The paradox surrounding health care reform is less the idea of extending coverage to the almost 50 million Americans without coverage, then it is more about how to reign in the current year over year escalation of health care costs. We hear from health care industry experts that this can not be done without heavy risk to the quality of care Americans expect (that is those insured). But make no mistake, health care is a big business and there is no free lunch.
Some suggest that Medicare is the problem and that it pays doctors too much for too many tests. Others suggest that private insurers are carving out too much profit for their services. And still others say that Hospitals, especially community ones, are inefficient and waste money. What is inescapable, however, is that what ever measures are used to reduce total health care costs, it will translate into job losses for direct health care providers and all the suppliers to these companies. It is simply the math of it.
So, if you follow this logic, then the right next step for lobbyists is too obfuscate, spin, and distort the reform debate so that there will be a “no change, change” and things will go on as usual.
This outcome will comply with the “no free lunch” theorem. The status quo will ensure two things. First, the jobs and profits will continue. Second, the whole health care maze will come tumbling down as it bankrupts the American economy in the near future.
It seems strange that we have just experienced a melt down of the financial services sector where a disproportionate amount of profits flowed into a sector in comparison to the value it was creating. It is not that banks, investment firms, and insurance companies were not important or valuable, it was that their incomes were simply too much relative to this value. The overall health care industry is different, of course, but in a strange way similar.
The financial sector forgot that their role was about managing risk and instead thought it was about making profits, the more the better. The health care industry seems to have forgotten that their job is to provide health care for everyone and to do it in a way that its costs are in fact covered. It does no one any good for hospitals to be a money losing proposition nor for drug companies to go bankrupt.
Why should drugs made in America be cheaper in Canada and Americans not allowed to import them? Why should someone be insured through their employer and if terminated or departs on their own will, lose coverage, and if that person tries to get insurance again will most likely pay much more and could possibly be denied any coverage? Why should someone go to a doctor or a hospital, be asked to undergo several diagnostic tests and then be asked to pay for them at a different cost than his neighbor simply because he has a different insurance plan or no plan at all?
There is a huge opportunity in front of us to reform health care and include all Americans in coverage, and at the same time, ring out inefficiencies, excess profits, and provide stable good paying jobs to many people.