Some numbers about American healthcare

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Tuesday, 28 July 2009

(14:57:26 CDT)

Some numbers about American healthcare

Is the current version of the healthcare bill good for us as a country? I'm going out on a limb and saying no. It seems to have too many fingers into too many dykes, so to speak, rather than a conscious effort to rebuild and restructure the flow. Do I like our current system of healthcare? God, no. Two reasons, and then I'll move on. (1) A lot of people attack wording in potential new legislature that says people will get taxed for all or part of their coverage as income. How is it fair that if I go to the doctor, and spend thousands of dollars on healthcare coverage (an amount increased largely due to the presence of insurance) I have to pay taxes on all that money I earned, where someone who pays a non-govermental organization a $40-$70 fee per week is granted a special government status? (2) Sarah once "paid" (insurance covered it) over $10 for about a third of an ounce of low percentage salt water. Oh yeah, that's an awesome system. Again, the government sets limits on how much certain insurance companies can be charged, but you have to buy into the club, so to speak, for this to work. Both of these expose my solution to the problem: either treat medical care like a necessity or don't. If it is, then price controls and tax breaks for all. If it is not, then not.

With that out of the way, I wanted to counterpoint a lot of stuff that I have read lately that talks about how dismal the Canadian and UK health systems are, and how awesome the US health systems are. I've seen numbers quoted without refrence like "60% of Americans are perfectly satisfied with their coverage" and I can't help but to think some sort of "there are lies, damned lies, and then there are statistics" is at play there. Every study I have seen puts the number at under 50%. Here is one (opens in pdf form). Something "paradoxical" I notice in that study is that poor and ederly people are more satisfied. They are the ones most likely to receive government assistance, note. At any rate, the WHO (World Health Organization) ranks health systems from around the globe and the US ranked 37th overall. This is under the UK and under Canada. This is under several countries. That ranking probably includes the fact of cost factored in, so should be taken with something like a grain of salt, but looking at the pdf up there, the US pays substantially more (something like a factor of 2-3 times) what other countries pay for their health care. Sure, the US ranked first in responsiveness (a factor of personal care and allowing someone to be in control of the timing and form of their treatment) which is an awesome thing, but it seems like there has to be some sort of compromise between the two. Or, as in some countries, you have two types of hospitals, the one where the better off can afford snazzier treatment and the ones where the government funds more adequate, but less frill-filled, treatment.

In a more local, specific example, Huntsville's mayor recently identified that health care costs for the city employees are a major contributor to budget problems (being over 4 mil above prediction). And I also can't help but think about those millions of recently jobless workers, who have to either (a) live off a spouse's insurance, (b) go without, or (c) pay for something like COBRA that drains funds and does not provide much back to you.

Don't even get me started on malpractice suits. The fact that so many events warrant them and the fact that so many eat so much money even when they don't warrant them.

Si Vales, Valeo


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