percent of all unemployed Americans have been out of work for at least six months.  That is a higher percentage than at any point during the Great Depression.

Just two years ago, the number of “long-term unemployed” in the United States was only 2.6 million.  Today, that number is up to 6.2 million.

Can you imagine being out of work for 6 months or more?

How would you survive?

Just look at the chart below.  What we are going through now is really unprecedented.  The average duration of unemployment in this country is now close to 40 weeks….

So will things get any better soon?  Well, there were only about 3 million job openings in the United States during the month of April.  Normally there should be about 4.5 million job openings.  The economy is slowing down once again.  Good jobs are going to become even more rare.

There are millions of other Americans that are “underemployed”.  All over the United States you will find hard working Americans that are flipping burgers or working in retail stores because that is all they can get right now.

Most temp jobs and most part-time jobs don’t pay enough to be able to provide for a family.  But there are not nearly enough full-time jobs for everyone.

Sadly, the number of “middle class jobs” is about 10 percent lower than a decade ago.  There are simply less tickets to the “good life” than there used to be.

*Homes*

But without good jobs, the American people cannot afford to buy homes.

Without good jobs, the American people cannot even afford the homes that they are in now.

U.S. home prices have fallen 33 percent since the peak of the housing bubble.  That is more than they fell during the Great Depression.

This decline in housing prices has caused a lot of problems.

28 percent of all homes with a mortgage in the United States are in negative equity at this point.  There are millions of American families that are now paying on mortgages that are for far more than their homes are worth.

Millions of American families literally feel trapped in their homes.  They can’t afford to sell their homes, and if they simply walk away nobody will approve them for new home loans for many years to come.

Many Americans are sticking it out and are staying in their homes until they simply can’t pay for them anymore.

As the number of good jobs continues to decline, the number of Americans that are losing their homes continues to rise.

For the first time ever, more than a million U.S. families lost their homes to foreclosure in a single year during 2010.

If the economy slows down once again and millions more Americans lose their jobs this problem is going to get a lot worse.

*Bills*

Even if they aren’t losing their homes yet, millions of other Americans families are finding it increasingly difficult to pay the bills.

Wages have been very flat over the past few years and yet the cost of most of the basics just seems to keep going up and up.

According to Brent Meyer, a senior economic analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, the cost of food and the cost of energy have risen at an annualized rate of 17 percent over the past six months.

Have your wages gone up by 17 percent over the past six months?

As 2009 began, the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States was $1.83.  Today it is $3.77.

American families are finding that their paychecks are going a lot less farther than they used to, but Ben Bernanke keeps insisting that we have very little inflation in 2011.

Most Americans don’t care much about economic statistics – they just want to be able to do basic things like take their children to the doctor.

According to one recent survey, 26 percent of Americans have put off doctor visits because of the economy.

Sadly, soon a lot more American families will not be able to afford to go to the doctor.

According to one recent survey, 30 percent of all U.S. employers will “definitely or probably” quit offering employer-sponsored health coverage once Obamacare is fully implemented in 2014.

As the economic situation has unraveled, an increasing number of people are being forced to turn to the federal government for assistance.

One out of every six Americans is now enrolled in at least one anti-poverty program run by the federal government.

Some of the hardest hit members of our society have been our children.  Today, one out of every four American children is on food stamps.

Back in the old days, a large percentage of American families were self-sufficient, but that is no longer the case.

Back in 1850, approximately 50 percent of all Americans worked on farms.

Today, less than 2 percent of Americans do.

So these days when American families can’t feed themselves what do they do?

They turn to the federal government of course.

At the moment, approximately 44 million Americans are on food stamps.

But our federal government cannot afford to spend money like this forever.

According to a recent USA Today analysis, the U.S. federal government took on $5.3 trillion in new financial obligations during 2010.  USA Today says that the U.S. government now has $61.6 trillion in financial obligations that have not been paid for yet.

Wow!

Who is going to end up paying that bill?

