Only talk is cheap when it comes to health care
We’re supposedly the model for community health care here in Mesa County. But that doesn’t mean we’re without problems.
That’s one takeaway from last Thursday’s discussion of Sustainable Health Care Solutions sponsored by the Club 20 Foundation and the Colorado Trust. About 100 of your invited neighbors participated in the examination of attitudes regarding health care, one of 25 gatherings taking place across western Colorado. Here are some of our problems:
We smoke more than our fellow Coloradans and compared to all Americans. We weigh a little less when compared to the entire country, but a little more than other residents of our state.
The good news is our network of health care professionals, with the exception of nurses, is better staffed than elsewhere in the state. Even so, as I’ve experienced, you might not get to actually talk with your doc absent an appointment. It’ll more likely be intermediaries handling questions or dealing with things like prescription problems.
Here in Happy Valley and elsewhere in western Colorado, we don’t live in isolation from growing national health care problems.
We were told last week, that health expenditures will soar to more than one-third of the U.S. economy by 2040.
We spend more per capita on health care than Germany, Canada, France, Australia and the United Kingdom but have a lower life expectancy than any of those countries.
Compounding all that is the fact we’re also living longer. Back in 1940, a 65-year-old was expected to live another 13 years. That’s up to 18 years today and is expected to hit 22 years in 2080. The care we baby boomers will need toward the end of our life is some of the most expensive to provide.
Whether you call it the Affordable Care Act or more derisively, “Obamacare,” whether you think it takes us in the right direction or down the path to socialism and death panels, it seems clear we need to make some changes, both in taking charge of our lifestyle choices and in how, as a society, we deal with the provision of health services.
Right now we do that when the hospital bills for those of us with insurance are marked up to offset the costs of emergency room care for those without. You might rail against mandates, but show me another way to get young, uninsured healthy folks who would rather put their cash toward a new mountain bike or kayak to contribute to the system that patches them up when they crash on the trail or bounce off a rock in the river.
More than half of us in the room last Thursday received health care via our employers. You may not like a single-payer system — most Americans apparently don’t — but doesn’t relying on our employers to fund health care place them at a disadvantage against competitors in countries where that’s not the case? If so, why do many job providers reflexively fight against changes that could make them more competitive?
Another problem is we don’t know what our health care costs. Or what’s real — provider billings or Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement rates.
Only once, in 66 years as a consumer, have I been offered cost-based choice for a medical procedure. Then, though insurance would have covered any option, it seemed silly to ding my insurer for the $1,100 cost of a colonoscopy at one facility when another would do exactly the same check for $450. I saved “the system” $650 just being able to compare costs.
A few months ago, I couldn’t get an estimate of the cost of relatively commonplace arthroscopic surgery. When’s the last time you made a major purchase and just said “Bill me later and let me know what I owe you?”
What’s clear is that what we’re doing now regarding health care is problematic.
It’s become, perhaps necessarily, more impersonal. We’re divorced, the insured among us, from the actual costs of our own health care.
Our providers are shifting the costs of caring for the uninsured, under-insured and those of us on Medicare, Medicaid and other programs, mostly to the employers who provide coverage for their workers. Too many of us have no insurance at all.
And yet we fight change. Go figure.