The Medical-Financial-Industrial Complex & the Maldistribution of Wealth in the United States

By:

Dave Kingsley

Introduction

In the previous post, my colleague Kent Comfort presented a case study pertaining to the disappearance of middle-class wealth into the Medical-Financial-Industrial complex black hole.  Even frugal, hardworking individuals who believe they have saved enough for retirement often find their assets depleted quickly due to high-cost, industrial medicine.  In this and future posts, we will be explaining how wealth is being maldistributed in the United States and how the government-funded industrial-medical system is helping to drive wealth from the bottom 90% to the top 1%.

The shift in wealth and the influence of U.S. medicine on the flow of assets from the lower socio-economic classes to the wealthiest class is a threat to the economic system and socio-cultural stability.  According to the PEW Research Foundation, “The wealth divide among upper-income families and middle- and lower-income families is sharp and rising (https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2020/01/09/trends-in-income-and-wealth-inequality).

Since the 2008 economic crash, most of the growth in U.S. family/individual net wealth has gone to the upper 5 percent.  The share of U.S. wealth owned by the bottom 90 percent of the population fell from 33 percent to 23 percent.  Wealth of the top 1% increased from 30 to 40 percent (https://equitablegrowth.org/the-distribution-of-wealth-in-the-united-states-and-implications-for-a-net-worth-tax/). This macroeconomic factor not only an economic injustice, it is a threat to the U.S. capitalistic system and democracy.

You pay taxes, premiums, and out of pocket expenses to fund large reimbursements to insurers, providers, and vendors, i.e., the insurance, hospital, medical device, pharmaceutical, nursing home, and other ancillary medical services industries. And yet, health care in the United States can bankrupt you.  Indeed, many people have been bankrupted through exorbitant hospital and nursing home costs. 

If the money you would like to leave to your heirs disappears in the U.S. industrial medical system, you would probably like to know where it goes.  It doesn’t go back to the Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, and VA programs ostensibly paying for your treatment.  Those programs are replenished through federal and state taxes – with the heaviest burden falling on the middle and lower classes.

So where, other than treatment, does all that money you pay in taxes and spend out of pocket for health care go?  The simple answer is, it goes to shareholders in one form or other.  In the 1970s and 80s, the country decided that private enterprise, operating in a “free market,” would be the most efficient and effective medical care delivery system.  What we got was an inefficient, ineffective, corrupt, and far too expensive industrial medicine system that funnels your hard-earned assets into the pockets of high-net-worth individuals and ultra-rich individuals and families.

From Your Family to Their Family:  How Laws Have Been Engineered to Keep Upper Income Wealth Growing While Everyone Else’s Continues to Shrink

Wealthy individuals despise two things: taxes and inflation. In fact, Leona Helmsley was jailed for telling an ugly truth: “We don’t pay taxes, the little people pay taxes.”  By little people, she meant most of us who are not rich.  Hence, the wealthy purchase politicians that protect their wealth from inflation and taxes – “purchased politicians” include practically all elected legislators in both parties. 

Shareholders in the industrial medical system tend to be high-net-worth individuals ($30 million or more in assets) or ultra-rich families worth hundreds of millions and billions. Inordinately complex federal and state tax laws have complexified corporate and individual finances, which works to the advantage of owners and shareholders.  For instance, throughout the past few decades, the state of South Dakota has amended its trust laws and has become a haven for wealthy individuals and families seeking trust laws that protect their wealth from inheritance and other forms of taxation.

It future posts, we will be taking a deeper dive into how Medicaid and Medicare funds are fueling the flow of wealth up the SES ladder.  For instance, more of those funds are flowing into family trusts than people realize.  In fact, the amount of nursing home ownership by family trusts is extensive and unnoticed by the public.  We will expose which chains are funneling a considerable amount of revenue into family and individual trusts.

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