If you think this post is about the $700 billion we are paying for the financial bailout, sadly you are incorrect. I wish it was. It also has nothing to do with the Big 3 automakers. Their problem appears to be peanuts compared to this.
And it also has no relation to keeping NCAA intercollegiate football and basketball coaches’ salaries on par with Hedge Fund managers. What? Oh, sorry. Got off track there.
The frightening reality I am talking about is health care in the U.S. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you are aware that I am a vocal advocate for universal health care for Americans. It is a massive, overwhelming transformation that the United States simply has to do. Soon. Now.
Each year, Americans spend $2.6 trillion on health care. It is 16% of our GDP! But here’s the kicker: The Congressional Budget Office estimates that over one-third of that spending does not contribute to the actual health of you, me and our neighbors across the country. And that means that over $700 billion is being overspent. Every year!
Here’s what Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) states:
The U.S. spends $2.3 trillion a year — more than 16 percent of the U.S. economy — on
health care, and economists warn that rising health care costs represent a serious threat to
our long-term fiscal security.1,2 We spend more than any other country on health care —
both per capita and as a percentage of gross domestic product — yet the Congressional
Budget Office (CBO) estimates that up to one-third of that spending does not improve
Americans’ health outcomes.3 That means we spend over $700 billion more than we need
to get the outcomes that we receive today. Clearly, excess spending must be eliminated
and dollars put to better use — not only to correct the imbalances of the current health care
system, but to offset the high costs of much-needed comprehensive reform (p. 65).
Sen. Baucus is proposing a plan that will comprehensively transform American health care by transforming every sector that is involved in it. I have read his plan, Call to Action: Health Reform 2009. You can access the entire document by clicking on the link at the bottom of my header.
So, here it is. Congress authorized $700 billion to bailout the American financial mess. At this point (we all hope) it is a one time special authorization. But across the street in Health Care, we are going to overspend (i.e. waste) $700 billion this year, and the next and the next. . . By the end of Barack Obama’s first term, we will have spent $700 bn on the financial rescue and over $2.8 TRILLION on wasted health care, with nothing to show for it, whatsoever! [11/25: This morning Sec. Paulsen announced that another $800 billion would be authorized to prop up the mortgage market meltdown.]
But Sen. Baucus isn’t finished. The naysayers (both in and out of the health care industry) are screaming that universal health care will be so expensive, it will bankrupt us. Oh, yeah? Take a look at this:
Americans deserve a health care system in which everyone has affordable coverage, no
matter their age, income, employment, or health status. This will require an investment.
Some experts predict that a health system covering all Americans would necessitate $100
billion to $150 billion in new Federal spending per year. But savings from the reforms
proposed earlier in this Call to Action and the financing mechanisms in this section can
make the net cost of reform much smaller (p. 65).
The math is so simple, even a ultra-right wing radio shock-jock could do it. I’m not even going to rub it in.
The price of inaction, might, in fact bankrupt us. If we do not enact radical and comprehensive health care legislation, the $700bn will look like chump change. Here is our fate if we do not act:
Congress and the public must be realistic about the timeframe in which the fiscal success
of reform is measured. If we fail to act, however, the current national expenditure on
health care will double from over $2 trillion to $4 trillion, tens of millions will continue to
be uninsured, poor quality will continue to contribute to nearly 100,000 deaths each year,
and the nation’s entitlement programs will consume a greater portion of the Federal
budget. In short, the costs of inaction, both in human and financial terms, would
eventually be far greater than any initial outlays. America must choose to invest now in a
health care system that will richly repay the nation with greater health and economic
stability in the long term (p. 66).
This is not the America that you or I want, one we must not–cannot–tolerate.