The Haphazard Blog

Tag: waste

Health Care: Nothing Substantive Will Get Done

by on Sep.10, 2009, under Politics

Health care has been something that has been of interest to me personally for a long time. Pretty much since I had my accident I’ve known a lot more about health care and insurance companies than I likely otherwise would. I’ve had multiple health insurance providers over the years and use more of the benefits than most people.  I have a lot of experiences, both good and bad, with insurance companies and providers. I try and follow this current mess as best I can.

Last night, Obama tried to make his pitch again. Just watching the speech, you can see why nothing gets done. People just dig in and that’s it. In the months before they were just working on a bill. Nothing was final. Instead of having discussions and debates about problems people have in the bill, they run to the media and just start accusing each other of trying to do something. The best example is Betsy McCaughey. She started the “death panels” mess. She isn’t in elected office, so she really has no responsibility to the people, but all the other people who jumped on her claims should be ashamed. On the Daily Show with Jon Stewart (part 1, part 2), she explained why she felt that way, and basically it was a combination of a couple paragraphs in the bill. I don’t agree with her interpretation, but instead of running to the media and declare that is what the bill does, why not have a discussion and change the language so you’re comfortable with it? Instead, it’s more important to put on a show than do something for the people. For most, it’s not about serving their constituents, it’s about getting re-elected and having a job that entitles you to so perks and freebies.

Another thing that drives me nuts is declaring we have the greatest health care system in the world. Saying it over and over does not make it true. It only serves to harden people into thinking any change to the system is going to be bad. Especially if the system exists elsewhere. The United States does have many of the most sought after specialists in the world. No one mentions these top specialists can’t see everyone for many reasons (simple time (X patients/day), lack of payment means, geographic barriers, etc.). There is also a lot of cutting edge research performed using private R&D budgets and government grants. However, many countries (Finland, Israel, Japan, South Korea and Sweden) have significantly increased R&D spending (as a % of GDP) over the years. Other countries are trying to close the gap on innovation. Not to mention the results of this research spreads more quickly.

We have countless systems to deliver health care now. A few of the bigger programs:

  • Private Health Insurance – $775B
  • Medicare (for the elderly primarily) – $431.2B
  • Medicaid (for lower income people/families) – $329.3B
  • Out of Pocket – $268.6B
  • Veterans Affairs (for the Armed Services) – $33.8B
  • CHIP (for children of lower income people/families) – $9B

It’s quite a mix of services provided to people. You’ve probably heard this before, but in 2007, the United States spent $2.2T (16% of GDP) on health care. No one even comes close to this (as a total amount or % of GDP). France was 2nd in % of GDP at 11%. Norway was 2nd in terms of amount spent per person ($4,763 vs. $7,290). Keep in mind that if everyone in the United States was insured, that number would be even higher.

Let’s just assume that every system in the world is inadequate. Canada is often criticized for long waits (there are waits here). They spend $3,895 per person. I’m confident that we could easily address that with the $1T difference in health care spending per year. How about England where they ration care (plenty of rationing here: insurance company denies coverage, AMA limits medical school seats, arbitrary caps on treatment/coverage) and spend $2,992. Do you think $1.3T per year would cover that flaw up?

There is no good reason that we lack a solution to insure everyone AND spend less than the $2.2T spent in 2007 on health care. Instead we will have no real movement and this guise that we can only reduce the insane growth and need to spend (tax) even more to cover everyone.

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