Medical Costs

The United States health care system is in a state of crisis, and every effort our government has made to improve things has only made it worse. The most recent effort, Obamacare, attempted to create conditions that would allow all Americans to have access to health insurance. Instead, it just drove up the cost that most Americans are paying for their health insurance, and contributed to the most serious problem facing the American health care system: skyrocketing medical costs.

The constantly rising cost of medical treatment in the US is the root cause of all of the other problems with our health care system. In the United States, we pay vastly more for our health care than any other industrial country, while achieving some of the worst health outcomes. According to a 2014 study of 11 industrialized western countries, the United States placed last. These two problems are related – the incredibly high costs Americans pay for health care mean that many of us cannot afford the care we need, or avoid doctor visits until problems become much more serious and difficult to treat.

So why are Americans paying so much for their health care? According to Harvard health economist David Cutler, there are three main reasons. The first reason is that Americans tend to receive more expensive procedures than patients in other industrialized countries. If there is a choice to be made between a less expensive or a more expensive procedure, American doctors and patients generally choose the most expensive option. This would make sense if it meant Americans were receiving better treatment and obtaining better health outcomes, but Cutler says that these higher expenses do not result in improved health for American patients when compared to patients in other countries.

Secondly, even when Americans are receiving the same treatment as patients in other countries, Americans pay significantly more than anyone else. For example, branded drugs cost much more in America than they do anywhere else. Other countries regulate the costs of medications to keep them affordable, while American regulators allow drug companies to set their own prices. Accordingly, American drug companies are some of the most profitable corporations in the world. Additionally, we pay our doctors significantly more for the same work. Medical equipment, such as MRI machines, also cost more for American hospitals to purchase. All of these inflated costs get passed along to patients as higher fees for health care.

Finally, the third major reason that our health care costs are so high is the huge amounts of money American hospitals spend on administration. According to David Cutler, a full quarter of the total cost of health care in the United States is administration costs. He gives an example: “Duke University Hospital has 900 hospital beds and 1,300 billing clerks. The typical Canadian hospital has a handful of billing clerks. Single-payer systems have fewer administrative needs.” Americans are basically paying through the nose to maintain the private insurance system which makes it so difficult for so many Americans to obtain the health care they need.

There are many other significant problems with the way our health care system functions, ranging from fines for people who can’t afford insurance to hospitals double billing insurance companies and driving up rates. It is deeply shameful that our leaders have allowed our health care system to fall apart to this degree. For some reason, our elected representatives in Congress and in the White House have been unable or unwilling to do anything about the constantly rising costs of health care. America needs leadership that can get a grip on this problem and find solutions. I have spent a lifetime as a troubleshooter and problem solver. If we want to solve this problem we need to act now. Please, join me in 2016 by casting your write-in vote for Art Drew for President of the United States.