Monday, March 1, 2010

The Cost of Doing Nothing

Sometimes I wonder if people really realize the price of not doing Health Care Reform. the cost in money, premiums, costs to hospitals, not to mention families and individuals who don't have insurance and are faced with bankruptcy.

Not to mention the human cost in lives. We lose on average the equivalent of 9-11 every month to the lack of health care.Yes, you read that right.. 2,500 people a month die from the lack of quality health care in this country.

Yesterday, in the New York Times there was a great article about The Cost of Doing Nothing. written by Reed Ableson.

Some of the more important parts that I want to share are:

Suppose Congress and President Obama fail to overhaul the system now, or just tinker around the edges, or start over, as the Republicans propose — despite the Democrats’ latest and possibly last big push that began last week at a marathon televised forum in Washington.

Then “my health care” stays the same, right?

Far from it, health policy analysts and economists of nearly every ideological persuasion agree. The unrelenting rise in medical costs is likely to wreak havoc within the system and beyond it, and pretty much everyone will be affected, directly or indirectly.

“People think if we do nothing, we will have what we have now,” said Karen Davis, the president of the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit health care research group in New York. “In fact, what we will have is a substantial deterioration in what we have.”

Emphasis is mine because I wanted to make sure everyone saw what was said. The consequences of doing nothing is things will just get worse. Much worse.

Nearly every mainstream analysis calls for medical costs to continue to climb over the next decade, outpacing the growth in the overall economy and certainly increasing faster than the average paycheck. Those higher costs will translate into higher premiums, which will mean fewer individuals and businesses will be able to afford insurance coverage. More of everyone’s dollar will go to health care, and government programs like Medicare and Medicaid will struggle to find the money to operate.

“It will break all of our banks if we do nothing,” said Peter V. Lee, who oversees national health policy for the Pacific Business Group on Health, which represents employers that offer coverage to workers. “It is a course that is literally bankrupting the federal government and businesses and individuals across the country.”

Even those families that enjoy generous insurance now are likely to see the cost of those benefits escalate. The typical price of family coverage now runs about $13,000 a year, but premiums are expected to nearly double, to $24,000, by 2020, according to the Commonwealth Fund. That equals nearly a quarter of the median family income today.

All of this is just exactly what the President has been saying for months and months and what Democrats have been saying for years. However Republican's have been saying NO, NO, and NO, and last Thursday during the Health Care Summit at Blair House, all they could say was "Kill The Bill" and "Start Over".

Starting over and killing the bill is not an option at this time. We have invested too much time and too much sweat and tears into this to kill it and start over.

I asked my mother one day, about this obsession the Rethugs seem to have with the number of pages in the bills.. and she said she didn't remember them or anyone ever being this focused on the number of pages as they have been. They did the same thing with the Recovery Act and now with the Health Care Bill, constantly reminding people how many pages it is.. printing them out and piling them up.. What they fail to tell people is they only print on one side, and usually it is only about half or three-quarters of the page the rest is addendum's and footnotes. But, back to the article

“It’s also cramping our economic growth,” said Frank McArdle, a consultant with Hewitt Associates, which advises large employers and reported on the need for change for the Business Roundtable, an association of C.E.O.’s at major companies. Spending so much on health care is “really a waste of people’s money,” Mr. McArdle said.

The higher premiums will also persuade more businesses, especially smaller ones, to decide not to offer insurance. More people who buy coverage on their own or are asked to pay a large share of premiums will find the price too high. It doesn’t take too many 39-percent increases, like the recent one proposed in California that has garnered so much attention, to put insurance out of reach.

“We have an affordability problem that is moving up through the middle class now,” said Paul B. Ginsburg, the president of the Center for Studying Health System Change, a nonprofit Washington research group.

Once again, this backs up what the President and the Democrats have been saying for months and years. Why do people continue to deny this is true? Why can't people see this is happening?

While estimates vary, the number of people without insurance is expected to increase by more than a million a year, said Ron Pollack, the executive director of Families USA, a Washington consumer advocacy group that favors the Democrats’ approach. The Urban Institute, for example, predicts that the number of uninsured individuals will increase from about 49 million today to between 57 million and 66 million by 2019. The Democrats’ plan is expected to cover as many as 30 million individuals who now are uninsured.

That is just unacceptable. How can we allow this to happen? We can't.... we have to make sure this gets fixed.

