Blog Post: The Price vs. the Cost of Health Care

Increasingly, the problem of health care “prices” is replacing the problem of health care “costs.”  That may sound like a meaningless distinction, but consider the opening sentence of the “Cost of Treatment May Influence Doctors,” an article in todays New York Times:

“Saying they can no longer ignore the rising prices of health care, some of the most influential medical groups in the nation are recommending that doctors weigh the costs, not just the effectiveness of treatments, as they make decisions about patient care.”

The focus, in other words, is not only society-wide health care costs as a percentage of GDP, but the price of particular interventions for particular patients.  The very premise of this lead, however, is both entirely unremarkable and extraordinarily concerning.

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Jacobin: The Neoliberal Turn in American Health Care

Last year’s three-ring Congressional shutdown circus — for many little more than a desperate rearguard action by an isolated rightwing fringe to undo the fait accompli of Barack Obama’s health care reform — reinforced with each passing day the gaudy dysfunction of the American political system. But we miss something crucial if we construe the perseverance of Barack Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) as nothing more than the overdue victory of commonsense health care reform over an irrelevant and intransigent right, or, even more, as the glorious culmination of a progressive dream for American universal health care long deferred.  In Jacobin here.

Salon: A pro- single payer doctor’s concerns about Obamacare

As a single-payer advocate who is also a doctor, I was concerned after the Affordable Care Act was passed that it didn’t do enough to combat rising underinsurance. A recent study by the Commonwealth Fund, which used new data to demonstrate that in 2012 some 31.7 million Americans were underinsured (i.e. insured, but still with heavy additional out-of-pocket health care expenses), argued that the burden of underinsurance will likely lessen as the ACA fully unfolds. But is there really reason for such optimism?  See the article here in Salon.

Dissent: The Twilight of the British Public Health System?

Less than two years after the fall of Nazi Germany, a bankrupt Britain—reeling from the most destructive war in history and living under conditions of stark austerity—elected to create an extraordinary system of universal health care, the National Health Service (NHS) …

My article on the ongoing assault in the Spring 2014 issue of Dissent is available here.

Blog: Underinsured in the Commonwealth?

There has been much talk in recent weeks about the ability of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) not only to reduce uninsurance, but also underinsurance, which is the state of being inadequately insured, such that medical expenses remain a threat to one’s financial health.

The health care reform that Massachusetts launched in 2006 to no small degree provided the model on which the ACA is based.  Therefore, the current state of affairs in the Commonwealth provides a good basis for predicting the impact of the ACA.  Such an evaluation, unfortunately, gives grounds for pessimism on the issue of underinsurance.

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