American Elephants

A Reality Check on Health Care Costs. by The Elephant's Child

Democrats are preparing to address health care again next year, so promises are forthcoming at a furious rate.  When there is a brief note of the reality of the vast expense of “universal” coverage, taxpayers should pay attention.  We need to know just what they are doing, not just “for us” but to us.

Peter Orszag, the former head of the Congressional Budget Office,  has left the CBO to become Barack Obama’s budget director.  The CBO is the office responsible for estimating how much legislation will cost the government.

They recently released two reports on health-care financing that should hit Congress like the proverbial ton of bricks.  The short version is that liberal health care reforms will be extremely costly, while measures intended to save money won’t begin to live up to even conservative estimates.

When the reform proposals are added up, even Democrats concede that their new health programs will cost $150 or $200 billion a year. Perhaps in a year when ‘billions’ and ‘trillions’ are everyday terms, Congressional Democrats have lost their sense of  just whose money they are spending so casually. We need to remind them.

These are only estimates.  The real costs will be higher.  Efforts to cut costs, such as information technology, will result in only modest savings.  Current efforts at introducing information technology in hospitals have resulted in massive cases of identity theft, with no way at present to solve such a problem.

The Wall Street Journal issues a cautionary note. Do read the whole thing.   You cannot afford to be ill-informed on this issue.  Your life may depend on it.

5 Comments so far
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At some point in time you have to accept the reality that the present so-called “free enterprise” system of providing healthcare is NOT working and WILL NOT work as long as there are incentives to provide more care whether or not it is medically necessary. There’s no accountability; healthcare providers blantantly devise more and more schemes to capture a greater share of the healthcare dollar. Examples are:
1) Physicians referring patients to entities in which they have a financial interest–Hospitals, Day Surgery facilities, Imaging Centers, Physical Therapy Centers, Home Nursing companies,etc.
2) Physicians accepting stipends from healthcare entities in exchange for referrals.
3) Physician-providers performing medically unnecessary procedures and diagnostic testing.
4) Hospitals creating joint ventures with physicians with incentives that encourage referrals of patients from physicians.
These are only a few of the abuses that I have observed as a medical director in a hospital system. Added to the escalatin cost of health care, there is a plethera of abuses by the consumer. How often do you hear the expression: “Insurance will pay for it.”
If you want change, stop talking about how much it’s going to cost and focus on how we can provide basic healthcare for everyone by cost reduction measures.

Charles Clark, Sr., M.D


Comment by Charles Clark, Sr., M.D.

present so-called “free enterprise” system of providing healthcare is NOT working and WILL NOT work as long as there are incentives to provide more care whether or not it is medically necessary.

Perhaps. But it seems as if that is a seperate arguement. These conditions will exist in some form of Government provided Health Care, yes?


Comment by pino

Dr. Clark, What most people are concerned about IS cost. People who pay for their own insurance are frightened by rising costs. Our present “free enterprise” system has been fouled up BY government.

Why do we have procedures like acupuncture or reflexology that have been proven to be no more effective than a placebo required on insurance plans? Lobbyists and the idiosyncrasies of legislators. If government restricts payment to a physician, than that doctor may feel justified in trying to replace those funds in another way. (Not that that is right)

Tort reform would lower the cost of physicians’ insurance, and lower the necessity for defensive medicine. Making insurance policies available across state lines nationally would cut costs by increasing competition, and there has never been an enterprise that was not improved by competition. Doctors have apparently been leaving Massachusetts in droves and Massachusetts’ “universal health-care” already costs vastly more than the highest estimates. As a nation, we spend millions on worthless herbal supplements, phony diet plans and useless supplements. It is a huge business.

Much of current problems come from requirements instituted by state legislatures and state insurance commissioners.

There are, of course greedy people and cheats in any occupation. If doctors are treated fairly, our best and brightest will want to become doctors. If they are not well treated, then they do something else, and as in Britain you have to rely on doctors from other countries where standards may be much lower.

“Universal health care” requires, from the moment it is instituted, that government attempt to cut costs. Most people believe, not so much that they have a right to low cost health care, but that they have a right to feel good. Each time I’ve taken my son to the emergency room (appendicitis, broken arm, collapsed lung)the nearby beds have been occupied by cases of ringworm, bad cold, sprained ankle or such. People don’t understand how much they are raising the cost of insurance. They just don’t feel good and want someone to fix it. Some education required here.

And why, when Congress wants to revise our health care, do the committees never include doctors, hospital administrators, insurance executives and typical patients? Instead we have a bunch of very wealthy Congressmen, lobbyists and lawyers deciding what they think we should have.

How about instituting state conferences of those actually involved in health care to hammer out ideas for lower cost medicine, to take to a national conference? I’d way rather hear their ideas than get something ordered up by Congress. What do Ted Kennedy or Tom Daschle know about the health care needs of ordinary Americans?

If we must have Congressional mandates, then I want Congressmen restricted to exactly the same health care as the rest of us.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

Has it ever occurred to some of those who tout universal, government mandated health coverage that high costs are not just a result of evil greedy business people, and doctors looking for an extra buck?
Somehow, lawyers found they could sue for just about anything, including mistaken diagnoses….and no matter how much negligence was or wasnt involved, the judges (part of the judicial branch of government) award people money because doctors didn’t specifically fix these people to their complete satisfaction (i.e. a “side-effect” that happens to a patient who takes the only known medication to a problem)….IF the doctor’s dont want to get sued they must run a battery of useless tests, whether they already knwo what’s wrong or not, just to avoid any chance fo getting sued…..government mandated malpractice insurance, which further drives up healthcare costs to ungodly levels (due directly to increasing awards for anything that goes wrong….it turns out, losing your pinky to an infection can get you a few hundred thousand dollars more than any medical treatment would ever the liability payments must increase as well).

With less government intereference, you’d see quicker advances in the biomedical world leading to more solutions at a cheaper rate, which would in turn lead to more affordable healthcare….


Comment by Mike Lovell

I think far too many people hear the word “free” and do not look beyond that. It is, of course, not free. You are exactly right, Mike. There are many ways to make health care less expensive, and more responsive to people’s real needs. Putting the government — a bunch of bureaucrats — in charge is not one of the ways to improve health care.

People who care must be willing to let the bureaucrats in Washington know that we don’t want any part of their grab for power.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

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