Sunday, September 06, 2009

That Franken video and a couple of other things ...

I just watched that Al Franken video on health care, and I was not hugely impressed given the build up, but it was interesting enough to watch. One question stuck with me. Someone asked how we are going to pay for the cost of the bill. Well, my immediate thought was that we are paying for it now. We are paying for the uninsured with the higher costs charged by hospitals and doctors now. If you can't pay, emergency rooms are obliged to treat you anyway. Then, afterwards, assuming you survive, they will send you bills, which you might try to pay until you go bankrupt, or which you might ignore. The collection agencies will destroy your credit rating, and the hospital will write off the costs. That will mean lower taxes if they are a for profit, but the stockholders might replace the hospital CEO for someone less likely to lose money. Non-profits might have a bit more leeway, but still can't afford to give away too much care. And meanwhile for or non profits will raise their prices to cover these kinds of cost in the future. Those higher prices are paid for by health insurance companies now. You employer may shield you from 80 to 90 % of the premium, but your employer has to make up for that with higher prices for their customers (currently employers and you do get a tax deduction for health insurance premiums, but the Republicans want to end that). So we do pay for care for the uninsured now, only very inefficiently, and with lots of death and bankruptcy.

A single payer system would improve health outcomes and lower costs even further. Taxes would go up, but your paycheck should also go up, and the prices for things should go down. Actually, while I thick every one's pay would go up, I think prices would stay the same, just not rising as much for a few years. That even though there would be a spike in demand caused by the higher pay.

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