So with so much bad news, are our leaders alarmed?

Not really.

According to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, “growth seems likely to pick up somewhat in the second half of the year.

Yeah, we’ll see how that prediction works out.

Others are not so sure that everything is going to turn out okay.

Recently, James Carville warned that we could literally see rioting in the streets if the economic situation does not turn around soon.  Just check out the last part of the video below….

The truth is that America is in decline.  Just like with all of the great empires of the past, our empire is starting to crumble too.

A recent article in the Guardian touched on some of the reasons for America’s decline….

The experience of both Rome and Britain suggests that it is hard to stop the rot once it has set in, so here are the a few of the warning signs of trouble ahead: military overstretch, a widening gulf between rich and poor, a hollowed-out economy, citizens using debt to live beyond their means, and once-effective policies no longer working. The high levels of violent crime, epidemic of obesity, addiction to pornography and excessive use of energy may be telling us something: the US is in an advanced state of cultural decadence.

The economic news is only part of the puzzle.  This country has rejected the ancient wisdom that was passed down to us and we have rejected the principles of our founding fathers.

We have piled up the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world and yet somehow we expected that everything would turn out okay.

Well, everything is not going to turn out okay.

All of this debt is going to come down on us like a ton of bricks and the U.S. economy is going to continue to fall apart.  Millions of American families are going to lose their jobs and their homes.

Economic hell is coming.

You better get ready.

Inflation 2011: Honey – They Shrunk Our Paychecks

Do you ever have the feeling that there are holes in your pockets?  These days our money seems to slip through our hands faster than ever.  The Federal Reserve keeps telling us that the rate of inflation in 2011 is “close to zero”, and this is causing confusion for many Americans because they are making just as much money as they did in previous years but it doesn’t seem to go nearly as far.  So what in the world is going on out there?  Well, sadly, the truth is that we really don’t even know what the government considers “inflation” to be anymore.  The way that the U.S. government calculates inflation has changed an astounding 24 times since 1978.  You see, it is always politically beneficial to have a low inflation rate, so recent administrations have been changing the formula constantly in an attempt to look good.  But these days most Americans know something is up.  All they have to do is stop at a gas station, go shopping for food or open up their bills. The reality is that inflation in 2011 is about as bad as we saw back in the 1970s, it is just that the government is much less honest about it now.

Many years ago Kenny Rogers released a song that contained the following lyrics….

You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em
Know when to walk away and know when to run
You never count your money when you’re sitting at the table
There’ll be time for counting when the dealer’s done

Well, the U.S. middle class has been dealt a losing hand, but in the game of life you just can’t fold.

Over the past 3 decades, the average household income for the bottom 80 percent of Americans has been remarkably flat.  In fact, over the past several years we have actually seen median household income decline several times. If you do not know about how the U.S. middle class is being ripped to shreds, just read this article.  Without a doubt, America is getting poorer.

Well, not the top 1 percent, but the vast majority of the rest of us sure are.

Meanwhile, prices have started to rise with a vengeance.

According to an article in the Daily Mail, a Memorial Day cookout will cost you 29 percent more this year than it did last year.

That doesn’t sound good.

Will it be 29 percent more expensive again next year?

Perhaps some of us will just have to stop having Memorial Day cookouts because we can’t afford them anymore.

The price of gas is also digging into our paychecks big time.

A gallon of gas costs about a dollar more than it did a year ago, but we can’t avoid buying gas.  All of us have got to get to work and drive to the store.

Sadly, each time the price of gasoline goes up 50 cents it takes about $70 billion out of the U.S. economy (on a yearly basis).

A recent article in USA Today described the kind of impact these high gas prices are having on average American families….

For every $10 the typical household earns before taxes, almost a full dollar now goes toward gas, a 40 percent bigger bite than normal.

Households spent an average of $369 on gas last month. In April 2009, they spent just $201.

But don’t worry, according to Ben Bernanke we barely have any inflation at all in 2011.

