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The Health Care Conundrum

January 4, 2009

health-insuranceMany millions of Americans pay hundreds of dollars each month to providers of healthcare. We pay premiums for coverage of medical expenses, while paying out-of-pocket costs at the doctors’ offices and hospitals, ostensibly to save money on that insurance. Quite often, Americans leave the doctor’s office with a prescription that needs to be filled. Whether that medicine brings Americans better health is debatable at best. Americans are addicted to the convenience and the idea of superior medical care; the idea of a pill for whatever ails the American lifestyle.

health-insurance2Without question, the overuse of medicine and preponderance of doctors that has been designed to lead Americans to good health has done little beyond feed a burgeoning health care and prescription drug industry, much like bankers have done with policies and creative investments that have brought the nation to its’ knees economically. There was never enough money and the drive for extensive profit feeds the machine rather than the desire to meet the need and make an honest profit. America has forgotten about the concept of an honest profit.

Lately, the health care field has been listed as one of the few bastions of employment security as the dwindling economy now clamps down on the health care field and the need for corporate profits, resulting now in the loss of jobs in health care. Sooner or later, a lingering recession or blight of an economic depression affects everyone, one way or the other.

health-care-child-bandaidEvery day, people exclaim how difficult “affordable health care” is. Americans that get some help through insurance plans through their employment have escalating amounts deducted from their paychecks, often for declining coverage. One bright spot on the surface seems to be Medicare and Medicaid for millions of retired and disabled Americans. Yet health care professionals across the board that accept Medicare coverage are heavily squeezed in dealing with administrative issues and the writeoffs required to deal with government programs. Nobody is happy, except maybe the people the are getting the low or no cost government health care.

We hear cries about yet another “broken system” in America that must be overhauled or somehow reformed. American health care costs are the largest in the world by far and the state of health in American seems to be declining. The “system” is broken, because the nation has a growing problem without solution. Any solution is seen as worse than the cure. HIPAA laws, designed to secure information in an information free society hasn’t helped or has hindered. Misinformation is rampant while the food that America eats in its eternal quest for the the great lifestyle doesn’t help either. America is awash in complaints.

Perhaps what needs to be reformed is the expectations of Americans. We have grown accustomed to more and better always. We want transplants and expect that transplant to be covered by insurance instead of taking care of the body that God gave us. Americans don’t want to wait in long lines at medical clinics and doctor’s offices. We are too important and busy. All the while, corporate medicine expects to make obscene profits. If not, like retailers in a downturn, they will cut back services and close facilities. The idea of reform usually presents to the mind of the beholder that something worse is always around the corner. Americans are full of demands, expectations and fear.

Back in 1955, a young black man in his thirties named Elmo Green quietly died from heart failure because he didn’t have insurance, a government plan or medicine to assist with his failing heart. Like millions of Americans, he was a hard working man that owned his own home, his own piece of America. He had a wife and family. He didn’t have the money for expensive drugs if they had an effective drug that would reduce blood pressure in those days. Elmo was sent home to die because he didn’t have insurance coverage.

health-care-pillToday, millions of Elmo Green’s can take $4 statin drugs to keep from dying a lingering death from congestive heart failure and sky high blood pressure without so much as a lifestyle change. We have superior medical knowledge. We’ve come a long way baby. Do you want to complain about that too?

Despite the fear, demands and entitlement mentality, Americans still have plenty to be thankful for. Perhaps Americans can all start by lowering a few expectations across the board for a little while. I am talking about bankers, health care professionals, retailers and government bean counters as well. The conundrum in health care and in life is most often expectations combined with simple fear. Consider that next time you feel the overwhelming urge to complain about the inconvenience of being an American. ~ E. Manning

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 4, 2009 4:28 pm

    Health care is, indeed, a broken system. I content its greatest flaws stem from bad legislation. The most conspicuous cost drivers are Medicare, Medicaid, and the HMO Act of 1973.

    Irrespective of the moral premise for each of these interventions, the consequence has been ridiculously increasing costs. Total health care expenditures were 5.9% in 1965, when Congress first intervened in the markets, creating Medicare and Medicaid. Obviously, when someone else pays your bills you are more likely to consume more.

    In response to drastically increasing costs, Congress passed the HMO Act of 1973, which forced the creation and widespread adoption of the managed care market. We all know how well the HMO experiment has worked!

    With health care expenditures now over 16% of GDP (a 170% increase from 1965, in real terms), growing disenfranchisement of large population segments, and a sense of getting ripped off by insurers as we pay ever more for less, we should get back to the drawing board, identify the real cost drivers, and remove counter-productive regulations.

    For a more detailed discussion on this topic check out my article:

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