Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dr. Bill Roy: "Too Many Medicare Recipients on the Mall"

The Kaiser Family Foundation provides excellent information about our health care system. Drew Altman, its president, has been writing a series of short papers to tell us where we are, and where the Obama administration is trying to take us.

His last brief contained three numbers those people demonstrating on the Mall and huddled before talk radio need to know, namely today’s average cost for family medical insurance, and also two ten-year projections based on real figures, the 6.1% average increase in medical insurance cost in the last five years, and the 8.7% average increase in medical insurance cost in the last ten years.

The average cost for family medical insurance this year is $13,375.

The projected cost for family coverage in 2019 based on the last five-year (2004-2009) average increases is $24,180.

Now the bugles--annual family premium costs will be $30,803 in 2019 based on the average increases in costs over the last 10 years. Which is why doing nothing to reform health care is not an option.

Does anyone believe American businesses can pay $30,893 for each employee’s health insurance and compete internationally? If your small employer cannot pay it, can you pay it--or can government afford to pay all or part of it for you?

Dr. Altman is good enough to compare the 131% health insurance premium cost over the last 10 years with the 38% growth in wages and the 28% growth in inflation. Yes, our current increase in health care costs are unsustainable. But our country may be too paralyzed to do anything about it.

This health care cost problem is unfortunately maturing at a time of national emotional extremes. It does not appear that any of the people on the Mall--or the many who attended congressional town-hall meetings--are willing to sit down and look at the facts and pound out a solution, which would inevitably involve some form of government-run medicine.

People seem completely willing to ignore their and their family’s best interest, at least as far as getting care and paying for it are concerned. Let me tell you about the perfectly nice 45 year-old man I sat with at Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins’ Holton meeting.

He told me for unknown reasons his kidneys quit functioning about four years ago. He is now receiving dialysis and waiting for a transplant that he thinks will be another 2-4 years in coming. He is overwhelmed by the fact his care costs so much. I believe he said $28,000 a month now and an expected $6,000 per month after a transplant.

His medical bills are nearly all being paid by Medicare which pays for services for the elderly, the totally and permanently disabled, and those with end-stage renal disease, a legislative anomaly to include a single condition with the other two general categories.

I told him I am sorry he has the d disease, but I am happy that he receives otherwise unaffordable life-saving care, and government pays for it.

It was then I learned he is totally opposed to government-run medicine, and very happy his congresswoman is too. Then he ripped into the Obama administration telling me Obama has 34 czars, some of whom are communists, some we cannot identify, and that all are responsible only to him. First I had heard of them. He volunteered he cannot work and keeps informed with Fox radio and television.

I saw nothing to be gained by trying to reason or argue. He has continued to attend Jenkins meetings as evidenced by his quotes and photo in the paper. After the meeting he got out of his pickup and said he was glad we had met. We shook hands heartily.

It is not uncommon for people to grow to dislike those they are totally dependent upon. But there were too many Medicare recipients on the Mall for that phenomenon to explain them all.

Maybe it’s the 21st century American way to look out for ourselves, and let 45 year-olds with severe illnesses (not end-stage renal disease) look out for themselves. And certainly not worry about $30,000 annual health insurance premiums until they get here.

Dr Roy may be reached at

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