Wayne's Words: There is a way to lower Healthcare cost

Wayne Horne | 12/8/2016, 6 a.m.
The long national debate over the Affordable Care Act seems destined to continue even after January 20 next year. That’s ...

The long national debate over the Affordable Care Act seems destined to continue even after January 20 next year. That’s when the new president takes office. Congress is actually seated on January 3 according to the 20th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The probable reason the debate will continue is there is no concrete plan to replace the healthcare plan commonly known as “Obamacare.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, most recent report on healthcare spending in the U.S. shows the big picture numbers. In 2015 healthcare spending in the U.S. reached $3.2 trillion. When that is broken down into more understandable dollars it means that the cost to each of us, every man, woman and child, is $9,990 annually or $832 per month. Put another way, if the amount you are paying for yourself and each member of your family every month is less than $832 per month, you are not paying your fair share.

Now that I have your attention, maybe you can begin to grasp the problem. The cost of healthcare has doubled in the last 15 years. The per capita cost of health expenditures in 1960 was $125 according to CMS recently released data. The per capita cost by 1990 had escalated to $2425. In just 25 years the cost of healthcare has risen more than 312 percent.

If you believe you’re paying more out of pocket for medical treatment it might surprise you that, as a percentage, the cost is less than it was last year. Health insurance pays about 78 percent of all personal healthcare costs.

Medicare and Medicaid account for more than 37 percent of health expense. Health spending in 2015 came from four major sources: the federal government paid 29 percent, households 28 percent, private businesses 20 percent, and local governments 17 percent.

One of our own local governments, the City of Joliet, spends a lot on health insurance for the employees. The 2016 Budget shows a line item for employee health expenses of $17.8 million. That’s a 10.3 percent increase over last year’s cost. The cost for each employee in 2016, not including dependents, is $885 per month according to February 2016 Resolution passed by the City Council.

The point of all of this info is that the U.S. spends $832 per capita, per month on healthcare. There are several ways that cost can be lowered. Reduce the waste and fraud in the system. Pay providers such as hospitals and doctors less than we do now. Limit the expense anyone can have for healthcare. Or simply be prepared to expect less quality in our healthcare.

As it stands there is no “better plan that costs less.” Most major economies of the world have healthcare systems that cost less and have better outcomes for their citizens. Those are the facts the numbers reveal.

One last thing… the U.S. Constitution has gotten a lot of scrutiny over the last year or so. What it says and what it doesn’t say oftentimes depends on who’s doing the talking. I recently consulted my pocket copy of the Constitution (yes, I have one) for a little info and came across a partial list of amendments that didn’t get ratified. Here’s a few: an attempt to abolish the United States Senate; limiting personal wealth to $1 million; and limiting personal income tax to 25 percent.

One final note on the Constitution: the word “democracy” does not appear once in the document.

Stay tuned…