Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Health Care Costs Follow-Up

I'm sharing the following article by Jeff Jacoby as a follow-up to the issue of health care/health insurance and their costs...

From the article.

"Why is it," asks David Gratzer, a physician and scholar at the Manhattan Institute, "that in every other field where enormous technological strides have been made, total costs have fallen over time, but in health care they have increased?" The answer, he writes in The Cure, a lively and engrossing new book on the American health care mess, is simple: Health care costs so much because most of us pay so little for it. And we pay so little -- out-of-pocket expenses amount to just 14 cents of every health dollar spent in this country -- because a third party nearly always picks up the tab. For most working Americans, that third party is an insurance company paid by their employers. (For the poor and elderly who rely on programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, it's the government.)

Why does it matter whether Americans pay for medical care directly or let insurers cover their bills? Because thrift and price awareness usually go out the window when we're spending other people's money. Under the present setup, most Americans have little incentive to be economical consumers of health care. As a result, health care expenditures -- and insurance premiums -- have been racing ahead at three and four times the rate of inflation.


He raises a very valid question and points out the perspective identified by Milton Freidman:

There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government. – Milton Freidman

As I've said earlier, many people don't know how much their employer pays for their ability to fork over only a small amount of a co-pay at the doctor or pharmacy. If you don't know the true costs, how can you be a good consumer? And when you allow your employer to make decisions about your insurance coverage, you abdicate your ability to decide what coverages you need.

Jacoby goes on to say that, under Pres. Bush's recently announced proposal,:

Millions of others would have an incentive to shop around for a health plan less pricey than the one available through work, since cheaper insurance would end up meaning a bigger tax break. That would put pressure on insurers to develop more high-deductible, low-premium plans -- and on health care consumers to start paying attention to prices.

Again, I don't know if this will work, but I'm willing to have the discussion.

1 comment:

Hooda Thunkit said...

Ahhh,

Health care's dirty little secret.

But most Americans would rather be ignorant than informed and in control.

What a racket...

(Hooda now wishing he went into the Doctor business when he had the chance)

Come to think, I don't ever recall a doctor NOT smiling.

Wouldn't you smile if you had such a sweet setup?

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