Wednesday, November 24, 2010
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Health Care Debate Continues

Madisonville, KY - Commentary - The Health Care Debate continues in Washington D.C., in hospitals, in doctors' offices, in state houses and in our homes.  It is a noble goal to fix the problems in the health care system of this country.  The cost of health care is rising much faster than inflation and an estimated 47 million people in the US are without health insurance.  Hillary Clinton tried to solve the problem - now, President Obama is trying again.

The rising costs of health care are due to a number of reasons, among them: an aging population, ever increasing technology, people are living longer, new and expensive drugs are continuing to be developed and marketed, increasing numbers of people signing up for existing government health care, medical fraud, lack of control in many health insurance programs, and administrative costs.


However, most agree that the skyrocketing costs are not sustainable.


In 1998, the average cost of health care in the US was $4,178.


By 2007, this cost had skyrocketed to $7,900 per person.


This 89% increase over 9 years is three times the rate of inflation and has swelled to over 16% of the country's economy (Gross Domestic Product - GDP).


In theory the 47 million uninsured are receiving some care.  A few are paying out of pocket but most rely on charity.  Some expenses of uninsured care are picked up by state and federal programs.  The balance health providers cover by adding to their rates to those with insurance; a practice referred to as "cost shifting."  Of the 47 million uninsured, estimates are that 10 million are illegal aliens.  If our immigration laws were being enforced, these 10 million would be off the books.  Looking at the remaining 37 million, roughly 12 million have the money to afford insurance but choose to spend their money otherwise.  The remaining 27 million could be insured for $213 Billion per year or $2.1 Trillion over 10 years.  However, by taking away the cost shifting, a $1.5 Trillion cost has been batted around in the Health Care Debate.

Even spending the $1.5 Trillion does not cover the larger issue of cost escalation.  If our economy grows at 3% per year and health care costs continue at 9% per year, by 2019, health care will consume $24.21 for every $100.00 of the US GDP ($26.41 if we cover the uninsured).  There are few that would argue that health care being one fourth of GDP is sustainable or desirable.  This is especially true when compared to other countries.  The cost of health care in the US is 30% more that the second most expensive Switzerland.

There are so many conflicting interests in health care delivery.  You have doctors, medical groups, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment manufacturers, insurance companies, various government programs (state & federal), taxpayers, employers providing coverage, and of course the consumer.  With any solution, there will be winners and losers.  Every constituency wants to be a winner in the solution, not a loser. 

The whole debate continues to be a huge turf battle among the conflicting interests.  Each group has lobbyists and media resources.  The ultimate conflict is political.  The public simply cannot separate the political debate from the issue debate.  Are the Republicans engaged in political posturing?  Yes.  Are the Democrats engaged in political posturing? Yes.  Is the current bill containing 1,018 pages a better plan?  Who knows?  But, someone needs to come up with a plan that Americans understand and that taxpayers and businesses can afford.  Americans need to be skeptical of the current plan.  Congress and the President need to take the time to get it right.

Ron Sanders
iSurf News


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