There will be a cost in lives, too. Mr. Pollack’s organization estimates that as many as 275,000 people will die prematurely over the next 10 years because they do not have insurance. Even people with insurance will find their coverage providing much less protection from financial catastrophe than it does now. Individuals will pay significantly more in deductibles and co-payments, for example. “More and more families will experience huge debts and bankruptcies,” Mr. Pollack said

As I stated before.. 275,000 over 10 years... the numbers are sometimes a little different but that works out to 2,291 a month.... the equivalent of 9-11 every month dying because of a lack of health care. Think about that..

“If we fail this time, you’re not going to get this Congress to take this up on a big scale,” said Len Nichols, a health policy analyst at George Mason University who says he thinks the Democrats should go ahead and pass legislation.

But few policy analysts think Congress can afford to do absolutely nothing. Lawmakers are instead likely to try a series of smaller fixes, said Stuart Butler, a health policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a research group that favors market solutions over a larger government role.

After President Bill Clinton failed to get Congress to pass his health care bill in 1994, Republicans, who then had substantial victories in the House and Senate, worked with him to pass legislation like the health care privacy bill, a children’s health insurance program and the Balanced Budget Act, which contained significant changes to the Medicare program. Under President George W. Bush, the Republicans went on to pass a drug benefit under Medicare. “In the space of less than 10 years, you have several major bills,” Mr. Butler said.

Yet, still they didn't pay for anything and didn't cover anyone new. The Medicare D plan is good, but again, not paid for, and there is such a huge gap in coverage that we need new legislation to fix it. This is where part of the deficit comes from that everyone seems to be worried about. But of course that Rethug amnesia kicks in and they forget these facts.

If nothing passes now, Mr. Butler says he thinks Congress will tackle narrower areas, like insurance regulation, to make it easier for people with pre-existing medical conditions to find coverage, or maybe it will try another expansion of Medicaid or the children’s program.

But President Obama clearly prefers passage of a broader bill. In wrapping up Thursday’s session with lawmakers, he and other Democrats warned that an incremental approach was likely to provide too little relief to the people already feeling the effects of a broken system. “It turns out that baby steps don’t get you to the place that people need to go,” he said.

And even some people without a partisan point to make argue that the series of bills passed in the last 15 years have not made enough of a dent in slowing down medical costs. “We’ve had a lot of incremental reforms already,” said Mr. McArdle, the Hewitt consultant.

And many argue that putting off the inevitable has an additional cost. The Commonwealth Fund estimates that the nation would be spending hundreds of billions of dollars less than it does today if any of the health care legislation proposed by previous administrations had been enacted, assuming that they reduced costs by about 1.5 percentage points. If President Nixon’s plan had passed, the United States might be spending a trillion dollars a year less than it does now, and President Clinton’s plan would have reduced spending by some $500 billion a year.

“It makes a huge difference over a long period of time,” said Ms. Davis of the Commonwealth Fund.

This last section was the real money quote.. they have studied this and look what they have found... How much would the spending have been reduced if this had been done years ago when Teddy Rooseveldt tried it.. or Harry Truman?

We have to make sure this gets done. If you haven't called your Senator or your Representative, even if they are a Rethug, call them.. It is only a phone call and you will let them know how you feel. After what I heard Thursday, I think there are a lot of Rethugs getting phone calls now saying you don't really speak for me.. because I don't want you to kill this bill and I don't want you to start over.

Giving credit where it is due... Bob Cesca pointed me to this article.. He did a small write up on it at his place and I wanted to share it with all of you.

I hope you are as enlightened as I was and enjoyed the reading of it. I have posted most of it here, but you can read the entire article at the link above. Let's get this done folks.. Let's get the tweaks done by a simple majority and get this on the President's desk for his signature.


Patricia said...

Part of my job involves paying the bills where I work, including the health insurance bills. They go up every year and by leaps and bounds. Right now we offer two providers and the cost of family coverage on our Empire Health Choice HMO exceeds $1900 a month now. That's up about 300 a month from last year and we had to negotiate to keep the increase that "low". And the co-pays can be pretty high on prescriptions with that one.

Mauigirl said...

Excellent post - you really summed it up. As for the number of pages? It's the GOP's way to signal the ignorant masses who can't imagine reading anything longer than a comic book, that they are like them.

