Medicare Isn't the Problem, It's the Solution
Robert B. Reich
Yes, we have a long-term budget crisis. And, yes,
House Republicans want to get rid of
The president, on the other hand, wants an independent commission to recommend cuts if the yearly costs of
The real problem is the soaring costs of health care underlying
Americans are spending almost two and a half times more on health care per person than other advanced nations. Yet the typical American doesn't live as long as citizens in other advanced nations, and we have the highest rate of infant mortality.
The reason: Here, doctors and hospitals have every incentive to spend on unnecessary tests, drugs, and procedures. But they have little incentive to keep people healthy.
You have lower back pain? Almost 95 percent of such cases are best relieved through physical therapy. But doctors and hospitals routinely do expensive MRIs, and then refer patients to orthopedic surgeons who often do even more costly surgery. Why? There's not much money in physical therapy.
Your diabetes, asthma or heart condition is acting up? If you go to the hospital, 20 percent of the time you're back there within a month. You wouldn't be nearly as likely to return if a nurse visited you at home to answer your questions and make sure you were taking your medications. This is common practice in other advanced countries. So why don't nurses do home visits to Americans with acute conditions? Hospitals and nurses aren't paid for it.
Meanwhile, administrative costs are eating up 15 percent to 30 percent of all health-care spending in
At some hospitals, billing clerks outnumber physicians. A third of nursing hours are devoted to documenting what's happened so insurers have proof.
The Republicans' plan would make things worse. It simply funnels money into the hands of for-profit insurers. Their administrative costs are far higher than
The president's approach is smarter but doesn't address the underlying problem. It just limits the amounts seniors would receive for
So what's the answer? First, allow anyone at any age to join
And it's way, way lower than the administrative costs of individual insurance (40 percent). It's even far below the 11 percent costs of private plans under
Estimates of how much would be saved by extending
- What Standard & Poor's U.S. Outlook Downgrade Means
- Medicare Isn't the Problem, It's the Solution
- 5 Numbers That Could Rattle the Recovery
- Why the World Caught a Cold When the U.S. Housing Market Sneezed
- Why We Must Raise Taxes on the Rich
- Reaganomics? Meet 'Ryan-omics'
- The Frightening Truth About the Economy
- 7 Problems That Could Derail the Global Economic Recovery
- How the National Debt Affects You
- March Jobs Report Brings Good News -- Finally
- Spreading Wealth the Right Way
- 3 Reasons the U.S. Economy Remains in a Coma
- The Biggest Lies About Jobs
- Why Higher Unemployment Might Not Be a Bad Thing
- Not Raising the Debt Ceiling Would Worsen the Fiscal Situation
- We Can't Be Serious About the Debt Ceiling Until We Fix Spending
- It's BACK! The Return of Stagflation
- Federal Budget: Why Triangulation Won't Work
- Quitting Fear Inc
- Republican Obsession with Spending Cuts will Kill Jobs
- What Happens After Quantative Easing 2 Ends?
- What You Really Pay for at the Pump
- Brighter Job Outlook for Class of 2011
- Jobs Report Shows Growth, But Nothing to Shout About
- The Real News on Jobs
- The Democrats' Lame Response to the Republican Shakedown
- The Slow Decline of North America
- 'So Be It' Economics
- St. Louis Mayor Discusses Economy, Education, and Future of Cities
- The Incredible Shrinking Budget Debate
- The Wages of Infamy
- A G-Zero World: New Economic Club Will Produce Conflict Not Cooperation
- The Post-Washington Consensus
- Currency Wars: Then and Now
- Currencies Are Not the Problem
- The Great Jobs Recession Goes On
- America's Corporate Recovery Is More Fragile Than You Think
- Impending Debate Over Spending Cuts Has Nothing to Do With Reviving Economy
- Pruning Farm Subsidies
- The Wealth Gap Around the World
Available at Amazon.com:
Medicare Isn't the Problem, It's the Solution | Politics
Copyright 2011, ROBERT REICH; DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.