Who Pays for Healthcare?

US Politics

If President Obama’s campaign promises are worth going by, there is going to be a healthcare debate in the United States in the next couple of years.  Now’s the time to ask “who pays?”  The annual health care cost in the US passed the $2 trillion mark in 2006 and is rising at twice the cost of inflation.  If the government moves to a more universal health care system, won’t that move that cost onto the taxpayer?  The answer is that the citizens of the United States are already paying all the costs of our health care system.  Our employers, the primary sources of health insurance in the United States, pay third parties to pay for our health care, then immediately pass those costs along to their customers.  Every plane ticket you buy is paying for some healthcare.  That GM car?  Lots of health care built in there.  Banking services, ditto.  Taxes to state and local governments go to paying for health care for their employees.  Indigent care in hospital emergency rooms?  Paid for with tax dollars or higher fees for paying customers and that money comes from us.  WE ARE ALREADY PAYING THE ENTIRE COST OF OUR HEALTHCARE SYSTEM!

In some cases, those costs are killing off American businesses.  GM doesn’t need help because they don’t make good cars.  OK, the Japanese have a quality advantage, but the reality is that Detroit has caught up a lot over the last two decades and US cars have been climbing in the quality rankings for over a decade.  GM is saddled with $2,000 per car in costs for retired employees that their competitors don’t have to pay, and lot of that is healthcare.  Not only do we pay for that cost when we buy a car, we pay again in lost jobs, lower salaries and bailout money.  It’s like paying your mortgage a little several times a day instead of once a month.  It doesn’t make it cost any less.  It probably drives up expenses.  But it hides the cost.  You may feel better about it, but it still means that at the end of the month you are wondering where your money went.

Let’s put aside all the political debate and just look at costs.  It’s cheaper to treat a cavity at the dentist office than it is to treat an abscess in the emergency room.  Cheaper to pay for pre-natal care than a problem delivery.  Cheaper to pay for a flu vaccine than treat the flu.  A single payer system is a more cost effective way to deliver healthcare in this country and it doesn’t cost the taxpayer a single dime more.  We’re paying it already.

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