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Are we really fixing Healthcare?                                                                                     Print this essay

Posted at: Dec/17/2009 : Posted by: mel

Related Category: Healthcare,

It is now the waning months of 2009 and congress has been haggling over healthcare for most of the last 6 months. Some how I feel we are seeing an attempt to control a wildfire with a common garden hose. I guess the real question is “what do you attack first”?

Fundamentally the challenge with our current system is the excessive cost to get medical care and the large segment of our population who do not have regular access to care. Now in my view you have a chicken or the egg situation. Congress is taking the path towards making health care available to everyone. Philosophically this sounds great, but who pays? Our system of medical care is already very expensive; with no new cost controls this new legislation would push the current and very expensive health care system out to millions of needing individuals. Who pays, the same people who are currently paying will end out having to pay more. The GAO (Government Accounting Office) projects this as approximately a $900 billion dollar program. All this seem backwards to me.

There is no doubt that we need healthcare to be accessible to all, but I strongly feel that we first need to decide what kind of care and how to distribute it. Our current system is burdened with expensive middle layers of management, litigation expenses, litigation insurance expenses, expensive unwarranted testing and surgeries along with fraud and a host of other infirmities. Name brand prescription drugs are available from Canada for 20-35% of the cost for the same medications in the United States even though they may all come out of the same plants. The cost of an MRI in the US is generally over $2300 and some insurance companies will negotiate this down to $1700. While this sounds good, when you look at other modern countries such and Japan you come to realize this is still price gouging. In Japan most MRI’s with evaluation will cost less than $160 each. Exchange rate aside there is still a lot of profit taking going on here and they use the same machines made in the United States.

So earlier I mention the “chicken or the egg”, the proverbial question of which came first. In a similar manner I ask about health care. Does the 15% of our population without healthcare miss out because they do not have reasonable and subsidized access, or do they not have healthcare because current pricing makes it too costly to purchase and use? I have not seen the final numbers but would suspect that the Annual Inflation Rate for goods and services in the United Stated for 2009 will be just under 2%. The federal Medicare program has already announced that it’s cost for providing and reimbursing for care and medical services is up by over 9% from the previous year. Most of us would call this price gouging at its worst. It is true that I do not understand or know all the pressures that drive the cost of healthcare, but this is just wrong. More important, this is not an anomalous year; my summary research indicates that healthcare has inflated at 4-5 times the rate of inflation for each of the last 12-15 years. That sure seems like a system out of control to me.

Ultimately, my concern is that we are not fixing the overwhelming costs associated with the current system of delivering medical services. Our legislators have instead focused on distributing the current and over priced system to a wider audience. I am not a fan of government taking over in the private sector, but the current system is seriously broken. Our focus needs to be on breaking the dams that keep cost high, and then more and more people will have access to affordable care.

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Walter Brunell
Failure is the tuition you pay for success.
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