June 8, 2009

Questioning Obama's Health Care Math

The Wall Street Journal is calling the Obama administration on its claims that its health care program will save money in the long-run. While Congressional Democrats work on drafting a health care bill (which includes taxing employer health insurance something highly criticized by the Democrats when presented in Senator McCain's health care plan) the Obama administration is starting to promote the plan. Yet they are doing so with some highly questionable numbers...

Excerpt from Obama's Health Cost Illusion
The main White House argument for health-care reform goes something like this: If we spend now on a hugely expensive new insurance program for the middle class, we can save later by reducing overall U.S. health spending. This "tastes great, less filling" theory could stand some scrutiny, not least because it is being used to rush through the greatest social spending program in American history.

What if this particular theory turns out to be a political illusion? What if the speculative cost savings never report for duty, while the federal balance sheet is still swamped with new social obligations that will be impossible to repeal? The only possible outcome will be the nationalization of U.S. health markets, which will mean that almost all care will be rationed by politics.

* * *
Since Medicare was created in 1965, U.S. health spending has risen about 2.7% faster than the economy and on current trend would hit 20% of GDP within a decade. Every public or private attempt to arrest this climb has failed: wage and price controls in the 1970s, the insurance industry's "voluntary effort" in the '80s, managed care in the '90s.

Now the White House -- especially budget chief Peter Orszag -- claims there is new cause for hope. The magic key is the dramatic variations in per patient health spending among U.S. regions. Often there is no relationship between spending and the quality of care, according to a vast body of academic research, most of it coming out of Dartmouth College. If the highest spending areas could be sanded down to the lowest spending areas, about 30% in "waste," or $700 billion each year, would be saved. More than enough to pay for ObamaCare. Or so the theory goes.


Obama Health Care

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