Today we’re examining the claim that “Universal coverage won’t help solve the health care crisis”. There are two parts to this statement; first, does a ‘crisis’ exist, and second, why would universal coverage fail to address one or more of the underlying causes.
First things first.
There is a small number of pundits who claim there is no such thing as a health care or health insurance crisis. I’m not going to get into the “it depends on what ‘is’ is” debate. Instead, here are the facts. Apologies, I know you’ve seen them a gazillion times.
1. Health care costs are going up significantly faster than overall inflation. The percentage of personal, business, and governmental budgets allocated to health care is growing in parallel. This growth is causing individuals, businesses, and governments to reduce spending on other needs or to drop funding for health care .
2. The cost of providing health care is hindering American business’ ability to compete in a global economy.
3. The number of Americans without insurance is above 40 million. It is also increasing. Without health insurance, people don’t get primary care, are less likely to access preventive medicine or stay on drug regimens, and are more likely to die from conditions ranging from breast cancer to heart disease.
4. While Americans with health insurance are generally as healthy as those in other industrialized countries, those without are most definitely not. In fact, they are so unhealthy that they drag down the national health status to a level equal to Costa Rica’s.
That’s good enough for me, and most of the rest of the world.
Now, onto how universal coverage helps solve the problem.
If everyone is covered by insurance, providers don’t have to shift costs around to make up for uncompensated care. (I know, Medicaid reimbursement is a problem, but we’re focusing on how UC helps solve the problem, Medicaid is a separate issue). That reduces private insurance costs by about a thousand bucks per year per family.
Now that they have coverage, all those people who have been putting off going to the doc for diagnoses or treatment of chronic conditions go. Yes, expect a surge of cost in the first couple years, but that will be far outweighed by reduced costs for acute care in subsequent years.
Let’s not forget that this will help these newly-covered folks live longer, work more, and therefore contribute more to the economy including increasing the tax base – all good things.
And the nation’s health status will increase as well – when you improve the health of the unhealthiest part of the population, the health of the population as a whole improves.
That’s it for this claim.
As always, I welcome disagreement. But please avoid statements like “this is socialized medicine and therefore bad’ without citing facts and data to illuminate your position.