Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Healthcare crisis looms

Everyone in the US needs to remember that the first step in fixing a problem is to admit that you have a problem.

We have a large problem.

The title of this post says it all! Everyone knows that we have a huge problem in the cost of healthcare in The United States.

I hope this will put it into perspective for you:

Healthcare costs are rising 8 - 10% per year and are projected to rise at that rate through 2010.

For 2005 the cost of a comprehensive healthcare plan was $11,480 for a family of 4 for one year.

The United States spends 4 and 1/2 times as much on healthcare as on our military.

Since 2001 the Healthcare sector has added 1.7 million new employees. The rest of the private sector added a net of zero jobs.

Breakdown of healthcare spending by income:
The richest 5% of Americans account for 55% of the healthcare spending
The poorest 50% of Americans account for 3% of the healthcare spending

The United States currently spends 16% of the entire National GDP on healthcare. This will grow to 20% by 2015. The United States spends the HIGHEST percentage of GDP in the world on healthcare. 2nd and 3rd are Germany and Switzerland at 11% of GDP. In relative terms, we spend 1.5 times as much as the next most expensive country per capita on healthcare. Also please remember that EVERYONE in Germany and Switzerland have free healthcare of some sort.

Almost 47 million Americans do not have health insurance.

Disaster is approaching. This is another crisis that will harm my kids and grandkids because NO ONE is willing to fix the problem today.

Please remember the first step to fixing a problem is to realize that you have a problem; we have a problem...

Nothing that our government is currently considering will fix the massive and inefficient healthcare system in place in The US. I am not sure if the current system can ever be fixed.

I think there are a lot of problems with the current system and I am not sure how we can fix them. The problems I see include:

1. We added 1.7 million health care jobs. These people have to make a living and it comes from those of us getting healthcare. Healthcare jobs tend to be very high paying and have great benefits.

2. The insurance companies have helped create a system that is inefficient and makes consumers not pay attention to what they are charged since "my insurance is paying for it."

3. The government got into healthcare and added yet another layer of paperwork and waste to the entire system.

This problem is not going to go away.

It is going to get worse...

Stand by...

Mike Sylvester


Tim Zank said...

Mike, I think healthcare is one of the most fricked up things in our country today.

While the conservative in me screams for the govt to get the hell out of it, my common sense tells me we that will never completely happen.

I'm no economist but, I think if healthcare became "socialized" it would lessen the quality of care and take away all incentive for people to become doctors. Altruistic as most doctors are, there is a very real financial consideration for those people to become doctors...and rightly so, If I spent 200k and 8 years of my life preparing, I'd want some serious renumeration....I've got no problem with doc's making big money, they deserve it..I think things begin to go awry with the hospital systems and insurance coverage.

Right now, hospital charges are calculated using what I like to call "the going out of business furniture sale scam pricing theorum".....Your operation comes to $30,500 but since Aetna will be the one dispersing checks, we'll knock that down to $9200. Those without insurance are liable for the 32,500...some gets paid, some gets written off (providing tax relief to the hospital corp increasing profitability), and some gets reimbursed through govt programs.

I can't help but think (naive as I may be) that if you took all the money spent on govt waste, from bridges to nowhere to 10 dollar cotton balls you'd have more than enough to set up a system that picked up the tab on insurance premiums for those uninsured....

We've created a viscious cycle where the only way for everyone to make a buck is by inflating the bejesus out of everything.

Anybody out there have an idea, I am all ears!!!

Doug said...

I don't think it's doctor compensation that makes up a huge chunk of the expense. My understanding (could very well be wrong) is that doctor's income has been essentially flat for a long time while health costs have been skyrocketing.

Pharmaceutical companies are taking a bunch of money. I think insurance companies and HMOs and others who get a cut of the transaction costs are also getting a good chunk of the money.

In any event, I think step one is to follow the money. Just figure out exactly whose pocket each dollar ends up in. Let the people adding value keep on doing what they're doing and try our best to cut out the deadwood.

Tim Zank said...

Doug, you are right, Doctors income has been flat....it's all the other cogs in the wheel getting a cut that makes things skyrocket..

William Larsen said...

Why are health insurance costs rising 85 a year? Think about the nature of the beast.

When we are born, there are some large up front costs, but between this and age 40, for the most part costs are in frequent. As we hit 40 and even 50 we have more visits and more tests. When we hit 60 the number of tests increase even more.

Our Medicare system was created on a cash flow basis with no funds being set aside to pay promised benefits.

With a low birth rate of 2.1 per woman, we have zero population growth. It will take about 80 years at 2.1 births per woman for the population of the US to stabalize. In this I mean the ratio of any given cohort remains basically constant to the the total population.

The US populations age is increasing slowly and will do so for a couple of more decades. The average age I believe is now approaching 46 up from 42 a decade ago. This does not mean we are living longer, but that the number of births no longer "dilute" the older population.

Inflation of 3.5% a year plus the age inflation will yield a 7% increase yearly with no problem.

The only way to combat this increase is to not go to the doctor. Another way is to put control in the hands of the consumer. Currently the consumer is not the direct payer, but insurance is. The user must be made to pay for the service. We need higher deductibles which would result in lower premiums making insurance more affordable. We need the elderly who are getting a free ride to pay substantially more for their healthcare. We need to repeal the Rx drug benefit immeadiately.