Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Make Me Whole

I am back from the midwest visiting my recuperating one-legged mom and encounter Robert Samuelson's draconian statistics boogie. This drives me nuts:
Another reason is the skewing of health spending toward the very sick; 10 percent of patients account for two-thirds of spending. Regardless of income, people get thrust onto a conveyor belt of costly care: long hospital stays, many tests, therapies and surgeries.

That includes the uninsured. In 2008, their care will cost about $86 billion, estimates a study for the Kaiser Family Foundation. The uninsured pay about $30 billion themselves; the rest is uncompensated. Of course, no sane person wants to be without health insurance, and the uninsured receive less care and, by some studies, suffer abnormally high death rates. But other studies suggest only minor disadvantages for the uninsured. One study compared the insured and uninsured after the onset of a chronic illness -- say, heart disease or diabetes. Outcomes differed little. After about six months, 20.4 percent of the insured and 20.9 percent of the uninsured judged themselves "better"; 32.2 percent of the insured and 35.2 percent of the uninsured rated themselves "worse." The rest saw no change.
Who else would you spend health dollars on but the sick? Don't "abnormally high death rates" for the uninsured somewhat trump "minor disadvantages" no matter the study? And those "outcome" numbers he's smacking me in the face with? Do they take into consideration what devastation, other than health, is visited upon those who receive care without adequate coverage? Say losing a house or savings to pay for that financially equitable health care.  What exactly is he suggesting?

The author must be insured.

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