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Postre: Economics: The Threatened US Consumer; on Health Care Costs (Richard Hancock, US) (John Eipper, USA, 04/13/08 6:22 am)
Richard Hancock writes:
In respect to Tor Guimaraes's posting of April 12, I am not enough of
an economist to dispute his comments on our economy, except to say
that I have experienced many recessions from which we recovered rather
quickly. The Great Depression is the one exception. I feel that our
leaders surely have learned the lessons of that debacle so as not to
repeat the same mistakes of that era. When threatened with a
recession, for example, you don't raise taxes and/or tariffs.
I have confidence that we will come out of the current recession, but
we are going to have to deal with two items, Social Security and
health care, which will usurp our entire federal budget if we don't
make necessary changes soon. We cannot make these changes without
having to tighten our belts to some extent. Health care is a
particular threat. We cannot continue this open-ended spending on
I would like to cite my own experience in this regard. Last May, I
was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was caught early and now poses
little threat to me. I wish to say at the outset that I received
magnificent care from the Norman [Oklahoma] doctors and the Norman
Regional Hospital. My doctor offered four avenues of treatment: 1. To
do nothing (possible for an 82-yr-old man), 2. Take hormone shots for
the rest of my life, 3. Take radiation treatments for 45 days
straight, and 4. Receive implants of radiation seeds in my prostate.
I chose the latter treatment which involved an out-patient procedure.
I was astonished to receive a statement of $42,062.60 for my one-hour
procedure without any time spent in the hospital. This did not include
the surgeon's fee. I did not pay any of this bill. Medicare paid most
of it and my university insurance paid only $1,846.24. The treatment
that I received was above reproach, but I have to say that the
economic implications of this astound me. In discussing my four
options, the cost of each option was never mentioned. I chose the 4th
option and everything went much better than I expected. I feel that
the cost must come in for discussion somewhere in these medical
decisions. We cannot continue this "the-sky-is-the limit medical
coverage." If I had been given the option of doing nothing as opposed to my paying $50,000 for medical treatment, I might have chosen to do nothing. I can't help but feel that there is a lot of padding in this somewhere.
I had another hospital stay in El Paso, TX in 1931 when I fell off a
windmill and threw one of my vertebrae out of joint. The cost of my
two-day stay was $83.00, including the doctor's fee. Medical
insurance did not exist at that time. The medical establishment
billed according to what the market would bear and that was not much.
Those days were not the golden age of medicine in terms of medical
care, but the costs were certainly reasonable. I don't want to return
to those "good old days," but I strongly feel that we must somehow set
a limit to these expenses. I hear the politicians talking about
universal medical care. I suggest that we need to get the expenses of
our current programs under control instead of applying this current
crazy system to additional people. We need to do this and do it fast.
JE comments: Richard Hancock's example tells the whole story:
$42,000 + for a one-hour procedure proves that US health care has lost
its grip on economic reality.
I am overjoyed, however, that Richard Hancock is on the mend, and I
wish him the best of health for a very long time. Richard's own
story, in my view, is a metaphor for US health care: at its best, it
performs miracles, but at what (financial) cost?
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John Eipper, Editor-in-Chief, Adrian College, MI 49221 USA