In late April, Shelly Andrews-Buta was scheduled to undergo treatment for breast cancer that had spread to her brain, threatening her life.
But instead of having doctors working to remove her brain tumors on the day the surgery was scheduled, she sat in a San Francisco hotel room. Why? Because at the last minute, her insurance company, Blue Shield, decided it wasn't going to pay for the treatment her doctors at UCSF Medical Center had recommended.
I've actually had a personal experience with our wonderful health care system recently: I had a small skin lesion that wasn't healing up, so I thought it might be a basal cell carcinoma. My primary care physician referred me to a dermatologist, but the earliest appointment I could get was over a month away.
The fundamental problem with our current system is that it produces a perverse incentive to deny care. For an insurance company, all else being equal, the less care you provide the more money you make. So the insurance companies are strongly incentivized to provide as little care as possible without actually pushing people so far over the edge that they get motivated to change the system (and you can't get much more unmotivated then being dead). Hence the endless repetition of the "best health care system in the world" mantra: if you can convince people that this is true, then agitating for change becomes downright unpatriotic.
It is also ironic that it is exactly the same flawed logic that makes people fall for this con that makes them need insurance to being with: no one thinks they're going to get sick until they actually do. By the time they get into a situation where they really need medical attention and discover firsthand how b0rken the system actually is, it's usually too late for them to do anything about it. Which is, of course, exactly how the insurance companies like it.