Moving Past The Two-Sided Narrative on Health Care
Everyone has heard the one-liners when it comes to politically discussing heath care: from 'death panels' to 'free health care,' 'socialized medicine' to 'free market care,' the one-liners say everything and nothing about the current state of America's health care crisis.
And we are in a health care crisis.
American spending on health care is about $9,400 per person (not taxpayer or adult) per year.
This is an enormous amount, but it's also all-inclusive -- including medicines, Medicare/Medicaid expenses, procedures, nursing homes, and end-of-life care.
But it's also more than most working families could possibly bear, a family of four would have to pay almost $40,000 to pay 'their share' of the overall risk.
Currently, America is divided into basically three classes of health care users -- the uninsured, the private insured, and the government insured, and typically (but not always) these classes are in increasing order of risk and consumption of health care dollars.
But the reality is the fact that as the Boomers retire, the largest pool will be the highest risk -- and regardless of whether you are uninsured or insured, prices are going to skyrocket for care and insurance.
It's a ticking time bomb, and it seems that currently all we 'care' about doing is making our political speeches based on one-liner rhetoric.
But is there 'really' a solution to this?
I would offer one solution (one that isn't just calling for outright socialized medicine), though it would almost certainly succumb to a 'baby-tax' rhetorical argument.
As we age, we use more health care. According to the government, 0-18 years use about $3,600, increasing up to almost $35,000 per year at 85+ (see table 7).
A system allowing for the power of compound interest to work for our money (in safe investments, not the equity markets) would be the only solution for this -- as children are born, a portion of their parents' tax dollars would have to be redirected to this fund (even if privately held -- and incentivized by generous tax rebates).
We socially direct investments all the time, from 401k's to encouraging alternative energy consumption. This is no different, but it is directing tax dollars and savings toward later health care consumption instead of current and future targeted investments.
Medicare and Medicaid were both introduced as the Boomers were entering the job market. There was an enormous influx into the trust, followed now by a lull, and eventually a total depletion.
But even my solution isn't without flaws; we still need to have a rational discussion on costs (why are our costs twice of Europe's?), lifetime maximums, and expectations of care.
The best time to have had these debates would have been 30 years ago, when we could 'see' the edge of the cliff, but weren't standing directly on it.
Now we are in a position where if we do nothing the whole system will crash, making everyone, not just those on government insurance, suffer.
Bernie Sanders has done an excellent job putting this crisis in the spotlight, but we need more politicians, both conservative and independent, to engage in the discussion to come up with real solutions -- not solutions based on one-liners.
Because if we don't, we'll see at least some of these one-liners coming true -- solely because we ignored the problem.