By Jack Bernard for the Observer –
After spending 25 years in the health care field, most of it related to making hospitals more efficient and effective, I have become skeptical of many of Washington’s reform efforts, especially by my party, the GOP.
One of the biggest problems with health care is escalating, uncontrolled expenditures, taking a larger and larger proportion of our GNP. However, what Rep. Paul Ryan and the GOP want to talk about is the federal budget and cost-shifting via Medicare and Medicaid.
Experts in health care economics differ on many things. But one thing they all agree on is that raising the age for Medicare will do virtually nothing to reduce the overall cost of health care in this nation.
Under the Affordable Care Act, everyone must have insurance or be taxed. Medicare has a 3 percent administrative overhead while the private sector has run 28 percent, coming down to 20 percent as required by the ACA. Raising the Medicare age simply shifts the insurer from the government to less efficient private providers. This dumps the extra cost into the lap of the senior, who at 65 is probably unemployed and unemployable. There are no overall cost savings via efficiencies with Ryan’s Medicare “voucher” proposal.
Dr. Gerald Friedman, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, was in Charlotte recently for the launching of a physician advocacy group, Health Care Justice. Friedman indicated that U.S. per capita health care cost is $7,920. That compares with $3,323 in Sweden, $2,984 in Finland and only $2,686 in Italy. He points out that people in these countries are healthier than in our country and things are getting worse here. In 2001 among the non-elderly, 14 percent did not see a doctor for needed medical care. The figure rose to 26 percent in less than a decade.
Friedman pointed out that the most basic financial problem with U.S. health care is the for-profit insurance system. Insurance company profits have increased 250 percent in the last decade, Friedman said. The head of Cigna made a whopping $29 million in 2009 while health care premiums and increased deductibles are eating up more and more of workers’ wages.