As the recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation points out that health care costs in the US increased by 9% last year the question raised is “how high does our health care bill go before we are ready to change our current system?” Would we accept paying for a Mercedes and getting a Yugo? Expanding coverage to people without health insurance will probably never drive the reform of our health care system. But the amount that insured persons have to pay might be a more powerful force for reform. As the Kaiser Report also showed the percentage of persons with insurance that have to pay more than a $1,000 deductible each year has increased dramatically to over 31%. This is a rise from just 10% five years ago. As more companies use high deductibles to control their health care costs this trend seems to be one that will only continue to grow.
The United States pays over 15% of its GDP on heath care and that is more than any other industrialized country by at least 4%. According to a report of the British Medical Journal the US is last among 19 industrialized countries across a wide measure of health care results. We may have examples of the best medicine money can buy and medical facilities like Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic but we are also a country that still pays for most health care through insurance provided by employers. The development of employer health insurance didn’t really occur until after World War II when unions began negotiating this benefit in its labor negotiations. Before that doctors and hospitals worked out payment systems with patients that sometimes involved low cost prepaid arrangements.
While the opponents of single payer systems demagogue health care reform as “socialism” and “Obamacare” we will continue to move to an unsustainable health care system. While opponents decry having “government bureaucrats making health care decisions for all of us” we continue to accept insurance bureaucrats rewarded for denying payment to maximize insurance profits.
Join the Howard County Legacy Leadership Institute for the Environment (HoLLIE), a volunteer leadership and environmental education program targeted at 50+ adults. The fourth annual session starts February 1, 2012. To apply, send an email to HocoLLIE@gmail.com. Application forms and sample curriculum are at www.HowardLLIE.com Sessions are limited to 15 people. Call Barbara Schmeckpeper, 410-381-5279, or Cathy Hudson, 410-796-7232 for more information. A $50 fee is required at enrollment.