The High Cost of Healthcare, No matter How You Figure It

The basic problem of any healthcare program is that everyone wants the best doctors, the latest procedures, and the widest range of tests, but no one wants to pay for it, least of all the injured party.  They feel they were living a good, honest life, working hard, raising a family and helping their neighbors, when out of the blue, through no fault of their own, they were injured or diagnosed with a terrible illness.  Their life has been turned upside-down with endless doctor’s visits, simple pleasures have been taken away, they are subject to all sorts of discomforts and inconveniences, and now you expect them to pay, besides?  It was not their fault.  Someone else should at least be responsible for the bill.

Everyone else, of course, sees it differently: Whoopee tie yie yo, git along little dogies.  It’s your misfortune and none of my own. I’ve got my own problems.

But the cost remains.  No matter how you slice and dice it, it is still there, and somebody has to pay. Doctors and their staff do not work for free. The only real question is who will pay.

“Not you, not me. Charge that man behind the tree.”

The Veterans Affairs system is the largest single-party insurer in the country.  How’s that working out?  As Canada and the UK have found, even astronomical government subsidies are not enough.  Mandate lower costs, and the services are simply not provided.  The best doctors move on to greener pastures, equipment is not purchased, new hospitals are not built.  Sure, you can make an appointment.  The earliest opening is in two months, but we hope you’ll be dead by then.  You will hope so, too.

We have several requirements of any medical system:

  • An unfortunate individual with high medical costs should not have to pay them all on their own.
  • I, who am healthy, should not be forced to pay the tab for someone else’s medical expenses.
  • Anyone who truly needs medical treatment, should not have to do without just because of the cost.
  • Everyone should get the best medical treatment: the best doctors and staff, the best technology, even technology that would be unlikely to uncover an rare complication (MRIs, x-rays, ultrasound, blood tests, etc.)

We cannot have all of them.  Some are mutually exclusive.  Which ones should we drop?

When a classmate’s wife was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he searched and found one of the top doctors to do the surgery, but it didn’t matter.  She died anyway. Any new surgical intern could have done as well.

Hanging over it all is the problem of those with preexisting conditions.  At some point, those people could have gotten insurance, but chose not to, to save the expense.  Now that disaster struck, they want me (and you) to pay.  They demonstrate in the streets, carrying signs saying something like, “Health Insurance For All,” but I see “Send the bill to Roger.”

Demanding insurance after disaster hits is not insurance.  It may be something good and desirable, but that is not insurance.  The reward will go to the politician who can convince enough voters that it is.

About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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