Thursday, February 08, 2007
A Colloquy On Health Care
Journalists at The American Prospect recently engaged in a "conversation" about health care. The consensus was that eradicating employer-based health benefits is a step in the right direction, and that universal health care should be the ultimate goal for the nation. There was some disagreement about reaching that goal however, and each journalist had his own opinions.
Ezra Klein emphasized that health care must be extended to those who need it most, but that commercial health care providers have used discrimination against precisely those individuals - those disadvantaged by age or pre-existing conditions - to increase their competitive edge. He suggested that government regulation should be imposed to end that discrimination, and to force health care providers to increase their competitive edge instead by lowering prices.
Merrill Goozner said that attention should be paid to minimizing the many causes of ill health in America, as well as to providing the best health care available. He nonetheless suggested that not everyone needs the same coverage, and reminded us that the cost of paying for universal health care will have to fall on someone. Hence, keeping costs down through preventative public health programs and fitting coverage to need will be required.
Jonathan Cohn also focused on the major issue of "cost". He somewhat cynically remarked that one way to provide universal health care would be to "buy off" the industry with a deal favorable to them. Considering how health care costs are already, that is a frightening prospect. A similar "buy off" took place with Medicare early on, but later reforms imposed cost containment measures that have essentially kept Medicare costs lower than those "in the private sector". Cohn cast himself as a political realist, and supported compromise, gradualism and the slow gathering of public support for interim measures.
Maggie Mahar asserted that health care costs are intrinsically inflated, contrasting health care with the computer industry, in which better products sell for progressively lower prices. She pointed out that a large percentage of health care dollars are wasted on unnecessary and redundant tests and procedures, and on pharmaceuticals that are marketed at exorbitant prices based solely on hype. She said that much of the "cost" issue can be resolved by assessing realistically how much health care is really needed - rather the maximum of what is available - and to fix the price of coverage accordingly.
Check out the link below for the details.
"Healthy Bottom Lines" from The American Prospect