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Monday, August 30, 2004

When they start in on Health Care

Daniel Weintraub: Is there a health crisis? Numbers tell another story

Interesting article in the Sacramento Bee. Some highlights include:

The first new car I ever bought was a 1981 Toyota Tercel that cost me less
than $6,000. My most recent vehicle purchase set me back more than $30,000. And
I'm not alone. Federal statistics show that Americans spent nearly three times
more buying cars and trucks in 2001 than they did 20 years ago.

Does this mean there is a crisis in the cost of cars? Of course not. We
have more people today than we did then, and more of us drive. We drive more
comfortable, safer, more reliable cars. Our cars are our homes away from home,
with music and video systems that rival what the wealthy put in their houses a
few years back.

Compare that to the way we think about health

Thus, the opening premise: The health care "crisis" is not so much a "crisis" as it is a natural phenomenon we all put up with in many many areas of our life.

Take your cable (or, satelite) TV bill...compare it to what it was 10 years ago. Why is it higher? (More channels! More things you DONT WATCH! Better technology!!! So I have to pay HOW MUCH for a TV that looks that good?)

Same with a gallon of gas? A gallon of milk?

But, do I want the government to socialize dairy products so that everyone has equal access to them?

But the cost of health care is rising at just about the same rate as the cost of
cars. And by coincidence, we spent about the same on our health - $628 billion -
as we did on personal transportation in 2000.

This is an interesting statistic...

More than half of the increase during that period, Thorpe found, could be
attributed to just 15 conditions. The top six - heart disease, lung disorders,
mental illness, cancer, hypertension and trauma - accounted for nearly one-third
of the increase by themselves.
And for many of these conditions, Thorpe
found, the number of people being treated, both in actual numbers and as a share
of the population, has increased dramatically.

Yes, when you treat more patients for more illnesses, the cost of the care will increase.

The treatment of mental illness has also exploded. Twice as many people, as
a share of the population, were treated for mental disorders in 2000 as were in
1987. Diabetes, back problems, arthritis and hypertension also are on the

I'm not sure why we feel so bad about spending more to improve and extend
our lives, while we take increased transportation costs in stride. One reason
may be that we have more control over our cars and their upkeep, while our
health care is managed by third parties. If our employers controlled our
vehicles, decided what we could drive and how far we could drive them, we - and
they - might be more uneasy about the economic trends in transportation.

Or, worse yet, replace "Federal and State Government" for the word "employer" above. What advocates of socialized health care are in favor of is similar to the Federal Government saying, "OK, now, since everyone gets a new car this year, and there are only so many dollars to go around, everyone will be given a 1998 Grand Am (red or white). It doesn't matter that YOU have enough to buy a BMW or that you actually need a pickup truck or that you'd rather save the money and walk to work. YOU are getting a 1998 Grand Am and you are going to like it.
It's tempting to blame insurance companies, pharmaceutical firms, hospitals
and other players in the health care system for the rising tab, and each of
these parties plays a role. But the biggest reason that health care costs
growing is that there are more of us, and we're getting more and better
treatment for what ails us.

Yes, it is tempting to blame some nameless, faceless corporation. There ARE some legitimate issues which should be addressed in the healthcare industry, but to believe further socialization will cure our problems (pun intended) seems short-sighted.

Ask our neighbors to the North: Waiting for health care in Canada.


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