In a previous column, we addressed the politicians' promise of "Free college tuition." This column addresses the promise of "Free Health Care," which is being made by Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton.
The term "single payer system" is used by politicians to somewhat subtly describe a system in which the federal government is the "single payer." That frightening thought would mean that health care decisions would be made by the government, and would be limited to whatever budget constraints existed at the time.
In today's Medicare and Medicaid systems, it is the government, not the physician or the hospital that determines what will be paid for a medical procedure. That fact has caused the billing structures to be modified by the medical community. Because payments determined by the government may not cover the actual costs incurred to provide the services rendered, the doctor or hospital may establish an inflated cost structure. What results is that younger people and their insurance companies wind up paying the higher rates to compensate for the government paying less for Medicare and Medicaid patients.
The National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) did a comparison of medical services in this country vs. the services provided in countries where the government controls health care. Their report shows that the United States has better survival rates for cancer, better access to treatment for chronic diseases, better preventative care, better health care treatment for low income people as compared to Canada, less waiting times, and so on. In addition, their report shows that people in countries with government control of health care are highly dissatisfied. (http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ba649).
Between the years of 2001 and 2013, the Veteran's Administration budget increased by 235 percent. However, it appears that much of the funding didn't improve the timing and/or health care received by the veterans. In order to line their own pockets, administrators literally "cooked the books" to show improvements in veterans' care that simply did not happen. And, not a single person has been fired. Is that a pre-cursor for what citizens might expect from a government-run health care system if it covered our entire population of 320 million people?
Wages of workers are taxed at 2.9 percent (3.8 percent for those at higher income levels) for their entire work life. Half of that percentage is paid by the employee and the other half is paid by the employer. While that might not seem to be a lot of money, if a worker earning $50,000 annually put that money in a low risk investment that paid a modest 3 percent interest annually, over a 40-year work life, the employee would have saved and earned about $110,000 before he/she ever became eligible for Medicare. At the point of eligibility, the person starts paying a monthly premium to Medicare based on his/her income level and, also needs to purchase a "secondary" health insurance policy to cover co-pays and the other costs not covered by Medicare. Consider, too, that all the money put into Medicare by those who die before they reach Medicare eligibility age is kept by the government.
The government collects Medicare contributions for a person's entire work life, does not return those contributions to the person's estate if the person dies before becoming Medicare eligible, charges a monthly premium when the person does become eligible, and the person also needs to purchase and pay a monthly premium on a "secondary" health insurance policy. And, for the frosting on the cake, Medicare, with 50-million people enrolled in the plan, has $36 trillion in unfunded liabilities.
Now if Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton have their way, that 50 million number will jump to about 320 million, and continue to grow significantly each succeeding year. We already have a physician shortage and government control will only make that situation worse (think about the current VA crisis). Malpractice insurance costs are out of sight and the government has completely avoided addressing the need for tort reform.
Health care in the United States is slightly more than 17 percent of our gross domestic product. That number is the highest of any developed country. Do we really want to put our entire health care system in the hands of those who have given us the VA problems, out of control bureaucracies, and a system that has already incurred $36 trillion in unfunded liabilities?
People may want to consider a statement made by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, one of the "Obamacare" contributing authors, in which he previously opined that once people reach the age of 75, they should be willing to forego any costly medical procedures as they would have lived a full life up to that time. (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/10/why-i-hope-to-die-at-75/379329.
History has shown us that government intervention in the private sector has been anything but effective, efficient, or free. The promise of "free" health care that has been made by Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton can only lead to government control over your life . . . and maybe even shorten it a bit.
(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)
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