Is Healthcare Affordable?
We are in the middle of the 2016 presidential election season. The Republicans are calling for repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), whereas the Democrats are continuing to support it. John Geyman, MD, (a medical doctor) recently released a book about the ACA. In this issue of Alternative Medicine, we highlight some of his discussion. It’s a complicated subject, and I hope that Dr. Geyman will shed some light on it for you.
Despite the ACA, many in this country face a healthcare crisis. Recently, a family member of mine had a major surgery that resulted in an extended hospital stay (nearly 60 days). The initial hospital and doctor bills were more than $200,000. The insurance company continues to review all of the expenses. When it’s all processed, we expect the out-of-pocket expenses to be less than $5,000. Thank goodness for good health insurance! But many people are not that lucky; they can find themselves in medical debt that exceeds the mortgage on their home. And when consumers negotiate with healthcare providers directly, the providers may reduce costs based on ability to pay.
So what is the real cost of healthcare, after considering all of the negotiating? In a free-market world, pricing is determined by supply and demand, yet in healthcare, it seems prices are determined by the ability to pay. But moving to a free-market healthcare system could be problematic for the consumer. Can you imagine having to shop for the most competitive price for heart surgery? This concept just does not fit with healthcare.
Although politicians all claim to have the answer, they offer no real solutions. The Republicans have controlled the House and Senate for nearly four years, yet they have not offered any modifications to correct the system. Each candidate says they have a plan to reform healthcare, but no one puts one forth. I support the free-market system and support changes in how we purchase health insurance, but I wonder how that would affect healthcare costs.
This complex issue is becoming even more important as we age (10,000 baby boomers in the United States turn 65 years old every day). The ACA extended benefits to many; however, most state exchanges are under water. I encourage you to read Dr. Geyman’s article for further understanding.