[h/t Heather at VideoCafe]
Steven Brill has written a must-read article for this week's Time magazine about health care costs and why we really do have to be concerned about them. Following on that, he made an appearance on the round table segment of This Week to discuss those costs and why he's sounding the alarm.
Anyone who has spent even a day in the hospital knows what the problem is. When one over-the-counter pain reliever administered in the hospital costs as much as an entire bottle at the pharmacy, there's a very, very big problem.
Brill correctly points out that Medicare is an efficient program that Congress has managed to hog-tie into some ridiculous costly measures:
And it actually that bears on the conversation we're having, because a chunk of that money is paid by Medicare. Medicare is I point out in the article is very efficient at most things. It buys health care really efficiently, which is a great irony, because it's supposed to be the big government of bureaucracy.
Where Medicare is not efficient is where Congress, because of lobbyists have handcuffed Medicare. Medicare can't negotiate what it pays for any kind of drugs. It can't negotiate what it pays for wheelchairs, diabetes testing equipment. And if Congress took those handcuffs off of Medicare, you could get about half of the spending cuts that we're sitting around here talking about.
Yes, this. Of course, that assumes anyone in Congress is brave enough to stand up to the mighty PhRMA lobby, which seems to have as deep a lock on Washington as the gun lobby. Brill also makes the compelling argument for lowering the Medicare eligibility age, which I have argued over and over again here at C&L. The single biggest cost-saver for Medicare would be to drop the eligibility age, let people buy in until they actually reach retirement age, and then they would drop to the levels under the Social Security law.
By the way, Steve Brill is not by any stretch of the imagination some liberal socialist out to destroy capitalism. The man is a moderate conservative who has done quite well in the land of free enterprise, which made his declaration is a refreshing breath of intellectual honesty about health care in this country.
Brill makes compelling arguments, and I agree with every single one of them. What struck me about this exchange, however, was how George Will hijacked the conversation to talk about all the people in the whole United States who are nothing but a bunch of health care moochers! It's not the costs of health care, people! No, not at all. What we have in this country are a bunch of moochers who don't carry their own weight.
Here's Will, telling us all we mooch:
Here's an argument against that, for a different kind of reform, all the big numbers, billions and trillions, 12 cents is the most important number. 12 cents is the portion of every health care dollar paid by the person receiving the health care. Someone else is paying the rest. It was 47 cents 50 years ago when Jack Kennedy was president.
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