Health-care costs are toxic

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  • Lionheart
    Feb. 7, 2008 8:11 p.m.

    If the middle class is non-existent, then who is living in all these homes in this valley? Unless you are in a hovel somewhere and never get out, you are missing a massive middle class. And don't tell me there is some big foreclosure thing going on because there isn't, less than 2%, it's all a manufactured crisis, from the press and those who wish to spread fear and make people believe they need the government, and where is the unemployment rate? Around 5%. I don't know how Anonymous can shoe-horn reality into his world view. And Mike, get the Dr. to get you and your wife, those apnea sleeping things, you are too nice a guy to be oxygen deprived!

  • Anonymous
    Feb. 7, 2008 6:22 p.m.

    Your intent is honorable Mike, but expecting anybody who is earning gazillions in the health care system to take a second look at The Big Picture and voluntarily accept less money is the same as expecting lawyers to police other lawyers.
    This may be a job for Superman (aka some watchdog Senate Committees willing to shake things up)

  • Mike
    Feb. 7, 2008 5:54 p.m.

    What I'm trying to say is that the health care system is broken. Whether I pay the bill, or my private health insurance company pays the bill, or "government" provided health care pays the bill, the system is still broken. For almost twenty-five years, I had high-deductible health insurance ($2,500 before Blue-Cross paid a dime). During that time, no tests were ever advised - for anything. Now that I have a different plan (again through Blue Cross), the same doctors want to run endless tests. The symptoms have not changed. Only the method of payment has changed.

    Let's fix the problem with the medical system before we go to war over who should be in charge of health "insurance".

  • liberal means being awake
    Feb. 7, 2008 5:51 p.m.

    Yep, the healthcare system is a mess.
    But don't tell that to the modern American conservatives - they don't think anything is wrong with anything and believe drawing attention to problems is just another liberal ploy.

  • Joe
    Feb. 7, 2008 4:41 p.m.

    Mike, you'll get no argument from that that medical costs are insane. Just trying to help.

    What's the answer? From what I've seen, socialized medicine is not perfect but it's a heck of a lot better than what we have now.

    For all of you free-market enthusiasts, have you ever been denied any kind of coverage because of a pre-existing condition? I have. Yet, the symptom that got me denied isn't even an issue any longer - it was THAT serious.

  • Anonymous
    Feb. 7, 2008 4:39 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing that personal info Thomas.
    Based upon what you've just said, I'd say
    you may be wanting to align yourself with the growing movement that's taking place in America today.
    Come on in. The water's fine.

  • Anonymous
    Feb. 7, 2008 4:30 p.m.

    The last thing anyone wants is to learn that some poor physician or pharmaceutical CEO is going to have to forget about that second Lamborghini sitting in the garage at his estate.
    It ain't American I tell ya!
    It ain't American!

  • Mike
    Feb. 7, 2008 4:30 p.m.

    Most people my age have sleep apnea. Should it cost $1,200 to have a doctor hell me that I have sleep apnea? Should I be told that I need to go to the emergency room because I have sleep apnea?

    It seems to be the latest medical fad. Just before last year ended, my wife was told that she had sleep apnea. That was after she was referred to a lung doctor to see whether her persistent coughing was related to a skin caner and a large fatty tumor that she had. The doctor took a quick look down her throat and decided that she had sleep apnea. ($210 for three minutes.) He said that she needed to spend one night in his sleep disorder test center to verify the problem - at a cost of $1,200. She declined.

    Two weeks ago I visited my cardiologist and told him I had trouble sleeping. He suggested a $20 test to check my oxygen levels - which led to another doctor telling me to get to the nearest emergency room. Guess what? I'm still alive, but I do use an extra pillow to help me breathe better.

  • Thomas
    Feb. 7, 2008 4:23 p.m.

    Sure, Anon 3:22. Thanks to student loans, my net worth is negative. That places me squarely in the bottom 1% of Americans as far as personal wealth goes.

    EVERYBODY in your circle may be "aware" of the "disappearing middle class," but most people who actually measure these things calculate the American middle class as encompassing roughly 40 to 50 percent of the population, and run from the $35,000 income level to just over $100,000. Obviously, where you live makes a huge difference. My income (near the upper end of the "middle class" level) would let me live very well in Utah, but certainly not in California. (It would qualify me to buy a fixer-upper in a thoroughly middle-class neighborhood in my area.)

    I will tell you this: A person making $100,000 in southern California is definitely not "rich," and absolutely should not be taxed as if he is.

  • Sweat William
    Feb. 7, 2008 4:19 p.m.

    If you think health care coverage is expensive, try getting along without it.

    We are still the only industrialized country in which you can go bankrupt by getting sick.

    We treat premies that are terminal until the $1 million lifetime coverage runs out. Then the baby dies anyway.

    We keep many people alive...because we can. Many would just like to end their suffering.

    Preventive medicine is the best medicine, but many insurance companies won't pay for that low cost treatment. They will wait until you get really ill and then pay an obscene amount of money to get you better.

