Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What We Give Up for Health Care

Interesting article by Ezekiel J. Emanuel in Sunday's NY Times. Click here to read it. He is a doctor. One of his brothers is mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel who is also former White House Chief of Staff under Obama.

One of the first lessons every semester is that there is no such thing as a free lunch or that everything has an opportunity cost. Here are some excerpts:
"The more we spend on health care, the less we can spend on other things we value."

"Over the past 30 years, health care inflation has been a major reason average wages have remained stagnant. For employers, the cost of labor is total compensation — wages plus benefits. As the cost of benefits rises, wages tend not to rise, or to rise much more slowly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as health care costs skyrocketed between 2000 and 2009, workers’ total compensation increased by 1.3 percent per year, but workers’ hourly wages alone increased by just 0.7 percent per year, significantly below the rate of inflation.

During those 30 years, the only sustained period when real hourly earnings increased was 1990 through 1998 — which coincided almost exactly with a period of unusually low increases in health care costs."

"Last year, Medicaid spending was estimated to account for nearly a quarter of total state spending — the largest portion of their budgets — and it’s getting only more expensive."

"And so states have turned to cutting funding for public education — the next biggest item in their budgets."

"as health care costs rise, so too do the number of uninsured Americans. According to an analysis I did a few years ago, for every 10 percent increase in the average cost of family health insurance premiums, the ranks of the uninsured (excluding seniors covered by Medicare) increased by 0.55 percent. When premiums doubled between 2000 and 2009, the percentage of Americans who were covered by employer-sponsored health insurance dropped to 61 percent from 69 percent."

"We cannot have it all."

"...we could speed up the implementation of payment reform, stop Medicare payments for tests and treatments that provide no benefit and endorse competitive bidding for medical goods and services."

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