Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Here's To Your Health

Allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire solves our most immediate budget problems. Health care costs pose the long-term dilemma if allowed to inflate along the current path. But, with unemployment hovering near 9 percent, this is not the time to worry about debt or inflation. Nor is it the time to attempt to debilitate our current health care reform which is aiming to control costs and cover more people. Peoples lives depend on us not worrying about asset prices right now. Getting people healthy and back to work will take care of price appreciation.

90 percent of American households have less than $10,000 in stocks. Thus, of those with a 401K or a similar retirement package (whose solvency is contingent on the up-and-downs of the market) most have less than $10,000 in that account. This isn't an adequate amount to retire on. The majority of the population is better off with affordable health care and the allowance of the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. They need a job and health care! They can't even contemplate retirement at this point.

The master revisionists have hoodwinked the American people yet again. Republicans have transformed Wall Street's follies into a government-caused catastrophe. Budget problems, in their narrative, are the fault of public workers. The reality is that continual tax cuts and ever-increasing health care costs are the culprits in a steadily decreasing American quality of life for the majority of citizens.

Health care cost inflation has steadily outpaced salary increases. Factoring in general inflation, alongside these increasing health care costs, workers have been losing ground for decades. We've heard a lot lately about entitlements and workers needing to pay more for their health care and retirement. The truth is that workers have been paying more for health care. And, for too many its been too much. Burdensome health care costs are the largest cause of bankruptcy.

Compound this with the fact that the U.S. spends nearly $2,500 more per person than the next country (Norway) on health care and its clear that our managed health care system is very inefficient and needs reform. Almost half of health care spending treats only 5 percent of the population. Just under a quarter of all spending treats only 1 percent of the population.

For all of the health care dollars we spend, the U.S. is among the worst in infant mortality and deaths from medical errors, and among the lower half in life expectancy. The percentage of health care that is publicly financed in the U.S. is also among the lowest among OECD countries. Nearly 45 percent of health care is financed publicly in the U.S.. The average for the other OECD countries is 73 percent. The only other country to publicly spend less than 50 percent is Mexico.

The average OECD country spends 9 percent of its GDP on health care. The U.S. spends the most - 16 percent of our GDP goes toward health care. Poor to mediocre results, limited coverage, and explosive costs - the hallmarks of U.S. health care - are what we get for almost one-fifth of our GDP. Americans should consider this an international embarrassment. That we allow so many to go without health care, whilst simultaneously allowing others to egregiously profit off health care misfortune or necessity, Americans should be ashamed and want our health care system improved.

President Obama's health care reform was a good step in the right direction. But until we remove the middleman - insurance companies - from the equation, or at the very least, more heavily regulate what they do (service provision requirements and cost controls), we will see waste and inefficiency. Nevertheless, there are many admirable reforms in the health care plan which deserve proper implementation to gauge efficiencies. The adopted health care reform is projected to save money over the next decade, cover more citizens, and would actually cost millions to repeal.

Now is not the time for austerity. We are merely making the poor, working and middle classes suffer needlessly on the cross of the free marketeers with continual budget cuts for education, transit, local aid, environmental protection, regulation, and other efficient public services that benefit all taxpayers. Voters electing Republicans with the hopes of tax cuts leading to a wonderland of worker-prosperity are biting off their own noses to spite their faces. The Reagan-era of deregulation and tax cuts has decreased our quality of life - stagnating wages, destabilizing retirement, and increasing inequality.

It's time for the government to provide the health care, jobs, and retirement security that the private sector just can't seem to accomplish. Ratings agencies, insurance companies, and other tax cut zealots be damned!

For Further Reading:

No comments: