Health Care

The overall consumer expenditures for public and private health care in the United States in current U.S. dollars.
The overall consumer expenditures for public and private health care in the United States in current U.S. dollars.  

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Demand and Money Central to Health Debate
Published Monday, June 29th, 2009

Last week, the President hosted a town hall meeting with TV network ABC called “Prescription for America” in the East Room of the White House. There were 164 people: doctors, businessmen, patients, Republicans, Democrats, and independents. The President stressed access to health care and talked about a Medicare-like system that would allow patients to choose doctors and hospitals. Second, the President stated that nearly a third of what we spend on Health Care is unnecessary and that we should focus on strengthening primary care and coordination between doctors, specialist and patients. Finally, one of the obstacles is the reform’s costs, already projected to run between $1 and 2 trillion over the next 10 years.

Access for all Americans is an issue not just for the 15.3% of the population who are uninsured as of 2007. Access can also mean the number of hospitals, which as of 2006 came to 5756 in 2006, down from 6965 in 1980. Demand has given to a meteoric rise in consumer expenditures for public and private health care, which as of 2007 reached a combined price tag of $2.32 trillion. Averaged cost per patient per stay has increased to $8,793; even without hospital visits the average American annually spends nearly $3,000 on health care expenditures. The group who visits the ER most is the group 15-44 years old; this group is most likely to be uninsured.

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Proposed Means of Paying for Health Care Reform
Published Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

The Senate Finance Committee has issued a 40 page report on options to pay for health care reform measures and coverage for the nearly 50 million who are uninsured. Among these options, cutting cost is the most popular for the long run, yet in the short term, some are proposing taxes as a way to raise the necessary funding and trigger cost-saving lifestyle changes. For example, a soda tax will target drinks with high caloric sweeteners; diet drinks will be exempt. Another proposal would put a federal tax on alcoholic drinks. The proposal also suggests that health insurance benefits for those who make over $200,000 as individuals and $400,000 as a couple be taxed. Plus, for upper income seniors, they will be charged more for their Medicare drug plans.

Public and private health care spending has risen relatively in parallel, with a fluctuating gap between the two since 1977 and a present gap of $108 billion. The annual pace at which both have climbed is mirrored by the average annual expenditures per consumer for out-of-pocket health care in a year, which is calculated at nearly $3000 in 2007. Currently, the pressures of those expenditures have caused many to be uninsured, to fall on government health care rolls, or worse yet to go into foreclosure or bankruptcy. When compared to other countries, America spends more on health care as a percentage of GDP and yet has one of the highest rates of uninsured.

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Health Care to be Addressed by President Obama
Published Monday, May 11th, 2009

In an effort to influence the Health Reform that President Obama is determined to initiate, hospitals, insurance companies, drug makers and doctors will voluntarily slow their rate increases in coming years, potentially adding up to $2 trillion in spending reductions over 10 years. 6 major health groups pledged to cut the rise in health care costs by 1.5 percentage points each year. This move will help provide health insurance to the growing 50 million who now have no health insurance. Obama’s plan is estimated to cost the federal government $1.2 to $1.5 trillion over 10 years, only half of that has been accounted for by the White House. Health groups who discouraged the health reforms prescribed by the Clinton administration seem to be coming forward to help President Obama for a variety of reasons.

By 2007, overall annual consumer expenditures for Private and public health care has reached 1.2 trillion and 1.02 trillion respectively. The difference in public and private expenditures has not always been so wide; between 1977 and the present, the range has slowly grown wider, except between 1994 to 2000 where private shrank and public grew. The number of uninsured has grown from 14% in 2000 to 15.3% of the population in 2007. The percentage includes the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which has grown from 3.4 million in 2000 to 6 million in 2005. Most prone to be uninsured are minorities, who are disproportionately uninsured at 24.5-21.8% and those who of 18-44 years of age. All of which has lead to a steady increase in government health care rolls from 10.3% in 2000 to 13.2% in 2007.

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The Final Stimulus Package
Published Friday, February 20th, 2009

This week in Denver, the President signed the $787 billion stimulus package that streaked its way through Congress. The final bill is split into 36% for tax cuts and 64% percent in spending and money for social programs. Overall, it is $38 billion different from the original plan President Obama had introduced earlier in January. Highlights include:

• $787 billion total, $38 billion subtracted from original
• $308 billion in total spending, $142 billion subtracted (Federal Budget)
• $190 billion in Federal Aid for Education, Public Safety, Low-income, Individual and Health Care (Number of U.S. citizens below the poverty level)
• $288 billion in tax relief ($800—down from $1000—tax cuts for families, $400 tax cuts for individuals through social security payroll deductions, Business, Manufacturing, Economy, Infrastructure, Energy and other tax cuts), $13 billion added (Tax as a percentage of GDP)
• $48 billion for infrastructure, $42 billion subtracted (Spending on infrastructure)
• $90 billion Medicaid aid to states, $3 billion added (Public and private expenditures for health care)
• $53.6 billion to aid state in education, $25.4 billion subtracted
(Spending for the Department of Education)
• $44.6 billion for additional school funding to balance education budgets, prevent cutbacks and modernize schools, $3.6 billion added (Average finances by school district size and Higher education spending)
• $45 billion to encourage renewable energy production, $9 billion subtracted
(Non-Renewable v. Renewable)
• $18.6 billion for health care technology incentives and research for effective treatments, $5.4 billion subtracted (Cost per patient per day and per stay)
• $16 billion for Science/technology, equal (Research funds for science and technology)
• $15.6 billion to increase Pell Grants by $500, $0.6 billion added
(Rising tuition)

Of course, this is just the combined highlights; the Stimulus and Recovery Act is well over 1,000 pages long.  The administration, in an effort to become more tranparent, has set up a site in which anyone can track how and where the money is being spent:

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Health Care Expenditures Increase Causing Patient Risk
Published Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Having health insurance is no guarantee that if you have a devastating disease, like cancer, you will avoid large unwieldy bills, calling creditors, and destroyed credit. According to The Kaiser Family Foundation and the American Cancer Society, a new joint report outlined the deep financial crisis that can occur if just one family member is diagnosed with cancer. On top of the bills, patients faced the loss of life savings, jobs, and homes, ultimately leading to bankruptcy. The report also stated that the lack of access to quality health care is a major contributor to cancer deaths nationwide. Also, because of the expense, 2 million cancer survivors are going without treatment, increasing likelihood of relapse. The report states that the strain of increased healthcare expenditures goes beyond cancer; it rampant through the entire system.

Private Expenditures include consumer payments—out-of-pocket and health insurance—and other private funds.  Public expenditures include the Federal and State expenditures for Medicaid and Medicare, Veterans’ and Child healthcare, and a host of other programs. Since 1960, the expenditures for both public and private healthcare has increased at an ever expanding shared rate.

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