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Is Access Enough?
Friday, January 19, 2018
Healthcare reform, or Obamacare, stirs political passions in America like few other subjects.
The Wall Street Journal did an in-depth report called “Squaring Off on Health Care” (1/23/12) that interviewed experts on both sides of a number of healthcare issues. The op-ed battle on health reform – “Should Everyone Be Required To Have Health Insurance?” – targeted the most contentious aspect of national health reform in America.
According to polling cited in this article, 61% of Americans favor a large employer mandate to offer health insurance coverage to employees. But only a third of Americans surveyed support an individual mandate to buy health insurance or pay a penalty.
This requirement, of course, is central to health reform and was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 – just in time for maximum political effect for the election season.
The noisy politics of healthcare reform, however, are a distraction from our real healthcare threats. As detailed in Our Healthcare Sucks, these include…
• Epidemic injuries from medical mistakes that are mostly concealed and unrecognized, and
• Out-of-control medical spending that threatens to bankrupt the country and its citizenry – much of it due to deceptive medical practices.
Neither of these are significantly affected by health reform – nor by its repeal.
But for most employees and self-insured consumers, it’s likely to TRIPLE due to accelerated shifting of medical costs to them from employers, insurers and government payers (see graph to right; click on graph for enlarged view).
The average American’s healthcare costs – insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs combined – already increased by roughly 2½ times over the past decade, so a tripling over the next isn’t much of a stretch.
This is especially likely given the…
• Aging of baby boomers into senior boomers in need of more medical care;
• Increasing obesity – with 3 out of 4 Americans expected to be overweight or obese by 2015. Obese patients costs 34% more in healthcare costs on average; and
• Accelerated shifting of medical costs to privately-insured patients with more government-insured patients under health reform.
Any business facing a three-fold increase in one of its biggest expenses – as the average American family can expect for its healthcare costs over the next decade – would take radical action to prevent that disastrous outcome.
The best we can muster in our broken political paradigm, however, is “health reform” that does little to address – much less remedy – these dual crises of hidden medical injuries and fraudulent medical practices that are commonplace in American medicine.
Yet these are far greater threats to our medical and economic futures than either “socialized medicine” or private insurance abuses.
Better Than Nothing?
The truth is neither the government nor the private medical sector will take this bullet for the American people.
There’s no political or financial pay-off for taking the hard stands needed to avoid the disaster that so obviously awaits us.
Doing something, however, is seen as better than doing nothing. And health reform does at least try to correct some flaws in our medical payment system, for example.
But the only real evidence we have is from Massachusetts. Its unique experience with mandated health insurance has been a failure in terms of limiting medical spending.
There has been some recent curtailing of medical spending growth…over five years into its version of health reform. But this was due to a contracting economy causing many to defer medical care and most experts expect it to be short-lived.
Despite this, however, health insurance premiums there have increased at twice the national average since it enacted health reform.
If we duplicate that nationally, it’s likely our projected three-fold increase in your family’s total medical costs over the next decade will prove highly under-stated.
The federal government, of course, has more resources – and more leverage – than any state.
But it’s not using them as it should.
It has a much better solution right under its nose…