By State Senator Roy Dyson (D-29th)
How do we know it’s an election year? We know it’s an election year because once again we are being overwhelmed with dialogue, speeches and promises to bring health care to all Americans.
Three of the major problems that plague America’s ability to provide quality health care are the continually spiraling cost, the layer upon layer of state and federal regulations that take health care decisions away from the patient and the fact that nobody does anything about either problem.
Two of the major problems that plague America’s ability to provide quality health care are the continually spiraling cost and the layer upon layer of state and federal regulation that take health care decisions away from the patient.
It’s hardly a cause for celebration, but after rising for steadily for six years, the number of Americans without health care coverage decreased from 47 million to 45.7 million in 2007, according to U. S. Census Bureau figures. The number of Maryland uninsured dropped from 13.8% of the population in 2006 to 13.7% in 2007 – from 776,000 to 762,000 people.
The slight drop is the result of government-sponsored health insurance programs, mostly benefiting children. The number of people covered by private insurance continues to decline. The share of Americans who had employer-based coverage dropped from 64% in 2000 to 60% in 2006.
The numbers that tell the nation’s tragic health care story are hair-raising. The Congressional Budget Office informs that in 1960, health care accounted for $1 of every $20 spent in the U.S. economy. Today, it accounts for $1of every $6 spent. By 2025 health care cost projections note it will rise to $1 out of every $4 spent.
Health spending totals more than $2 trillion annually – about 16% of the national income. By 2030, it will probably exceed 25% of the national income. Health spending is the main force expanding the federal budget. Neither government nor the private sector has been able to control health spending. From 1970 to 2005, average spending per Medicare beneficiary rose 8.9% a year. Spending for Americans with private health insurance rose 9.8% annually over that same period.
A Commonwealth Fund survey revealed that two-thirds of the working age population was uninsured, under-insured, reported a medical bill problem or did not get needed health care because of the cost in 2007. The survey reported a sharp rise in the number of people spending more than 10% of their income on health care. Both the insured and the under-insured are facing increasing financial struggles with health care costs….61% of those with medical debt or bill problems were insured at the time they needed medical attention. The under-insured increased to 14% of the population in 2007 from 9% of the population in 2006.
According to a Harvard University study, 46% of personal bankruptcies are caused in part by illness or medical debt. In 68% of the medical bankruptcies, the debtor had health insurance at the time of declaring bankruptcy.
It should be noted that at the same time that the cost of health care spirals upward, the degree of control Americans have over their own health care decreases and spirals downward. Government over-regulation robs individuals of the ability to make decisions concerning their own health care.
In August, the Pacific Research Institute released a report that shows that state regulation of health care decisions results on loss of individual control and a decrease in health care quality. Nearly half of the nation’s health care spending is in the hands of the government, instead of patients themselves. The other half is governed by regulations inflicted upon health plans, doctors and patients. The more regulation, the more health care decisions are removed from the individual. Maryland ranks 31st for individual health care control.
According to the research of Duke University professor Christopher Conover, the costs of health regulations outweigh their benefits two to one. The Conover study claims that state regulation of health care contributes to 22,000 deaths each year, compared to the 18,000 who die from lack of health insurance.
In this, the richest nation in the world with the highest standard of living it is preposterous that we continue to have a significant percentage of people who cannot get the health care they need. We have the best health care in the world, but the worst system for delivering it.