Editorial – Insurance Company Schemes – NYTimes.com

Just more fuel for the reform fire…

As health care reform moves forward, Congress must impose tighter regulation of companies that clearly are not doing enough to regulate themselves. Creating a public plan could also help restrain the worst practices, by providing competition and an alternative.

A House oversight subcommittee took a close look at a particularly shameful practice known as “rescission,” in which insurance companies cancel coverage for some sick policyholders rather than pay an expensive claim. The companies contend that rescissions are rare. But Congressional investigators found that three big insurers canceled about 20,000 individual policies over a five-year period — allowing them to avoid paying more than $300 million in medical claims.

via Editorial – Insurance Company Schemes – NYTimes.com.

George F. Will’s Take On Health Care…Take It Or Leave It Alone

Most Americans do want different health care: They want 2009 medicine at 1960 prices. Americans spent much less on health care in 1960 5 percent of gross domestic product as opposed to 18 percent now. They also spent much less — nothing, in fact — on computers, cellphones, and cable and satellite television.[1]

I have seen Mr. Will use a lot of tricks in the past to make his points…But this one doesn’t wash.

Health care in 1960 was between you and your doctor. Just what conservatives say they want to preserve. Everyone had a doctor patient relationship…It was usually something you grew up with. And the uninsured office visit cost about $15…And almost all of America was uninsured.

The Hudson Institute’s Betsy McCaughey, writing in the American Spectator, says that in 1960 the average American household spent 53 percent of its disposable income on food, housing, energy and health care. Today the portion of income consumed by those four has barely changed — 55 percent. But the health-care component has increased while the other three combined have decreased. This is partly because as societies become richer, they spend more on health care — and symphonies, universities, museums, etc.[1]

From a link posted by Paul Krugman on June 28 we have this tidbit…

In many ways, it is remarkable that “Uncertainty and the welfare economics of medical care” has stood the test of time. In 1963, medicine still consisted largely of a single physician treating a single patient with relatively rudimentary remedies and medications. Since that time, medicine has been revolutionized by technological advances in the understanding and treatment of illnesses, and rising incomes have stimulated high and increasing levels of spending.

In the United States of America in the early 1960s, government involvement with medical care was limited; insurance covered less than half of all medical expenditures, compared with about 85% today. Since then, health care has been transformed by, among other things, Medicare and Medicaid, malpractice, and managed care. The non-market institutions that Arrow had observed, such as trust that physicians would not be motivated by profit and beliefs that the medical profession could regulate itself, have eroded.[2]

What I don’t see here is any comparison to the rest of the world, Mr. Will. I think it could be argued, quite successfully, that America isn’t alone among the industrialized nations that has seen it’s “wealth” rise.

A study of international health care spending levels published in the health policy journal Health Affairs in the year 2000, found that while the U.S. spends more on health care than other countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the use of health care services in the U.S. is below the OECD median by most measures. The authors of the study conclude that the prices paid for health care services are much higher in the U.S. In 1996, 5% of the population accounted for more than half of all costs.[3]

So it seems that even in the way he phrases the questions Mr. Will is spinning the story to fit his preconceived world view. As you can see below, when compared to other countries America is still being overcharged and under served…

The United States is clearly an outlier in its high level of per capita spending on health care, but other countries have also experienced a high rate of growth in such spending. Although growth rates vary by country and by period, most industrialized countries—even those with a financing system quite different from that in the United States—have experienced a substantial long-term rise in real spending on health care. In fact, growth rates in per capita spending in some countries have exceeded those in the United States during some periods.[4]

Mr. Will closes with this statement…

The public, its attention riveted by the fiscal train wreck of trillion-dollar deficits for the foreseeable future, may be coming to the conclusion that we should leave bad enough alone.[1]

And yet polls still show a vast majority of Americans are beginning to understand what Mr. Will seems to miss…American style health care quit working for most Americans quite some time ago…

[1] via George F. Will – A Regrettable ‘Fix’ on Health Care – washingtonpost.com.

[2] via Bulletin of the World Health Organization – Kenneth Arrow and the birth of health economics.

[3] via Health care in the United States – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

[4] via Technological Change and the Growth of Health Care Spending.

Health Care Reform

This is the most important subject on the President’s agenda. The economic crisis is important, but health care is the problem that is affecting everyone’s lives…

Nowhere else in the world is so much money spent with such poor results.

On that point there is rare unanimity among Washington decision makers: The U.S. health system needs a major overhaul.

For more than a decade, researchers have documented the inequities, shortcomings, waste and even dangers in the hodgepodge of uncoordinated medical services that consume nearly one-fifth of the nation’s economy. Exorbitant medical bills thrust too many families into bankruptcy, hinder the global competitiveness of U.S. companies and threaten the government’s long-term solvency.

The problems with the American health care system can be summed up in two words…”For Profit”. Prior to the middle of the last century only a few doctors really got into health care with the thought of getting rich.

Hospitals were for the most part non-profit. Doctor’s office visit costs were within reach of almost every family. The labs and diagnostics areas of the hospitals were part of the hospital and staffed by hospital staff and billed on the hospital bill.

What has done in the American Health Care System is the “For Profit” mentality and the out sourcing of every area of a hospitals services. When what was once one entity covering the overhead of  all services became a multitude with each being forced to pay individually for all normal office expenses from letterheads to billing staff, with each expected to show a profit, the world changed…And not for the better.

Add to this mix a Health Insurance Industry that is extremely effective at minimizing cost while maximizing profit, clearing the most costly individuals from the pool, effectively blocking people from receiving the care they need while maximizing the annoyance factor of dealing with the insurers customer service department and you have America’s existing system.

When you throw in American pride and a media system that is becoming more and more dependent on the pharmaceutical companies advertising dollars…And you end up with a dysfunctional system that ranks near the bottom in effectiveness when compared to other systems around the world, at the top in actual costs…And is “the best health care system in the world”. Just ask any American on the street, they’ll tell you nobdy else can beat American Heath Care…Even when it’s a lie. A lie they have been told all of their life…

via Decision Makers Differ on How to Reshape Nation’s Medical Services Into Better System – washingtonpost.com.

…Pursuit of Really Fresh Produce

Is eating locally produced food a civic duty?

The folks at Kitchen Gardeners International might not call it a duty, exactly. But the group — one of the organizations whose efforts led to the planting of a kitchen garden at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. this spring — argues that buying and eating locally bolsters American communities and economies even as it makes for a more healthful diet, all of which might strengthen the nation as a whole.

via Jennifer LaRue Huget – A Locavore’s Fourth: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Really Fresh Produce – washingtonpost.com.