Some companies are trying to avoid raising their prices by reducing their package sizes.  A recent article posted on Marketwatch entitled “Inflation diet: same price, less product” explored this phenomenon in detail.  Millions of Americans are going to the supermarket and are finding that many of their favorite products are now 10 or 20 percent smaller and yet they are paying the same price as before.

Another thing that is happening is that product quality is going down.  Have you noticed how things just don’t seem to be made the way that they used to?  This is not a coincidence.

According a recent article on CNBC, retailers are skimping on quality as a way to deal with rising costs….

According to Global Hunter Securities Macro and Consumer Strategist Richard Hastings, retailers have been collaborating with their production contractors for about two years. They are trying to push back on the total volume, cost and weight of every unit.

“Along the way, the consumer barely noticed. By now, everybody knows something is wrong,” said Hastings. “If we had to put a number on it, it’s probably a 7.5% decline in total quality and durability of products compared to a bigger increase in the cost of production per unit made outside of the U.S.”

But no matter how hard companies try to hide it, at some point the American people are going to wake up and they are going to realize that they aren’t getting as much for their money as they were before.

This is why so many people get upset when the Federal Reserve and the U.S. government devalue our money.  Inflation is a “hidden tax” on every single one of us.  When our dollars don’t buy as much stuff, that means that we are all poorer than we were before.

All of this inflation is coming at a time when the economy is really struggling.  Personally, I am seeing all kinds of signals that the economy is really starting to slow down once again.

What is going to make things even worse is all of the government austerity that is going to be implemented over the next couple of years.

Once upon a time, a government job was the safest kind of a job you could have.  Sadly, as a recent Reuters article noted, those days are long gone….

Around 450,000 people who work for U.S. states, counties, cities, towns and villages could get pink slips in fiscal 2012, sharply up from the 300,000 positions shed this year, a report said on Monday.

So should we, as many of our liberal friends insist, tax the rich so that we can pay for all of those government workers?

Well, the truth is that the wealthy are already being taxed into oblivion.  If you doubt this, just read this editorial in The Wall Street Journal: “A 62% Top Tax Rate?

Most of the “ultra-wealthy” have learned how to avoid most of this taxation by moving their wealth offshore.  In fact, as I have written about previously, it is estimated that a third of all the wealth in the world is now held in “offshore” tax havens.

So why are we seeing so much inflation right now?

Well, I covered that in my previous article entitled “When Faith In U.S. Dollars And U.S. Debt Is Dead The Game Is Over – And That Day Is Closer Than You May Think“.

The Federal Reserve and our politicians in Washington D.C. have been very naughty.  They have been systematically destroying the value of our dollars.

Someday when you are using your money as toilet paper because toilet paper is actually much more valuable than dollars are you will wish that the American people had stood up and insisted on a different path.

Don’t laugh – during the hyperinflation that the Weimar Republic experienced in the 1920s, German citizens were actually burning stacks of money in their furnaces in order to keep their homes warm.

100 years ago, a U.S. dollar had more than 20 times the purchasing power than it has today.

Sadly, we are now in a terminal phase of dollar devaluation.  It is only going to get worse from here.  Someday we will look back and long for the days of “low inflation” that we had back in 2011.

The Coming Doctor Shortage

The United States is going to experience an absolutely devastating doctor shortage in the coming years.  Even now it can be difficult to see a doctor in many areas, and if you are fortunate enough to see one you will probably pay through the nose.  Medical bills have gotten absolutely insane in this country.  Many Americans have gone to the hospital for a few hours, perhaps got to see a doctor for half an hour, and ended up being billed thousands of dollars.  Unfortunately, it is not the doctors that are getting rich from these nightmarish medical bills.  Rather, “the system” is set up so that “the middle men” are the ones raking in most of the cash.  In fact, thousands upon thousands of doctors are being chased out of the profession because being a doctor just isn’t worth the trouble anymore.  According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, we were already going to be facing a shortage of more than 150,000 doctors over the next 15 years even before Obamacare was passed. Obamacare is just going to make the doctor shortage even worse.  In fact, one poll found that 40 percent of all U.S. doctors plan to get out of the profession over the next 3 years.  Of course not all of those disgruntled doctors will end up leaving the profession, but even if 10 percent of them quit it is going to create a medical crisis of unprecedented magnitude in this country.

