Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Who Will Fix the System?

Below are comments received from Leo Greenawalt, executive head of the Washington State Hospital Association.

I’m working on a response and will post it soon.

“You continue to ask the question regarding a fix of the system as ‘What if politicians are not able to fix the system?’ You need to ask the second part which is, I believe, ‘What if business, labor, physicians, insurance companies (put in any group you want) is not able to fix the system?’ At some point, one comes to the conclusion that health care is going to grow at three times the rate of inflation forever and the number of uninsured will grow exponentially and nobody will act.

Of course, this cannot happen forever. Somewhere in this loop there is a fallacy of logic.

Health care costs cannot grow toward infinity. The answer cannot be that nobody will take responsibility - ever. I don't agree that politicians cannot fix the system. They eventually do ‘fix’ things.

For example, they found a way to vote on base closures. Experts said it would never happen. They will probably adopt a system to extend the life of social security. They may find a way to shed Medicaid and send it back to the states. Eventually, they will deal with the time bomb we defend: Medicare. None of us may like the fix, but I don't see any possiblity that they will not act when it gets painful enough. Talk about a ticking time bomb: the budget deficit and the trade deficit will eventually cause a severe reaction - and it will impact health care in a dramatic way.

HSAs and unsustainable Medicare drug benefits just bring the day closer, in my opinion.

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