Tuesday, January 18

On Wishful Thinking

When it comes to Medicare it seems that this program and support for it is largely derived from a lot of wishful thinking. Thinking along the lines of wouldn't it be nice if we could insure that medical care will be cheap for all the elderly. Costs for medical care are high and rising fast. New medical technologies are developed at a blistering pace, but those new procedures are not at bargain basement prices. Now, I'm not going to be developing here a long post about entitlements, Christian thought, and conservative or liberal thinking. But instead, offer some ideas why those costs might be rising so fast.

Now it is claimed that torts, malpractice insurance, and the defensive medical habits engendered by excessive use of law courts to "perfect" our medical community contribute less than 3% to the end user costs of medicine. And that the doctors bear the costs for that insurance. That this cost to the consumer is so low, is a hard case to make for a citizen of Illinois like myself, since where I live there are no neurologists at any nearby hospitals. All have left because of those increased costs those doctors "were asked to bear". Costs certainly have risen indeed if a thing is no longer available at any price. I think in general our society goes to litigation far to quickly, but I don't have a good solution for that, as that is cultural not legal issue.

The FDA is probably the biggest culprit in the rising costs of medicine. I've seen some FDA regulations first hand in the workplace. FDA regulations remind me of the inefficiencies of NASA. There are consequences of insisting that paperwork, regulation, and umpteen layers of bureaucracy being required to protect us the consumer. So when you complain about the cost your drugs, recall that much of that cost is by "our" request. It might be nice if we could have a choice between paying for drugs protected by the best (most) bureaucratic machinery money can buy or perhaps get those made in a more open market. Recall also, it wasn't a hide bound bureaucracy that developed the SR-71. That FDA bureaucracy doesn't just make drugs and medicine cost more. It slows progress as well.

The last reason is how our insurance industry and incentives have lined up. Medical insurance pays for most of our health care these days. For the insurer is in the short term interest for costs to be kept down. In the long term, the higher those costs go up, while the profit "slice" received by the insurer will likely be regulated to a percentage of the costs, higher costs there mean more money to spread around, i.e., higher medical costs are very much in the long term interest of the insurance industry. This concept is almost certainly not lost on them.