Some facts and figures…

By the time Obamacare is in full operation, it has been estimated that the total US health care costs will come close to $3 trillion ($3,000,000,000,000) dollars a year. That’s about $9500 per capita. $792 per month. $184 a week, $26.28 a day.  Average for the rest of the developed world is about half of that. Or $4750 a year on a per capita basis. There is a difference in the standard of living between the USA and the rest of the developed world, but it isn’t all that large when you check things out.  Proof if any is needed that there is definitely a whole lot of waste, including unnecessary tests and treatments that are of no value to the patient, but serve to put money in a provider’s pocket, or in many cases, in a number of people’s pockets at the same time. We also waste quite a lot of money on things that don’t actually contribute very much to health.

Of this $3,000,000,000,000 dollars, 10% is going to medical fraud according to the FBI. Thats $300,000,000,000 dollars.($300 billion).  Another estimated 10% goes to “bill padding” which is a legal “gray” area. There’s another $300,000,000,000 dollars ($300 billion). About a third of all health care expenses are either wasteful or unnecessary. A third of $3,000,000,000,000 is $1,000,000,000,000 ($1 trillion dollars). Add all of this together and we are (defrauded, overcharged, get unnecessary wasteful care) to the tune of $1,600,000,000,000 dollars a year. ($1.6 trillion). And you thought those Wall Street bankers were bad?  At least with the bankers, you had a choice whether to deal with them or not. Much more difficult when it comes to dealing with our government enforced health care monopoly where you have very little actual “say” in things. In any case there can be no doubt that there is a very large amount of “waste” in our health care system. At least a trillion dollars worth. Which with everything else means we’re getting $1.4 trillion dollars worth of actual service, but paying $3 trillion to get that $1.4 trillion. Which means the other $1.6 trillion dollars isn’t really making us any healthier…

Some of this overlaps so the actual figure is likely in the $1.5 trillion range. It might be asked whether or not we get “better care” than do those Europeans who pay half of what we pay. Overall, probably not since their lifespans tend to exceed our own. However this is likely an effect of better coverage without so many people being excluded from regular health care. If we compare our over 65 population to theirs, there’s not much difference. 65 of course being where everyone who reaches that age with few exceptions goes on Medicare. There are “environmental” differences and different eating habits, but the difference in life spans is more due to early deaths of Americans without health care. While Obamacare may be able to provide some with health care who do not have it now, the cost/benefit ratio is pretty bad, especially when compared to what is actually possible if we were willing to start considering allowing people the freedom to make their own arrangements for health care.  I refer those interested to the WordPress.com site “selfpaypatient.com” where you will find alternatives to the idea that everyone has to buy into President Obama’s “Patient Protection, Affordable Care Act”.  Which is really not all that “protective” or “affordable” when you get down to it. It is most a “giveaway” to private health insurance companies, who deliver 80 cents worth of benefits for every dollar’s worth of premiums. That means 20 cents out of every dollar of your premium goes to things that have nothing to do with actually providing you with health care! Even the credit card companies give you a better deal than that!

Does this mean we should adopt the style of health care used elsewhere? A lot of what drives American health care costs however can be corrected by getting “government” out of the picture. Repeal of prescription laws for example makes it possible for more people to obtain the benefits of medical drugs without having to first “bribe” a doctor for a prescription. Also, in many cases, doctors prescribe more expensive “brand name” drugs when a lower cost generic would do just as well.  There is no doubt that drug company ads do influence what medicines get prescribed. There are currently two drugs now commonly used to treat osteoarthritis. One, a generic, can cost as little as 10 cents a pill. The other, a well advertised brand name, can cost as much as $1 a pill if not more.  Both are about as effective. There are some slight differences in their possible side effects, but for most people with osteoarthritis, the generic will be about as effective as the brand name. The real problem is “access”. We lost our freedom to take care of ourselves back in 1938. The AMA was successful in granting doctors a legal monopoly over medical drugs.

This in turn raises the question as to how much “self care” would be really possible if the laws were changed. The answer to this is “how much are you willing to study?” Along with how much responsibility for your health are you willing to take? There are simply things you can’t do for yourself regardless of how much knowledge you have. However the more knowledge you do acquire, the more you will know what you can do and what is best left up to the specialist of your choice.  I’d suggest starting out with a good first aid course. There are Internet sites such as “WebMD” that are very useful. Amazon.com sells books such as “The Physician’s Desk Reference”.  Add a good book on medical drugs and you’ll start to have some idea of what is really practical for you to deal with. You can obtain lab tests at a much lower price if you shop around and watch for some group offering these. Blood pressure meters are cheap. You can buy a kit for measuring your blood sugar and cholesterol. You can also obtain formal education if you wish to go further and perhaps use your knowledge for gainful employment as say an EMT. Or go even further on and become a paramedic. Obviously, thanks to Obamacare, the health care field is going to be “growing” jobs with all the newly insured seeking treatment. Of course when the country eventually goes bankrupt, then the value of that education might be more useful in keeping yourself healthy than providing service to others…

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Additional information: The VA’s medical costs are 64% of US average health care costs. This indicates that the form of “socialized medicine” the VA uses actually costs 36% less! I have estimated that if we achieve health care coverage for all American citizens, the cost would be in the $3 trillion dollar range under our present operating system.  But if we were to use the VA as an example of how to run a health care system as good as that of any nation on Earth (see Phillip Longman’s “BEST CARE ANYWHERE”), then the national cost of health care would be $1.92 trillion dollars, giving us a savings of $1.08 trillion dollars. This also brings US health care costs into the same “ballpark” as those of the rest of the developed world! No doubt the repeal of prescription laws would bring this figure even a bit lower. Whether or not we would want to adopt the VA system (far more likely under a Demarchic political system), it does show that there actually are existing “alternatives” to our present extremely wasteful health care system where fraud by those involved in the health care system accounts for 10% of our total costs. Paying 12% of our GNP for health care instead of 18 plus percent certainly would free up a lot of funds to do other things such as repairing our crumbling infrastructure and fixing the damages due to the Wall Street bankers and their creation of fraudulent investments that came close to driving the developed world into another Great Depression!

The retort here will be that this is government run health care instead of privately run health care. However, there is also the issue of cost and efficiency to consider. It does show that “government” (especially under Demarchy) can do somethings better… It makes no sense to apply the concept of the free market in places where it is a failure. When we consider that the AMA was created back in 1846 with the same objectives as those of any labor union, it shows the difficulty in preventing the growth of a monopoly. Which is exactly “why” our health care costs are almost twice that of the average for the rest of the developed world. There is no sense in having libertarians oppose “efficiency”.

This is the major problem with all political and economic and social ideologies.  They are not a “one size fits all”. All of them fail in one way or another when they encounter the “real world”. Libertarianism does solve “more” problems than do the ideologies of the “Right” and the “Left”, but it is still only one “tool”, and there are limits to its application. If we wish to actually “solve” the problems we have, then we have to admit that there is a proper role of government as long as it is truly representative of the people. On the other hand we need to understand that efficiency is still the best way to control the cost of anything.

Jerome Bigge, “muskegonlibertarian.wordpress.com”

To contact me, my email address is “jerbigge@toast.net”

 

 

 

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About muskegonlibertarian

77 year old retired owner of a security guard agency. Member of the Libertarian Party.
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