“You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”
“Our policy is to create a national health service in order to ensure that everybody in the country irrespective of means, age, sex or occupation shall have equal opportunities to benefit from the best and most up-to-date medical and allied services available.”
Veering away from the usual topics covered in this blog, I thought about some recent articles I saw about the attempt to repeal and replace, or to simply repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which the current political regime wants to do.
The first article, in yesterday’s [failing] New York Times, warned that repealing the ACA would make it harder for people to retire early. Those who retire early, before reaching 65, can get retiree coverage from their former employers, but not many companies offer that coverage.
Those early retirees poor enough could turn to Medicaid, and everyone else would have to go to the individual market. Without the ACA, health care coverage would be more difficult to get, cost consumers more where available, and provide fewer benefits.
According to the article, if the ACA is repealed, retiring early would become less feasible for many Americans. This is called job-lock, or the need to maintain a job to get health insurance.
This is one of the concerns the ACA was supposed to address, in that it would reduce or eliminate job lock. Repealing the law could, according to the article, affect employment and retirement decisions.
The second article, from Joe Paduda, also from yesterday, reported that improving healthcare will hurt the economy, and Joe lays out the arguments for doing something or doing nothing to improve health care and what effect they would have on economic growth.
For example, Joe states that healthcare employs 15.5 million full time workers, or 1 out of every 9 job. In two years, this will surpass retail employment. As Joe rightly points out, those jobs are funded by employers and taxpayers. He suggests that some experts argue that healthcare is “crowding out” economic expansion in other sectors, thereby hurting growth overall.
But Joe also points out that by controlling health care costs, employment will be cut, and stock prices for pharmaceutical companies, margins for medical device firms, and bonuses at health plans will also be affected.
So, if cost control and increasing efficiency works, these lost jobs, reduced profits, and lower margins, Joe says, will hurt the economy. The economy will suffer if the health care sector is more efficient, and since healthcare is also a huge employment generator and an inefficient industry, fixing that inefficiency will reduce employment and growth.
Thus, the title of this article, “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”
But wait, there’s more.
Yesterday, a certain quote has been making the rounds through the media. It was uttered by Number 45. “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”
Yes, it is complicated and complex, but does it have to be so? If we consider the second Churchill quote above, and realize that the UK, France, Germany, Canada, and many other Western countries have some form of single payer, then one must conclude that it is only the US that has complicated and made too complex, the providing of health care to all of its citizens.
There are many reasons for this, which is beyond the scope of this article or blog, but there is one overriding reason for this complexity…GREED. Not the greed of wanting more of one thing, but the greed of profit, as one executive from an insurance company stated recently.
This brings me to the last of the articles I ran across yesterday. It was posted on LinkedIn by Dave Chase, founder of the Health Rosetta Institute. He cited a segment on the Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson program, in which Carlson interviewed a former hospital president who said that pricing was the main problem with the US healthcare system.
Mr. Chase does not solely rely on Carlson’s guest in his article, but cites other experts in the field as evidence that pricing failure is to blame.
If we are to except this as true, then it buttresses my point that the overriding problem is greed, for what else is the failure to control prices but a symptom of greed inherent in the American health care system, and something that does not exist elsewhere in the Western world.
Which brings me to Churchill’s first quote above. Since we Americans have tried the free market system of health care wanting, and have tried a reformed free market system, perhaps it is time to go all the way to a government-sponsored, Medicare for All, single payer system.
The bottom line is: we’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t. The question is, which is the lesser of two evils.
UPDATE: Here is Joe’s take on what will happen to the ACA in the next two years. I agree with his assessment.