The Latest (10/25/16) News on the Healthcare Front

When it comes to healthcare in the United States, the free market fails us because pricing goes out of control and competition among providers is artificially reduced.

Regulation fails us because it doesn’t address the real problems, and any real proposed solutions are thwarted by lobbyists and partisan squabbling.

Our healthcare was a failure before the ACA (Obamacare), with skyrocketing premiums and huge numbers of uninsured. Bankruptcies and foreclosures due to medical costs were at an all-time high. After the ACA, the rate of increase of premiums (as opposed to premiums themselves) actually fell for a few years under the act, but now the realities of insurance actuarials and human behavior have come home to roost.

The Republicans tried nothing of substance before the ACA. They haven’t advocated anything that will work. If the Democrats have thought of ways to amend the ACA to be more effective, they haven’t made much of a push.

Now, a healthcare plan might be salvageable by addressing the fallacies and shortcomings of the ACA and boosting the successes of the act, but partisanship has made the proposition all-or-nothing. This results in stalemate between warring parties, with the citizenry in the no-man’s-land.

So we continue as-is, and it’s unworkable. If we revoke it and return to square one, it will be the same disaster as before. Because before the ACA, without a workable plan, the U.S. healthcare system** was a failure of affordability and accessibility. Now with the ACA, it’s a failure, but with a plan that no one will agree to modify to meet our actual conditions.

And still there are successful models here and there in our global neighborhood that we can look at, but we refuse to do that due to us remaining mired in our various philosophical ruts. I can only guess that people in other places on the planet have said, “What we have works for us. Jeez, why can’t you guys just do something else?” In fact, I don’t have to guess. I have, in fact, heard them say that.

It’s a real mess. In looking at Congress, you’d almost think they prefer playing politics than working together to achieve advances that would lessen the strife of their constituents and advance citizens’ interests. But surely, qualified, capable, and caring leaders wouldn’t think or act like that.

You want to reduce healthcare affordability? Then address costs. Require medical device and supply companies to sell their stuff for the same price here that they do in other countries for a profit. The same with pharmaceuticals. Cap executive compensation. Open up medical schools for more qualified applicants++.

Yes, I know that devices and drugs have high costs because of the expense of research and development. I get that. But why do we in the US have to bear the entire brunt of that? That $7,000-8,000 stent that got placed in my right coronary artery? It sells for $400 in Germany. I looked it up. That story about the guy who flew to Belgium for a hip replacement, got it done with the same technology as here, and flew back, all for less than his deductible? That’s true too.

That is absurd. Healthcare has become one of the very biggest industries in the country. If you want to improve the economy, how about taking real steps to lessen the cost of healthcare for your citizens. You do that, and they’ll be spending less on nondiscretionary items, they’ll have more money to spend on technology, travel, tourism, trinkets, and trash, and we’ll all be happier.

 

**As Walter Cronkite famously noted, it’s not healthy, nor caring, nor much of a system. I don’t know when he said it, but I’m guessing (guessing, OK?) at least 25 years ago. Things haven’t changed much.

++The law of supply and demand. If you increase the supply, the demand goes down, prices go down. Right now, any number of potential medical students who are qualified are turned down for medical school simply so that the provider numbers are kept down. Let’s have the market determine that rather than the suppliers.

— Grandpa

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