Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Twist On Universal Healthcare

Most Americans believe government can play a role in fixing the health care system. If you read the latest quips about universal healthcare the pundits will try to tell you private corporations would run health plans paid for by the U.S. government. In an effort to create a distinction Democrats and Paul Kanjorski are claiming that system is not a government entitlement program. Yet, that setup exactly mirrors the way Medicare dispenses healthcare today. Ask yourself this question- do you believe Medicare is a government program? The elderly already have virtually universal healthcare coverage due to Medicare.

It is only partially true to state that the United States does not have a national healthcare system similar to other nations around the world. With the introduction of Medicare Part D prescription programs governement now pays for approximately 45% of all healthcare expenses in America. This estimate includes funding for Medicare, Medicaid, workers' compensation, the Department of Veterans Affairs, public hospitals, and government public health activities. Thus, public funds directly pay for the health care of many people in the United States.

In the United States around 84.7% of citizens have some form of [here] health insurance; either through their employer (59.3%), purchased individually (8.9%), or provided by government programs (27.8%; there is some overlap in these figures).

In 1960 the percent of GDP that went to national healthcare expenditures was 5.2%. In 2005 that figure rose to 16%. In 1965 households paid 61 percent of national healthcare expenditures. Click Here In 1960 federal, state, and local government payments for healthcare services were 13.1% of their total budgets. In 2005 that figure rises to 40.4%. Out of pocket expenditures in 1960 were 55% however they decreased to just 15% in 2005. Government was paying 21.4% in 1960 but that figure has risen to 45%. When one looks at hospital expenditures out of pocket expenditures were 20.7% in 1960 and only represent 3.3% in 2005. Governments share was 42.2% and rose to 56.8% in the same time period. Private insurance remained fairly steady in the 35%+ area.

As one can see the government has played an ever increasing role in purchasing healthcare for the last 48 years. Now the Democratic battle cry is for universal healthcare. Congressman Paul Kanjorski is an avid supporter of universal healthcare. However when you read the issue he provides no details on how to accomplish his goal. With an ever increasing share of healthcare expenditures already absorbed by government the only way to attain his goal is to raise taxes. That solution is already a component of Obama's plan.

Despite this relatively high level of spending, the U.S. does not appear to provide substantially greater health resources to its citizens, or achieve substantially better health benchmarks, compared to other developed countries.

Only 15% of Americans lack health insurance in this country. While it is a significant burden to those without insurance the unacceptable rise in overall healthcare costs bears examination. If government and private insurance companies have been regulating the cost of healthcare for decades why is the cost of healthcare spiraling upward out of control?

If you think of healthcare in a global sense like oil you will find a striking statistic. Government healthcare expenditures have been growing much more rapidly than GDP in OECD countries (Organization For Economic Cooperation and Development). For example, between 1970 and 2002 these expenditures grew 2.3 times faster than GDP in the U.S., 2.0 times faster than GDP in Germany, and 1.4 times faster than GDP in Japan. The growth in healthcare expenditures has been rising globally as well. What is the common denominator in each of these cases? The price controls used by these governments are not working to contain costs. And universal healthcare as proposed would be more of the same.

The U.S. should be looking to the consumer as a conduit of change. Look at the price of lasik surgery today compared with its inception in 1990. A person can pay as little as $295.00 per eye. Competition due to total out of pocket expense on the part of the patient is the main reason for the significant decrease in the face of increasing healthcare costs.

The government should look to reform the tax treatment of health insurance payments and use health care tax credits to offset out of pocket expenses incurred to compensate consumer driven purchases of healthcare. Health insurance exchanges could also be established state by state to facilitate the consumer and small employer purchase of health insurance, private insurance at affordable rates through competition. Employers could be facilitators for their employees to have access to these insurance exchanges. Consumers would be able to look to small businesses as access points to the same exchanges. This avenue would transition away from the traditional model of employer sponsored health insurance.

Paul Kanjorski, that is how one starts to solve the health care crisis in this country. The babble on this issue contained at your campaign site only serves to demonstrate that your thinking is not forward looking but "people feel good" words. It is time to place forward thinking people like Lou Barletta in Congress if we are to pave a successful path for the future.

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