Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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Letters to the Editor

August 7, 2012

Here’s why health care is so costly

Some 25 years ago when I started the bad habit of writing letters to editors, I wondered why, if government of both Democrat and Republican tendency were so interested in “health care for all” through insurance, they never seemed to consider the novel idea of making insurance a tax deductible expense for we regular folks, only for employers as an expense covering their employees. I have never seen an answer to this simple question, only more and more demonization of the insurance industry (which presently deserves it for getting into bed with government, meanwhile giving their usually moronic  and totally useless CEOs 30 or more millions a year).

This is all clearly and simply explained in a short pamphlet by William C. Waters III, M.D., “Two Days that Ruined your Health Care.” I doubt that more than a very few of our illustrious lawmakers have ever read this pamphlet or anything similar, and have very little or no insight into the issue. Perhaps Ron Paul, his son Rand and a few others have.

The cost of medical care is grossly overvalued. A trip to the ER for a headache or small laceration can add up to many thousands. Part of this expense is because about half of ER visitors pay nothing, thus the hospital has to double the cost to paying patients. Another part is because ERs tend to do everything their little minds can think of to decrease the chance of “missing something” and being sued. That’s equivalent to winning the lottery for many ER visitors and their families. If you go in for a headache once a week for a year, you may end up with 52 CT brain scans.

Part is because of government rules requiring the gathering of all kinds of useless and unrelated information about the person visiting. Does it really matter if,  when you go in for a laceration, your grandmother had a heart attack when she was 60? Part of it is because it takes a billion dollars of research to get a drug approved through the FDA, and only one of 20 drugs ends up making a profit for the drug company, and half of those end up with some helpful attorney group offering to help you, or a loved one who have suffered erectile dysfunction or some other tragedy obtain monetary compensation.

Part of it is the fact that Medicare and Medicaid reimburse only a small part of the actual cost of their subscriber’s visit, which is grossly inflated as above, to the hospital, which passes the loss on to the few remaining paying customers. Part is because fools who know nothing of medicine or economics are writing the rules that hospitals and people live under. Hospitals go along to get along, particularly for-profit hospitals, which are elated that the (un) affordable health care act was approved.

Hopefully our next president will have enough common sense and integrity to improve this situation. The present one has only made it worse, but previous ones of either political party haven’t been much better.

Stephen DeGray M.D.

Bluefield, Va.

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