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Health Insurance in America

health insurance crisis in America represented by a spade in the ground

Time to Call a Spade

[kc_heading_pac_18_background_1 size=”50″ color=”#ffffff” ]a Spade[/kc_heading_pac_18_background_1]


Health insurance in America won’t get any cheaper due to healthcare reform, or Obamacare as it’s come to be known.

Premiums may increase even faster, as they did initially in Massachusetts – the only state with a prototype for healthcare reform.

Yet many American consumers mistakenly believe that Obamacare will reduce healthcare spending in America.

This is incorrect. Not even it’s staunchest supporters have maintained this, especially once its strongest measures with the greatest potential to curb costs were removed, delayed or diluted enough to render them incapable of having a significant impact on healthcare spending in the next decade.

The most we can reasonably expect until then is somewhat slower INCREASES in medical costs compared to what they’d be without healthcare reform.

The moderation in the growth in health insurance premiums seen over the last couple of years isn’t due to Obamacare, which hasn’t taken effect yet in ways that would slow insurance premiums. It’s due instead to a sluggish economy and fewer jobs with health insurance coverage.

And to the extent Obamacare is able to favorably impact healthcare costs, this may not be reflected in our health insurance premiums for many years to come despite its requirement that 80-85% of premiums be allocated to actual healthcare costs rather than administrative costs and profits.

Understating the Problem

Part of the reason for this unrealistic expectation for Obamacare is outdated language that’s still applied to our healthcare crisis that keeps consumers complacent about their healthcare costs.

Terms like “unnecessary” (as in the unnecessary care that costs us over a trillion dollars a year) and “unsustainable” (as in we can’t keep spending for our healthcare as we do now) have lost all meaning.

They also fail to convey the urgency of the situation – an urgency that’s amply documented in Our Healthcare Sucks.Healthcare costs in America equal mortgage payments seen in image of man with house on his back

Americans are already struggling to meet their monthly health insurance premiums – and every indication is they can expect it to get much worse.

Overall healthcare costs are expected to double over the next decade or so.

Aggressive cost-shifting to employees and self-insured consumers, however, means they’re more likely to TRIPLE for many consumers – including both health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket medical costs (see “Health Insurance or Self-Insurance?“).

That’s like adding another two rental or mortgage payments every month.

Somehow “unnecessary” and “unsustainable” just don’t cut it when facing such dire – and realistic – prospects.

Can You Say “Crisis”?

We need new language to capture the true extent and urgency of this financial Hindenburg looming over every American’s fiscal future.

I propose the following:

  • Let’s replace “unnecessary” with “dangerous”- it’s far more reflective of the true nature of of the so-called “unnecessary” medical care estimated to be responsible for 1/3 to 1/2 our medical spending.

Medical errors endanger lives with image of man hanging from cliffMore Americans die every week from medical mistakes than died on 9/11. Every week.

That sounds pretty damn dangerous to me.

  • I also propose replacing “unsustainable” with “bankrupting” – again more reflective of our reality.

Medical bills already account for over 60% of personal bankruptcies in America – and 3 out of 4 of those already had health insurance.

Healthcare reform – for all its noble intent – is unlikely to substantially slow health insurance premium increases by itself. Moreover, with another 30 million insured Americans and little increase in the supply of doctors and other providers to serve them, it’s likely to  reduce access to primary care that might help stem these medical excesses.

This was the exact experience with health insurance premiums in Massachusetts with its prototype for health reform – even with the recent curtailing of spending growth there.

This isn’t political ideology;  it’s fact.

It’s time we stopped confusing ideology – of either extreme – with the facts of our situation. And  using more accurate terminology may help us to do so.

And “dangerous” and “bankrupting” are far more accurate and descriptive of America’s healthcare crisis than “unnecessary” and “unsustainable” – words that have come to confuse rather than inform.

If we ever hope to get a handle on our medical mayhem in America, we need to start calling a spade a spade.

And a crisis a crisis.

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This article is provided for informational and educational purposes only.
It does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied upon as such.

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