Jerry Critter said...

Michael Hiltzik has an interesting article in the Sunday LA Times titled What do we need health insurers for anyway?

It is about the recent appearance of WellPoint's CEO, Angela Braly, and her appearance before a House subcommittee.

His interpretation of her testimony is that she admits that "The nation's health coverage system is so hopelessly broken that even the health insurance industry can't handle it anymore."

Annette said...

Thanks Zen, you are just another case in point of the rising costs of coverage.. and it just proves what the President has been saying..... the costs are just going to continue to go up and spiral out of control for individuals and businesses until no one can afford insurance if something is not done.

Annette said...

Thanks Maui... I agree, I think that's why they are doing it too.. I just wondered from Mom's perspective of 80 + years if she had ever remembered them talking about the number of pages... I couldn't remember it... but that's such a trivial thing to me I thought it was just something I had forgotten.

Thanks for stopping by,

Annette said...

Jerry, I will check it out and see what it says.. sounds like a great article and something we all have pretty well figured out, but am glad to hear someone from the insurance industry is saying it too.

Thanks for stopping by.

Sue said...

24,000 a quarter of the yearly income?? I friggin wish! If my husband and I are gonna live on SSDI, there is no way, it would take our whole yearly income, just to pad the pockets of insurance companies? I don't think so! This reform is coming, I don't know if it will be enough reform but anything is better than nothing.

Annette said...

That's considered an average 2 family income Sue.. I agree.. it isn't my income either.. that isn't even my annual income.. much less a fourth of it..

Once this is passed, with the tweaks and additions they are talking about I think there will be enough reform for us all.

Also if you are going to be living on SSDI.. you will be on Medicare and there will be nothing you will have to worry about anyway.. you won't be buying private insurance.. so you shouldn't have to worry about the cost factor.

Leslie Parsley said...

The GOP's constant harping over the number of pages the bill covers is a perfect example of their inability to deal with substantive issues. Their brains simply cannot absorb more than one page per week so they resort to cheap theatrics to cover up their stupidity.

Annette said...

I think you may be right Leslie.. it is all about their stupidity for sure.. they can't find anything else to pick apart so they focus on the number of pages.. I just think it is about the most petty thing they come up with.. and Orange Man from Ohio this last week was complaining now that the 11 pages from the President was too short... so there is no way to strike a happy medium with them... lol

K. said...

A couple of points and then a rant.

* I suspect that harping on the number of pages is their way of proving that this is a Big Govt takeover of health care;

* The increasing costs will absorbed by the insurance industry. Doctors and hospitals are already getting squeezed. One of our local institutions just laid off 61 people, and this is not an inner city hospital;

* I had lunch today with a physician. She has pretty much thrown up her hands, saying that there are too many special interests involved to pass anything meaningful. She believes that the system will have to break down completely for anything to happen;

* I met the interim CEO of my hospital. He specializes in interim work, usually with hospitals in financial straits. As we toured the new ER of this suburban boutique hospital, he kept shaking his head at all of the new and latest equipment. He had just finished a stretch with a inner city hospital in New York. The overburdened ER there was filled with obsolete equipment that barely functioned and often did not work at all. Can every hospital have the latest and greatest? No, but we ought to be able make sure that what they do have works.

Now for the rant! I am at a loss as to where the Republican opposition is coming from. You can't find an economist or health care policy expert that doesn't think we have a train wreck on our hands. And yet the R's have offered nothing in the way of a serious alternative or useful additions. Instead, they carry on about the best health care system in the world as if they actually believe it. And if you believe their talk about wanting to start over, I bridge in Brooklyn that I'd like to offer you. It's unpatriotic -- they'd rather let a train wreck happen if it means getting back in power.

Annette said...

You make some very valid points K... and I agree with them.. I think the R's know if this passes it will be their "Waterloo" and that's why they don't want it to pass. Once this is done and people realize it is such a good thing, it may wake up some of the idiots out there and they will realize it isn't all bad as they have been led to believe.

As I said above.. the comment's I heard on C-Span were from all sides and there were a huge amount of the R's who stated they were amazed at the R's who had nothing.. just saying NO, let's start over. The commentator was dumbfounded they were criticizing their own party... and calling them out.

I was very happy to hear it.. So, it is happening. Some are beginning to wake up.. no matter what Bonehead, McConnell and the others try to say.