Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Facts Edging into Health Care Debate

The recent study - from Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in New Hampshire - that showed discrepancies in costs for care through the 50 states that had no reason for being there, has helped make wingnuts face up to the abuses in our health care system. Today those figures gave basis for calling for bringing down unreasonable costs in our country, in the business section of the Dallas Morning News. No, that's not exactly a free trade zone for that socialized medicine the wingers were having such fun trying to pin on President Obama.

Those facts just keep rolling down. How long before the winger accusation - that the U.S. is the only place you want to get sick - slinks away in embarrassment? Of course, that won't happen in places where the Big Lie reigns - like hate radio - but in rational discourse, it's day is done.

For one business journalist, Jim Landers, in Dallas, the truth is finding a place.

On average, each of us spends more than $8,000 a year for health care and health insurance. Unless something blunts the trajectory, health care will account for 20.3 percent of the economy in a decade.

There are economists who say this is not such a bad thing. In a wealthy country, living a healthier, longer life will naturally attract more spending.

But the current trend lines show health care is squeezing what we can pay for everything else. The clearest expression of this is public spending.

Because of the recession and the aging of baby boomers, the government share of health expenditures is likely to account for 51.3 percent of a total bill for $4.4 trillion in 10 years, according to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

To cover the costs of Medicare over the next 70 years, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas estimates, we need to find $85.6 trillion in new taxes or cost savings. That's a personal liability of more than $281,000 for each of us.

When President Bill Clinton proposed his health care overhaul in 1994, we were spending $917 billion a year. Health care took up 13.7 percent of the economy. There were 33 million Americans without health insurance.

This year, health care spending is expected to account for 17.6 percent of the economy. There were 45 million people living in the U.S. without health insurance in 2005, the latest number available from the Census Bureau.

The budget plan released by the White House on Feb. 26 pointed to one possible way to curb health care spending.

From one area of the country to the next, there are big disparities in health care spending for the same ailments. In Dallas, the average health care costs for each senior enrolled in Medicare exceed $10,103 a year. Nationwide, the average is $8,304. In Salt Lake City, it's $6,909.

The padding of costs for procedures, many of them unneeded, has gained a place in what used to be chauvinist mythology about this country's health care. We are paying too much, an offense that the right wing is having to admit can't be sustained. Our health care system is alone among industrialized country in failing the public, and costing much more than its share of our families' budgets.

It was nice to hear White House Budget Director Orszag in hearings before the Senate Finance Committee today making another reality based connection, that "health care reform IS entitlement reform". We have a promise of real benefits to the national prosperity if health care costs are whittled down to a reasonable level. With health care provided, families could get by on a lot less than they now need, and many social programs would be obviated. Also, as Orszag pointed out, more costly doctors and procedures do not provide better health care than efficient ones.

Health care expenses are unjustifiable. Bankrupting any family that encounters health problems, they are demanding a solution. That they are also arbitrary cuts off any debate in favor of keeping the existing, corrupted, health care system that feeds off of its victims instead of caring for patients.

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Blogger Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

If the Pope of Hope's plan does anything more than fatten the Health Insurance parasites, I'll eat a hat.

You may plainly say the Obama plan has "failed" the people to the extent that the parasites in the Insurance industry are happy with the result.

5:40 PM  
Anonymous Imee said...

Health care is important, there's no doubt about that. But how certain people have been abusing this clear need for health care is just crazy. I think Obama is doing a good job so far in general, but maybe he could do better in addressing this problem.

1:12 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

Increasing support is showing up for full health care. Bloomberg has supportive artile today, at http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=ao58otXrmrPM

9:21 AM  

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