MCNTalk reads Forbes. Mainly for great business articles but even for opinions, which are predictably free market and generally anti-government and Obama. That said, Forbes agrees that US Health care is high priced and advocates a consumer-driven solution. As we have opined elsewhere, consumer engagement that led to citizens shopping in a competitive market for care and coverage might have benefits.
Most startling is the reference to Swiss health care spending being 45% of the US levels. Having traveled in that marvelous country, one can’t credibly claim they are anything but more robust and wealthier per capita than the US. We deserve to understand and respond to such massive differences. Not having been to Singapore, where spending is said to be at 20% of US levels, this 5x spread is incomprehensible and we wonder if it is a typo or some major relevant facts are missing. Even Forbes agrees that things are way out of whack with our system’s cost.
As a thought experiment, imagine that rather than health care, the media reported that cars, smartphones and flat panel TVs cost twice or more as much in the US as they do in Switzerland. Since we pay ourselves for these goods, how much rhetoric and justification would we tolerate in explaining the differences? Or would we rather have a flurry of innovative efforts to ensure that US consumers are able to pay the same or less than others for similar products and services? The difference of course is who is paying. When employers or government pay, we the consumers basically have little reason to care. When on the other hand we have to pull out our own wallet, the impact and visibility is immediate. Unfortunately, the ACA and other reforms that don’t truly engage the consumer in feeling some pain or gain, have a basic flaw that impedes price competition. Furthermore, as many have pointed out, the ability to make an informed choice when it comes to complex health issues is questionable, not to mention the ability to shop when one is bleeding or in the process of an acute condition needing immediate intervention. Informed buying requires both the ability to have good information and enough time to decide.
The question is when do we stop debating and engage in the truly tough decisions that will send us in the right direction. We are not optimistic because any system that represents almost 20% of our GDP will not give up turf easily. For the US health spend to approach benchmarks of other industrialized and healthy economies would displace many jobs, institutions, revenue streams, and profits.