  • Joe
    Feb. 7, 2008 4:00 p.m.

    None of my business really but it sounds like you have sleep apnea. It's relatively easy to treat with a nighttime breathing aparatus.

  • Anonymous
    Feb. 7, 2008 3:22 p.m.

    Why not tell us how rich YOU are Thomas? (after taxes of course)
    That way it will be easier to come up with what class you might be placed in and this might make the point easier to comprehend.

  • Mike
    Feb. 7, 2008 3:15 p.m.

    I just had another medical test - that I failed. Let's face it. I'm getting old. I'm overweight. I have high blood pressure. Someday I'm going to die.

    What I don't need is a another doctor calling me and telling me that I need to get to the hospital immediately because my overnight oxygen level is low. Chances are that the oxygen level has been low for years - because I've been waking up about every half-hour for years to take a deep breath.

    Whether I live to be 60 or whether I live to be 85 is not the issue. Personally, I would rather live to be 60 and then suddenly croak from a heart attack or "oxygen deficiency" than to live to be 85 with a tubes running from my chest and an oxygen mask strapped to my face.

    I'm here to help my wife and my children become all that they can. I'm not here to break some kind of heart-beat record. Life is to be lived. The journey is it's own reward. Spare me from dealing with doctors whose biggest concern is whether they can bill the insurance company because I don't breath properly.

  • Anonymous
    Feb. 7, 2008 3:03 p.m.

    You are hilarious Thomas! I'd like to oblige you and supply you with definition after definition for every word, sentence, phrase, or paragraph imaginable, but why would you want that?
    I thought EVERYBODY was aware of the disappearing middle class.

  • Joe
    Feb. 7, 2008 2:42 p.m.

    Thomas, where are you getting your cost figures? 9% for pharmaceuticals seems very low to me. Is there a cost breakdown that you can point me to?

  • Thomas
    Feb. 7, 2008 2:34 p.m.

    "Middle class all but gone"

    Let's have some clarity, please. First, what is the "middle class," and how much money do you need to be counted as "rich"?

  • Anonymous
    Feb. 7, 2008 2:23 p.m.

    When the rich are getting richer by the hour and the middle class all but gone leaving the struggling masses to fight over the scraps from the haves' table - it may be time to find ways to level the playing field.

  • Thomas
    Feb. 7, 2008 2:13 p.m.

    Joe -- That's a semi-good point about pharmaceutical costs. Those costs can't be ignored; drugs account for about 9% of health-care spending (up from 6% about a decade ago).

    Again, though, you could cut the amount spent on pharmaceuticals in half, and you'd still only reduce spending by about 5%. Still not enough to get us anywhere near European cost levels.

    In addition, how many revolutionary drugs can you name that came out of state-run R&D programs? American pharmaceutical companies pretty much lead the world in developing new treatments. It's a highly speculative and capital-intensive business. Such businesses don't attract investment capital without an elevated potential payoff to compensate.

    My mind is open to any convincing argument that you can lower returns on capital and still get the same capital investment, but I know of no instance where that logic operates.

    That said, it's interesting that the greatest rises in pharmaceutical costs parallel the increase in third-party payment for them (i.e. government or insurance companies). When it's patients themselves who have to pay for drugs, pharmaceutical companies can't raise prices beyond the ability of people to pay.

  • Joe
    Feb. 7, 2008 1:27 p.m.

    Thomas, I won't take you to task on your figures but one glaring ommission in your information is pharamaceutical company costs. Using Liptor as an example, costs are as follows: 15% research & devolopment, 35% marketing, 24% profit, 26% other including CEO pay.

    Would you claim that this is just how things work in a free market system? If so then it's time for a change.

  • Anonymous
    Feb. 7, 2008 1:24 p.m.

    "Cold and heartless" are key buzzwords of the modern American conservative movement.
    The others are Liberal and Socialized Medicine ... again, and again, and ...

  • Sweat William
    Feb. 7, 2008 1:24 p.m.

    hey Runaway... your thinking is a little cloudy, must be all the cigarette smoke. That's an awful lot of "begatting" going on in your family.

    2 people responsible for the spawning of 325 people in 60-70 years?

    That is more irresponsible that choosing to smoke cigarettes and make really dumb comments. Hopefully the spawn is smarter than you demonstate.

  • Mdsnhms
    Feb. 7, 2008 1:02 p.m.

    To YouGoFirst 12:30

    Illness and medical bills caused half of the 1,458,000 personal bankruptcies in 2001, according to a study published by the journal Health Affairs. This is a Harvard study. You should read it.

    According to the study - Most of the medical bankruptcy filers were middle class; 56 percent owned a home and the same number had attended college.

    So before we blame those Mexicans again, lets look at the data. Medical costs are ridiculous and even middle class American Citizens are not paying.

    And you are right, you do sound cold and heartless.

  • Thomas
    Feb. 7, 2008 12:46 p.m.

    It's easy to bash "profits" as being responsible for the high cost of American healthcare, but only if you're ignorant.

