Monday, November 24, 2008

Universal Health Care: The Most Expensive Option

What should be done about the 47 million Americans who have no health insurance?

These are people who work for companies that don’t provide it and/or they can’t afford it. Of particular concern: an educated guess would be that half of those 47 million are kids.

Whether kids or adults, when these folks are sick or get hurt, the only real option is to show up at a hospital emergency room where they get the treatment they need. The problem is, the hospitals cover those costs by charging you and me more when we go to the hospital.

Six months ago, my wife broke her wrist. Three hours in the emergency room cost more than $5,000. That included the cost of our care plus some of the cost incurred by the hospital for treating uninsured people. You think that’s not so? Ask any hospital administrator.

It’s not fair, of course, but what’s the alternative? Somebody has to pay or the hospital will go broke. So to recoup the cost of treating patients without insurance, hospitals inflate charges to patients with insurance. Then, to cover those higher costs, the insurance companies inflate the premiums they charge to us … to you and to me. You think that’s not so? Ask any health insurance executive.

The people who oppose universal health care whine about the cost and object to their taxes paying for some poor person’s health insurance. But the point is, they’re already paying!

During the campaign, John McCain criticized Barack Obama’s health insurance plan as socialized medicine, saying it would “put a bureaucrat between you and your doctor.”

You mean like Medicare?

Let me say to all of you who aren’t old enough to participate in Medicare: When the time comes, you will be goddamn glad you have it. You will also find that it works beautifully … smoother and simpler and cheaper than whatever private health insurance plan you have now.

Yes, cheaper. Administrative costs for Medicare are about 3 percent. Administrative costs for private health insurance plans run between 20 and 30 percent.

So again: What should be done about the 47 million Americans who have no health insurance?

We can do something. It will work, but it will be expensive.

Or we can do nothing. And that is the most expensive option of all.

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