“Health Insurance Is Broken”

From The Onion:

Almost every Sunday, I spend hours reading the local AJC and the NY Times — a great way to start the week.

On July 5th, the NY Times review section discussed the topic of ‘The Economy We Need.’ The article discussed rising problems with wealth inequity and associated problems including higher mortality rates.  The first article states that “if income had kept pace with overall economic growth since 1970, Americans in the bottom 90 percent of the income distribution would be making an extra $12,000 per year, on average.”

The greater inequities are the direct result of policy changes and can be changed. The subsequent articles detail myriad issues from tax policy that bolster wealth inequality (eg. lower inheritance taxes), minimum wage which requires many to rely on government assistance, legacy admissions to elite colleges, corporation stock buybacks (which come at the expense of lower benefits/wages), policies that discourage unions, and corporations that have stopped profit sharing (except for the highest-paid executives).

The article with the most relevance for health care providers: NY Times: “Health Insurance Is Broken” by Jeneen Interlandi. Link to online version: Employer-Based Health Care, Meet Massive Unemployment

Key points:

  • “The nation spends an average of $3.5 trillion on health care –more than Japan, Germany, France, China, the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, Brazil, Spain, and Australia combined — ant still loses more people to preventable and treatable medical conditions than any of those countries do…America has created the most expensive, least effective health care system in the modern world.”
  • The problem has deep roots.  One of the issues with the cost, at least historically, has been “price insensitivity.”  “If the insurer is paying, nobody looks at the bill.”…Hospitals ramped up equipment purchases, workforces, specialty clinics and “passed [the price hikes] from hospitals to insurers to customers.”‘
  • “Employer-based insurance is heavily subsidized by the federal government …[and] are not much different than the ones granted to low-income Americans through Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.”
  • The country will have to stop making employers the sole source of health care for so many people.”  Alternatives could include single-payer system or ‘public option.’

My take: The U.S. health care system costs too much and has gaping problems with lack of coverage and inequities. These problems have worsened with the current pandemic.

Related article: NY Times:  The U.S. Is Lagging Behind Many Rich Countries. These Charts Show Why.

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