I feel like continuing to myth-bust today:
One of the more popular myths created by the American health care obfuscation machine (AHCOM) is the absolute nonsense that our elderly are responsible for escalating health costs.
Let me go on record right now as stating the idea is pure rubbish. And since others have addressed this topic much better than I could ever hope, I will simply refer you to some of their work. You can read it if you want at your own leisure.
What I do want to comment on is the following NYT article. For it makes quite clear why I (and many others of a similar mindset) get so frustrated at the way our collective is allowing its resources to be used and why I think you and I might simply be better off if we just chose how to spend the money ourselves.
"federal spending for health services and supplies increased 10.4 percent in 2008... By contrast, the report said, state and local government spending on health care increased just 3.4 percent in 2008...
While federal spending on health care surged, consumers and private employers retrenched. Spending for health care by private businesses grew just 1.2 percent in 2008, in part because of a drop in the proportion of employer-sponsored insurance paid by employers,” Mr. Hartman said. “Private business’s health spending remained relatively flat as a share of compensation at 7.9 percent.
Moreover, the report said, “private health insurance premiums and benefits grew in 2008 at their slowest rate since 1967, 3.1 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively.” The slowdown was tied to a drop in the number of people with private health insurance, to 195.4 million in 2008, from 196.4 million in 2007.
Spending increases varied among health care providers in 2008, rising 4.5 percent for hospital care, 4.6 percent for nursing homes, 4.7 percent for doctors’ services, 6.6 percent for outpatient clinics and 9 percent for home health care.
While the growth of total health spending slowed in 2008, Medicare spending increased at a brisk pace, rising 8.6 percent, to a total of $469 billion, the report said.
The overall increase in spending on hospital care was the slowest in a decade. But hospital spending for Medicare beneficiaries rose 7.7 percent, reflecting an increase in hospital admissions after two years of declines."
So here is my punch line: the loss of 1 million people from the rolls of the privately insured held private health insurance costs to a mere 1.2% growth rate. Even if we assumed that keeping these 1 million people privately insured would have added an additional 1/195 or 0.51% to private costs, this would have been a growth rate of 1.71%. Hardly as large as Medicare.
OR, to be really fair, even if we assumed that those who lost their private coverage were sicker and that as a group might have cost twice as much as everyone else, even then private costs would have only increased by 2.25?
Yet Medicare went up 8.6%!
8.6% at a time when private insurance only increased 1.2 to 2.2% depending on how you want to look/slice the data!
You will have to decide, but I might remind you to be careful to not buy any "spin spin spin".
And as you think on this, remember the two high level issues in this whole national debate are universality and cost control- separate but related issues.
What everyone seems to have forgotten is the whole universality debate is all about protecting people when their luck is down AND THEIR HEALTH IS FAILING.
Eliminate poor health and the issue becomes more and more the straw man issue I know it to be.
Do we want universality because we want protection when our luck is down?
Do we want good health?
If you had to choose, which would you choose?
On that note I will leave you with a question that was nicely framed in the following dialogue between two of my heroes in this whole national health care discussion. I will also point out these two men are agreeing and yet of oddly opposite political viewpoints, though I think Michael Cannon put it better:
Improving "population health" generally means "helping people live longer."
To paraphrase, Uwe then writes:
If helping people live longer were our objective in health reform, we could do better than universal coverage. But health reform is not (solely or primarily) about helping people live longer. It is (also or primarily) about other things, like relieving the anxiety of the uninsured.
I applaud Uwe for acknowledging a reality that most advocates of universal coverage avoid: that universal coverage is not solely or primarily about improving health.
Will Uwe go farther and acknowledge that, since universal coverage is largely about some other X-factor(s), that necessarily means that advocates of universal coverage are willing to let some people die sooner in order to serve that X-factor?"
I will repeat: "... are (YOU) willing to let some people die sooner in order to serve that X-factor?"
So here is my very simple question which I will leave you with"
Are you really willing to die sooner yourself for whatever this X-factor is? Do you see that this applies just as much to you as it does to everyone else?
Think about it and remember the following graph, and where the US sits on this curve:
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