Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Cost Has to Be Reasonable

I just ran across a very interesting article ( "How We Got the Worst health Care System Mountains of Money Can Buy" ) on the history of how our health care system got to where it is today.
  • In 1942, the United States set up a National War Labor Board. It had the power to set a cap on all wage increases. But it let employers circumvent the cap by offering "fringe benefits" -- notably, health insurance.
  • The [current] system spends one-third of its cost on paperwork, waste and profit over and above the cost of actually providing health care.
  • As we begin to debate how to reform health care, we should keep in mind that the American health care system was not created to express American values or to meet Americans' health care needs. And knowing that, we should not be afraid to change the system if we can come up with a better one.
Hey, and to go along with the history lesson, here is an option to the direct cash infusion for the auto industry.
  • Let's have the government assume the cost of providing health care to autoworkers and have it take the lead in deciding how those health dollars are spent.
  • Overall, the numbers suggest that a plan like this could actually work. Here are some back-of-the-envelope calculations:
  1. Let's use one of the lower numbers being thrown around and say that 241,000 people work for the Big Three.
  2. Employer health-plan premiums were $12,000 per year in 2007...let's conservatively assume a per-employee cost to the Big Three of $8,000.
  3. That gives us an annual cost of just under $2 billion ($1,928,000) to cover these 241,000 employees. ... Even if this plan suffers a raging 10 percent inflation rate, the total cost of a five-year "health bailout" would be less than $12 billion -- which is below the $14 billion previously proposed.
  • Imagine what would happen if Tom Daschle directed the autoworkers health plan in his dual role as Health and Human Services secretary and health-reform chief.
  • Secretary Daschle and his team could use this process to build a model Data Exchange and health-purchasing process.
  • What are the objections? Some will say that this is government-run health care. But the government will be paying for it anyway, no matter what happens. So why not manage our money wisely?
What? "Manage our money wisely?" How preposterous! We can only hope.

I actually think this option has a lot of merit. I am a single-payer system proponent myself. But this could be a really good start. We have to do something.

All those people who lost their jobs this year probably lost their health care insurance unless they can afford COBRA. (Have you looked at that lately!?!?!?)

The number of families without insurance has to be climbing steadily. This country should have a national health care system where everyone has access to a primary care physician/nurse-practitioner/PA/etc.

AND the cost has to be reasonable.

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