In deciding what to write about, I try my best to steer clear of the political side of medicine. But, today’s NYT has 3 articles that I just couldn’t ignore. Basically, all three are opinion pieces that address from different directions, one of the most important problems facing U.S. health care, the question of cost. The first piece was entitled, “What we give up for health care,” and written by Ezekiel J. Emanuel, the brother of Chicago, Illinois major, Raum Emanuel. The second piece was entitled, ” The dangerous notion that debt doesn’t matter,” and written by Steven Rattner, a Wall Street executive. The third piece was entitled, “The money traps in U.S. health care,” and written by Philip M. Boffey.
Basically, the Raum and Boffey articles opine on the fact that U.S. health care costs are extraordinary and that if we do not find a way to bring costs down quite a bit, we will have very difficult decisions about what other things we hold near and dear (e.g., education, infrastructure, national defense) that we will need to cut back on. The Rattner article focuses on the long-term dangers of high U.S. debt. I found the data in the Bossey piece on comparative costs for various medial services in Britain, Canada, France, Germany, and the U.S., particularly interesting. For example, the average cost for cataract surgery in the U.S. (public and private sector) at $14,764 beats the closest competitor by $11,412. It is truly breathtaking how much we in the U.S. (physicians, hospitals, and clinics) charge for routine medical services relative to the rest of the world, particularly since our outcomes are not generally superior to outcomes elsewhere.
In my opinion, based on my reading of the 3 articles in the NYT, at some point, the U.S. will have to go on a health care cost diet. I predict the diet will be very difficult for us (the general public and the health care providers) to start and to follow. How in the world will we be able to keep all the stakeholders reasonably happy with the process and the result? This is scary stuff.
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