We know too many people who work hard with good jobs but are struggling to make ends meet because of health care costs.
The lede to a recent Wall Street Journal story speaks volumes: “The U.S. spends more per capita on health care than any other developed nation. It will soon spend close to 20 percent of its GDP on health — significantly more than the percentage spent by major Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations.”
According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, national health care expenditures grew to $3.3 trillion, or $10,348 per person, in 2016. Households accounted for 28.1 percent of that spending. Nearly all of the rest was taken on by the federal government, private businesses, and state and local governments.
A Bloomberg Businessweek story last year reported that “health care spending is growing at an unsustainable rate” and that “insurance and medical costs are draining the incomes of the middle class.”
“The U.S. health care system is growing increasingly out of reach financially, certainly for low-income patients, but also increasingly for middle-income patients,” Alan Balch, CEO of the Patient Advocate Foundation, said in the story.
• • •
There have been some recent efforts that try to address this concern.
Gov. Scott Walker announced his Health Care Stability Plan, a reinsurance effort with a price tag of $200 million. But at best it’s an effort that will benefit only a small fraction of the populace.
The federal government announced a plan to offer short-term policies, renewable for up to three years, that would replace Affordable Care Act insurance. However, they won’t cover as many medical services as the ACA and won’t have to cover pre-existing conditions.
There is no easy solution, but one step in the right direction would be to bring together health care officials and policy wonks from developed nations around the globe and share best practices. Keep them locked in a room to foster the exchange of ideas. The quality and frequency of meals would be contingent on what progress is being made.
This shouldn’t be partisan. If the ACA needs fine-tuning, make the changes. If a different system is found to be better, work to implement it. Give both political parties credit for the solution.
Admittedly, health care is an issue with a lot of moving parts and is exceedingly complicated. But isn’t addressing such problems the reason we have representatives in government who are paid handsomely for their services?
Health care often is at or near the top in surveys that measure consumer concerns. It seems to be far less of a priority in Washington, D.C.