By Richard A. Damon, M.D.
Bozeman (Mont.) Daily Chronicle, Letters, Nov. 15, 2016
Tom Murphy, AP health writer, recently wrote that millions of Americans have seen the price of their health care insurance go up every year for years. Premiums outpace inflation and wages, and they affect nearly every household member with health issues. He asks, “Does it have to be this way? Why do health care costs grow so much faster than most other spending necessities, and do so consistently?”
Insurance premiums, according to the Kaiser Foundation, have risen 213 percent since 1999. Wages have risen 60 percent, and inflation is up 44 percent. It’s becoming harder, even under the ACA public insurance exchanges, to find insurance plans that do not have narrowed networks of providers, co-pays, deductible or co-insurance. Medical financial burdens are straining incomes to the tipping point.
Murphy investigated if advances in medical devices, and diagnostic procedures contribute to exorbitant costs, and found that technological advances did provide faster care, but at greater cost to the patient.
Employers are cost-shifting intolerable premiums to employees, making wages and employee purchasing power diminish, and creating financial hardship for many middle and lower income families.
Families with health insurance were studied by the Kaiser Foundation together with the NY Times and found: 63 percent used up their savings; 42 percent had to take extra jobs; 37 percent borrowed money; 75 percent struggled with co-pays, deductibles and co-insurance costs; 62 percent postponed dental care; 43 percent skipped diagnostic tests or treatment; 41 percent didn’t fill prescribed prescriptions; 35 percent couldn’t pay for food, heat or housing; 58 percent were contacted by a collection agency; 61 percent lived paycheck to paycheck; 18 percent couldn’t pay monthly bills; 13 percent had unpaid medical bills over $10,000.
Every American, rich or poor, would benefit from Medicare for all.
Dr. Richard A. Damon resides in Bozeman.