Look, it is no secret that I am not a big fan of the health care industry in the United States.  But if I get into a car accident or someone shoots me then I very much want someone to take me to the hospital and I don’t want to wait a couple of hours to see a doctor.

Unfortunately, the way that the health care industry is set up today is absolutely suffocating for doctors.  The government is trying to tell them how to treat patients, lawyers are constantly looking to sue them and most of the money ends up going to health insurance companies, big pharma and huge health care corporations.

In the old days, all you needed was a bed, a patient, a doctor and maybe a nurse.

After all, how much does it really cost for a doctor to look you over, ask you a few questions and patch you up?

Unfortunately, a whole host of bad guys have gotten between the doctor and the patient these days.  They have all carved out a little bit of “territory” and they all have to be paid.

The health care industry used to be about helping people.

Today it is all about greed, and the system is coming apart.

As the economy collapses, an increasing number of Americans are being forced to rely on programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

For example, back in 1965 only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid.  Today, one out of every 6 Americans is on Medicaid.

This is putting our doctors in a very difficult position.  According to The New York Post, treating Medicare and Medicaid patients is a huge financial strain on U.S. doctors…

Estimates suggest that on average physicians are reimbursed at roughly 78% of costs under Medicare, and just 70% of costs under Medicaid. Physicians must either make up for this shortfall by shifting costs to those patients with insurance — meaning those of us with insurance pay more — or treat patients at a loss.

You understand what all that means, right?

Medical bills have to be jacked up on all the rest of us to make up for the Medicare and Medicaid patients.

But that is just one example of how the system is failing.

Today, it is quite common for medical school students to rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt as they go through school.  Then it takes a number of years of really hard work before they become established and at a point where they can start making good money.  Meanwhile, lawyers are constantly circling them like vultures.  Malpractice insurance premiums are absolutely insane at this point and one really bad lawsuit can ruin a career that took decades to build.

In addition, now thanks to Obamacare and other ridiculous regulations that have been passed in recent years, the government has a tremendous amount of control over how medicine is practiced in the United States.  Doctors no longer have the complete freedom to treat their patients as they see fit.

Sadly, a significant percentage of U.S. doctors have had enough and now want to get out.

According to a Merritt Hawkins survey of 2,379 doctors for the Physicians Foundation that was conducted in August of last year, 40 percent of all U.S. doctors plan to “retire, seek a nonclinical job in health care, or seek a job or business unrelated to health care” at some point over the next three years.

When Obamacare was originally being debated perhaps we should have taken some time to ask our doctors what they thought about it first.

Now we could end up with a massive doctor shortage as our doctors vote with their feet.

Right now there are approximately 960,000 doctors in the United States.

What do you think our medical system will look like if even 100,000 of them bail out of the profession?

According to the same survey noted above, 74 percent of U.S. doctors plan to make “one or more significant changes in their practices in the next one to three years, a time when many provisions of health reform will be phased in.”

One big trend that we are seeing right now is the refusal to see certain kinds of patients.  Under our current system, some patients are much more “profitable” than others.  Many doctors have decided that they simply cannot afford to see many of the “unprofitable” patients any longer.

Our health care system is messed up beyond all recognition.  In America, we pay much more for health care than anyone else in the world and what we get in return is a system that is literally falling to pieces.

It would have been nice if we would have gotten some real health care reform, but instead what we got was Obamacare – one of the worst pieces of legislation that has ever been passed in all of modern American history.

An IBD/TIPP poll taken back in August 2009 found that 4 out of every 9 American doctors said that they “would consider leaving their practice or taking an early retirement” if Congress passed Obamacare.

