Socialized Medicine Goes by Many Names: Budget Buster is But One

 

DocsMeanMembers of Congress — both Democrats and Republicans — are being asked if various health care proposals they support provide so-called “universal coverage.” Socialized medicine goes by many names: Universal Coverage, Coverage-for-All, Medicare-for-All, Medicaid Expansion and Single-Payer are ones you’ve probably heard of. Perhaps you don’t really understand what all these altruistic-sounding phrases imply. Here’s a dirty little secret: you’re not supposed to know. The average American with good employee health insurance already pays for coverage (albeit indirectly) in addition to a Social Security payroll tax surpassing 15 percent. Most Americans would balk once they discovered the ugly truth: universal coverage requires a near doubling of payroll taxes. A case in point is California, New York State, Vermont and Colorado.

CBO: Other Peoples’ Money is Popular, as is Freedom to Choose

 

stethoscope-on-moneyThe big news on Thursday was that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its score of the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The CBO claimed 23 million people would lose coverage within a decade under provisions found in the AHCA.

  • About 10 million people would purportedly lose coverage due to the repealing of the individual and employer mandates.
  • Another 5 million are low-income individuals living in states that did not expand Medicaid.

Basically, this is another way of saying 10 million people will decide they’d rather keep their money than have poor-value health coverage. It’s hard to understand how someone can lose something they never actually had?

Drain the Health Care Swamp that’s Awash in Other Peoples’ Money

 

Caduceus with First-aid Kit --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Caduceus with First-aid Kit — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

The 2017 winner of the Miss USA pageant ignited a firestorm on Twitter when she opined that nobody is entitled to thousands of dollars worth of free goods and services which they did not earn. The tempest in a teapot resulted when Kára McCullough said health care is a privilege, not a right. Her answer was far from perfect; she mentioned that to have health coverage you need to work.

How Technology & Health Care Systems Impact the Cost of Healthcare

 

stethoscope-on-moneyThe United States spends about $3 trillion on health care annually, nearly $10,000 per capita — accounting for about 18 percent of gross domestic product. Medical technology is costly, but it is not the only reason medicine is expensive. A variety of factors are to blame for what makes health care expensive in this country and abroad.

New Harris/HealthDay Poll Finds Americans are Fickle; Uninformed.

 

Capture53A New Harris / HealthDay Poll came out that finds many Americans do not really understand how insurance works.  Ok, what it officially found is rising support for the Affordable Care Act. About 41% want to improve the Affordable Care Act (ACA) rather than replace it. One-quarter (25%) want to repeal the ACA, while 21% want to leave it “as is”.

Technology & Cost Containment—Why Doesn’t Medical Technology Bring Down the Cost of Healthcare?

 

Capture14Technology is a significant driver of high health care spending. For instance, many treatments common today were not available 40 years ago. Yet, treatments and therapies that have been in use for decades are still quite expensive. In typical consumer markets, the quality of technology gets progressively better while the (real) inflation-adjusted prices often fall as older technology is surpassed by newer technology. This is especially true of consumer electronics but also of true of automobiles, appliances and other types of consumer goods. The inflation-adjusted prices of consumer goods have held steady because consumers are price sensitive, rewarding the firms who successfully compete for their business.

Is Health Care A Right? Or a Privilege?

 

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Adapted from my upcoming book: Your Money AND Your Life, coming Spring 2017.

In 1992, Dr. Kathryn Anastos was quoted as saying:

“It is unconscionable that we ration health care by the ability to pay… Health care should be a given.”

She’s not alone in her opinion. Even today, politicians, activists, and even physicians on the Left claim that health care is a fundamental right, that should be guaranteed to all by our government. This underlies the concept of socialized medicine, where the state becomes the provider of health care to the entire population.

These liberal progressives also make the point that anyone who opposes their idea of health care being a right, must view it as a privilege. In other words, reserved only for those lucky few who can afford to pay for it.

So which label is correct? Is health care a right? Or is it a privilege?

Actually, it’s neither. And to prove my point, let’s compare this philosophy to how we view some of life’s basic needs.

When I was in grade school, I remember being taught about three things that are essential for living: food, water, and shelter.

Never were truer words spoken. We have to have food and water to survive, and without shelter we would be exposed to the dangers of the elements, wild animals, and our fellow humans intent on doing harm.

And yet, none of these essentials is considered a right.