    Private insurance profit and administrative costs amount to 4.5% of American healthcare spending. Government administrative costs amount to 2.5%. (And from what I've seen in Medicare fraud litigation, the government could benefit from spending a bit more on administrative oversight to keep crooked doctors from robbing us quite so blind.) So at most, if we got rid of for-profit health insurance altogether, we'd save 2% of our total healthcare spending. That's not exactly going to solve the problem.

    One major source of the explosion in healthcare spending is the profileration of medical specialists, and the dramatic increases in their earnings. A big part of that problem comes from Medicare's arcane fee-setting policies, which historically had the perverse effect of *encouraging* doctors to raise their rates. Medicare has since dialed back somewhat, but the incentives are still thoroughly fouled up. Furthermore, even though direct litigation and malpractice costs are relatively small (about as much as health-insurance profits), they encourage "defensive medicine" -- the prescribing of treatment with marginal, if any, utility, in order to head off potential litigation.

  • YouGoFirst
    Feb. 7, 2008 12:03 p.m.

    If you want to cut costs for medical care, it can be easier than you think. First, eliminate the requirement for hospitals to take care of anybody who walks into their emergency room doors. If they are required to stabilize then ship to a facility that only works with people who cannot pay. The government will also have to re-imburse the hospital 100% for its costs. Next, a doctor should work with a judge in malpractice cases so that the judge with a law degree can understand the medical information. Along with this, caps on cash settlements should also be set up. Finally, the US or each state should sue Mexico or collect money for all medical procedures/care given to its citizens. (The Mexican government is essentially the insurer for their people.)

    Yes I sound cold and heartless, but if you look at how much a hospital has to write off because of inability to pay, their costs would be cut nearly in half if they only had to take care of people who can pay.

  • Anonymous
    Feb. 7, 2008 11:32 a.m.

    It's capitalism uber alles ( we certainly don't want anybody in the medical community to be going without that yacht or 3rd vacation home do we?
    So don't even think about any socialized program.
    What are ya, one of them liberal commie America-haters?

  • Good time to be rich
    Feb. 7, 2008 11:16 a.m.

    Any idea how powerful the AMA and pharmaceutical lobbies are?
    They will never allow universal health care.
    This a very, very good time in history to be rich and they know it.

  • Joe
    Feb. 7, 2008 10:18 a.m.

    Thinking Man, good post. As Shakespeare said, "The first thing to do is kill all the lawyers."

  • Thinking Man
    Feb. 7, 2008 10:02 a.m.

    The basic problem with health care is not insurance coverage, it's COST. If medical costs were affordable, there would be no perceived "crisis." We need to attack high costs at all their sources--bureaucracy and administrators, middlemen like pharmaceutical reps, government-mandated paperwork, ridiculous lawsuit awards, tests done only to cover potential lawsuits, outrageous hospital overhead, high prices set by collusion between providers and insurance companies, etc., etc., etc.

    THAT's where the problem lies. Universal insurance is NOT the answer--those companies only reap the benefits and keep costs high.

    Why aren't any politicians talking about cost? Makes you think.

  • Oh brother
    Feb. 7, 2008 9:40 a.m.

    Commenter at 2:39 a.m.,

    I guess your personal experience with ONE smoker trumps all that data from millions of studies of millions of people that says smoking and second-hand smoke actually DO give you lung cancer. Well here's one for you: My grandfather smoked and died of lung cancer when he was 49. There was no history of lung cancer in the family. There - my data now cancels out your data and we're left with.....what?

    And by the way, AIDS is nothing like a cold where you're "going to get it or not".....getting AIDS is a predictable result of engaging in risky behavior. AIDS is the result of CHOICES. While there are things you can do to reduce the risk of a cold, even the most careful person will get one now and then - there's a certain degree of random chance when it comes to colds. Not so with AIDS.

  • Jazz Fan
    Feb. 7, 2008 8:45 a.m.

    What do you suggest: Hillary Care? That's sure going to be cheap. Just the thought make me sick.

  • Joe
    Feb. 7, 2008 8:23 a.m.

    Agreed. Record profits are being posted by both the insurance and pharmaceutical industries on the backs of average Americans. Where's the outrage?

  • too many people
    Feb. 7, 2008 8:09 a.m.

    More mounting evidence of an overpopulated society in freefall decline.

  • Anonymous
    Feb. 7, 2008 7:11 a.m.

    Private enterprise will find a way. It may simply be to deny coverage to those that have insurance, and make more uninsurable, but it will find the answer.
    Anything else is socialism. Don't know what that is, really, but it's a bad word.

  • Runaway health-care costs
    Feb. 7, 2008 2:39 a.m.

    Runaway health-care costs are like cigarettes.
    Excuse me but, People that belive in second hand smoke are the first that do not believe in the great big cloud in the valley does not cause it.
    From a family that smoked sinces Rockwell, No one in my family has the disease. Mom 93 and lived with it all her life. 10 kids , 57 grandkids. approx 200 great grand kids and 75 great great kid.
    We do not have that gene that causes it.
    Cancer is like AIDs or a cold you are going to get or not.