Well, it passed anyway.

Now the doctor shortage is about to get a whole lot worse.

Survey after survey shows similar results.

According to a survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine, approximately one-third of all practicing physicians in the United States indicated that they may leave the medical profession because of the new health care law.

Are you starting to become alarmed yet?

We have a system that is broken and large numbers of doctors are now saying that they simply want to give up.

Sadly, Obamacare is also causing the cancellation of a lot of new hospitals.

According to the executive director of Physician Hospitals of America, the new health care law has already forced the cancellation of at least 60 doctor-owned hospitals that were scheduled to open soon.

Not that I am just getting on Obama and the Democrats.  Bush and the Republicans were a complete disaster when it came to health care as well.  Thanks to both political parties we have a health care system that is a joke.

Today, approximately 40% of all U.S. doctors are age 55 or older.  All of those old doctors are thinking about retirement.  They are too old to be putting up with all of this garbage.

It is an open secret that our health care industry has become a giant money making scam and that it is not favorable for either doctors or patients.

According to one doctor interviewed by Fox News, “a gunshot wound to the head, chest or abdomen” will cost $13,000 at his hospital the moment the victim comes in the door, and then there will be significant additional charges depending on how bad the wound is.

So how much of that $13,000 do you think the doctor gets?

Not a whole lot.

There certainly are some wealthy doctors out there, but the truth is that “the system” gets most of the money.

I am sure almost everyone reading this has a medical bill horror story to tell.

In America today, if you have an illness that requires intensive care for an extended period of time, it can be really easy to rack up medical bills that total over 1 million dollars.

In fact, most Americans are scared to even spend a single night in the hospital these days.

It is estimated that hospitals overcharge Americans by about 10 billion dollars every single year.  In fact, one trained medical billing advocate says that over 90 percent of the medical bills that she has audited contain “gross overcharges“.

Basically, hospitals charge whatever they think they can get away with.  Unlike most transactions, you don’t get to see a “price list” first when you go into the hospital.  You just ask them to take care of you and you trust them to bill you fairly later.

Why should it cost a half million dollars for a simple operation?

It’s not that complicated – the doctor cuts you open, carves something out and then sews you back up.

So why should it cost so much?

Am I missing something?

Sadly, it is those that don’t know how things work that get the worst of it.

It is not uncommon for insurance companies to get hospitals to knock their bills down by up to 95 percent, but if you are uninsured or you don’t know how the system works then you are out of luck.

You should always, always have health insurance if you can afford it.  If you do not have a health insurance company fighting the hospital then it can be really hard to have your medical bills knocked down to a reasonable level.

In any event, as doctors start leaving the profession in droves it may become difficult to find quality medical care at all.

Perhaps even more of us will start going out of the country for medical care.  According to numbers released by Deloitte Consulting, a whopping 875,000 Americans were “medical tourists” in 2010.

So what do all of you think about the state of the health care industry in the United States?  Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts below….

Find A Job? Good Luck In This Economy – 10 Reasons Why The Latest Unemployment Numbers Are No Reason To Cheer

The U.S. government is telling us that the unemployment rate fell all the way down to 9.0% in January.  Should we all cheer?  Is it now going to be a lot easier to find a job?  Has the economy finally turned around?  Are happy days here again?  Well, it is a good thing to have a positive attitude, but the truth is that there is just not much to cheer about when you take a closer look at the recent unemployment numbers.  First of all, the U.S. economy only added 36,000 jobs in January.  Economists had been expecting an increase of about 145,000 jobs, and an increase of 150,000 jobs per month is necessary just to keep up with population growth.  So why did the unemployment rate go down?  Well, the government says that over half a million Americans suddenly dropped out of the labor force in January.  That doesn’t make a lot of sense, but this is how the government calculates their numbers.  So what happened to those 500,000 Americans?  Did they all win the lottery?  Have they all become independently wealthy?  Did they all die?  No, the vast majority of them are still around and the vast majority of them still desperately need jobs.  It is just that the government does not count them as “looking for work” anymore.