Our founding documents do establish a number of rights, such as to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; to the freedom of speech and of religion; and the right to bear arms. But nowhere did the framers mention the right to eat, the right to drink, or the right to housing.

Don’t keep up with your rent or mortgage? You can be legally evicted.

Ignore the water bill? The local utility company will come to your house and shut it off.

Likewise, I don’t know of any grocery stores or restaurants that would accept “It’s my right to eat!” as a form of payment.

While it’s true that the government does assist the elderly, the poor, and the disabled in obtaining these basic necessities, these programs don’t apply to everyone. To receive such state assistance, one must first qualify by meeting certain criteria.

So there is no right to have food, water, or shelter, and even most liberals stop short of saying that it is the responsibility of the government to provide them to everyone.

But does that mean that they are privileges? Hardly.

A privilege can be defined as a “special right or advantage, available only to a particular group of people.”

Clearly, there is no privileged group of Americans who are the only ones that can find food, water, or shelter; the majority of us are able to eat, drink, and live comfortably, without any financial help from the government whatsoever.

So if some of our most basic needs are neither rights – nor privileges – then what exactly are they?

They are necessities, and nothing more. Because we need them to live.

Not so with health care, though. Unlike food, water, or shelter, health care is not a necessity. Health care may be able to make us healthier, alleviate pain and suffering, and prolong life, but it isn’t essential on a day-to-day, or even routine basis.

In fact, I’ve met many Americans who’ve gone for years, decades, and sometimes most of their lives without receiving any professional health care.

But if health care isn’t absolutely necessary for life, then why is it even spoken of in terms of being a right, vs a privilege?

Because it’s a great platform for big government proponents on the Left to take a moral stance, and promote their agenda by claiming that only the government can fix our broken health care system.

Calling health care a right also sets up a false argument against conservatives: anyone who opposes the idea of “health care for all,” must take the cruel and heartless stance that health care is deserved only by a few.

Except our system, even as it exists now belies that theory. Just as the elderly, the poor, and the disabled receive help in obtaining their food, water, and shelter, so do we have massive government programs in place to assist them with – health care.

A lot of it. In fact, over 1/3 of Americans with health insurance get their coverage through the government, and these programs pay for virtually all of those recipients’ health care.

Yet by claiming that health care is a right, liberals seek to extend this government-funded – and thus government controlled – health insurance to cover most, if not all citizens.

There’s no need to, however. Because health care isn’t a privilege. Nor is it a right.

Health care is simply a service industry, like many others.

When the framers of our Constitution enumerated their list of unalienable rights, Thomas Jefferson said it best: the government’s role is “to secure these Rights,” and not to create new ones.

Including, the misguided notion of there being a right to health care.

It’s not the COSTS of health care that are outrageous…it’s the CHARGES.

Kevin Wacasey, M.D. Bio here.

 

An earlier version of this appeared on Healthcareonomics.

Interactive Group Therapy in the Information Age

 

Laptop and Stethoscope --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Laptop and Stethoscope — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Imagine attending private lectures and taking all your college exams in your professors’ offices individually, one-on-one. Your instructors lecture you, then pepper you with questions, grading your answers and recording your scores. This is not unlike traditional physician visits. Contrast this to attending classroom lectures and taking online multiple choice exams where a computer algorithm tallies your answers and calculates your grade. Classroom instruction with standardized testing is much more efficient that private tutoring. Hundreds of people can learn and take their online exams simultaneously. What if medical productivity could be similarly improved?

A Bill to Establish a Single-Payer Health System Advances in California

 

Capture47A bill has passed its first legislative hurdle to establish a government-run program of universal coverage in California. The California Senate Health Committee passed the measure 5-2. Next it will be debated by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The sticking point is how to fund such an endeavor.

How to Solve the Pre-Existing Condition Problem

 

moneyThe primary sticking point in health reform is what to do with high -cost individuals who have pre-existing health conditions. People with episodic medical needs are easy to insure, while those with persistent needs are far more difficult unless insurers are allowed to underwrite enrollees’ risk. Republicans have long favored high-risk pools to cover individuals who are otherwise uninsurable. Prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) just over two-thirds of states had some type of high-risk pool. Most people turned down prior to the Affordable Care Act could ultimately obtain coverage either at a higher price or after meeting some preconditions. In 2011, high-risk pool enrollment varied from 0.1% in Alabama to a high of 10.2% in Minnesota. By most accounts only about 2% of people are uninsurable. However, one Kaiser Family Foundation study argues the actual rate may be a dozen times higher.