It would be great if the employment situation in America actually was getting better.  All the time people send me absolutely heartbreaking stories about what they have had to endure in this economy.  Soon I hope to share some of those stories with you all.  It is hard to try to describe the absolute horror that many Americans are going through right now.

People would like to believe that things are going to get better, but unfortunately that is just not going to be the case.  The government can try to massage the numbers to make them look better, but the truth is that the tens of millions of American families that are deeply suffering right now are not fooled.

The following are 10 statistics that reveal that the latest unemployment numbers from the government are no reason to cheer….

#1 According to CNBC, economists were expecting the U.S. economy to add 145,000 jobs during January. Obviously the 36,000 figure was a huge disappointment.

#2 Approximately 150,000 jobs need to be added to the economy each month just to keep up with population growth.

#3 The government jobs report also indicated that 504,000 Americans “dropped out of the labor force” in January.  That may make the unemployment numbers look better, but the truth is that the vast majority of those 500,000 Americans still need incomes and still need jobs.

#4 According to the latest numbers from Gallup, the unemployment rate actually increased to 9.8% at the end of January.

#5 Gallup’s measure of “underemployment” (those that are unemployed plus those that are working part-time but want full-time employment) was sitting at 18.9% at the end of January.

#6 As I reported yesterday, there are approximately 28 million Americans that would like full-time jobs but that don’t have full-time jobs.

#7 According to Zero Hedge, the number of Americans that are “not in the labor force” but that would like a job right now has hit an all-time record high.  If you add all of those people into the official unemployment figure it would jump to 12.8%.

#8 According to Calculated Risk, this is the deepest and most brutal employment downturn that the United States has experienced since World War II.  The current employment downturn started 37 months ago and there doesn’t seem to be any indication that we will return to pre-recession levels any time soon.

#9 The U.S. Labor Department has also announced that job growth during 2010 was much weaker than they had previously reported. The numbers for 8 months were revised down, and the numbers for 4 months were revised up. After all of the revisions are accounted for, it turns out that a total of 215,000 fewer jobs were created during 2010 than originally calculated.

#10 According to one brand new survey, 4 out of every 10 Americans are struggling “a lot” to pay the bills right now.

The situation is not pretty out there.  The U.S. needs tens of millions more jobs than we have right now.

So where are all of our jobs going?  The video posted below contains some very strong hints.  The truth is that globalism is ripping our economic infrastructure apart, and all of the crazy rules and regulations we keep heaping on business are not helping either….

U.S. workers have been merged into a “global labor pool” where we are expected to directly compete for jobs with people making slave labor wages on the other side of the globe.

The more time you spend thinking about that, the more you start realizing that the standard of living of average American families is going to continue to decline.

Unfortunately, as I wrote about in a recent article entitled “Nothing Is Stable Anymore“, the world is changing faster today than at any other time during our lifetimes.  Everything that we used to assume about employment, money, our economy and our finances is being turned upside down.  We now live in a world where very little can be taken for granted.

2011 has already been a very tumultuous year.  The world is being transformed.  Nobody knows for sure what is going to happen next.

One thing to really keep an eye on is the price of oil.  Right now, large numbers of investors are betting that the price of oil will rise to $125 a barrel by May.  Shockingly, some investors are even betting that the price of oil will rise to $250 a barrel by next December.

If oil starts to spike dramatically, it will have tremendous implications for the U.S. economy.  Our entire economic system runs on oil.  The price of oil affects the price of everything else.

If the price of oil keeps going up it is inevitably going to cause a slowdown in the U.S. economy and it will cause the unemployment situation to get even worse.

So be glad that the employment situation is at least somewhat stable for now, because if things take a bad turn for the worse in 2011 who knows what kind of unemployment numbers we’ll be talking about a year from now.

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