Custom «National Health Care» Essay Paper Sample
National health care and its current policies have been a major source of debate for economists these past few years. Propositions from leading economic research institutes and individuals range from reform ideas of existing policy to completely new and innovative strategies. So, out of this slew of ideas and proposals, which ones prove to be the best? In addition, what can the average American expect to see happen to their health and medical costs in the years ahead and who will benefit the most from new and improved health care policies? Alas, one concrete answer to both these questions yet eludes researchers; however they have developed two major ideas of health care reform: cost sharing and consumer directed health care. Research results from both the Rand and Brookings institutes’ shows that these just may be the most effective and efficient methods to manage this nation’s health.
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Heath care as it stands today has some benefits and more than its fair share of problems. There are three core issues with our current health care policies: cost, availability, and quality. Costs associated with Medicare are expected to increase much faster than the costs for social security, an expansive issue that will affect all out of pocket expenses for all Americans. Availability of health care refers to the large amount of people that go uninsured because they simply cannot afford health coverage. Lastly, even though Americans overall pay more than many other nations for health and medical issues, our quality of health care does not reflect this (“Does it Take A Commission”, Sawhill).
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So how much does the average person’s pay for health care in America? Well in 1965 the costs were divided in half between the insurance company and the consumer. Today, this cost would have roughly been 483 dollars out of pocket for deductibles, co-payments, and anything not covered under insurance policies. In 2006, the average out of pocket costs totaled around 837 dollars, which shows that across 41 years this average cost has yet to double, as national health care spending has increased exponentially. As it stands, in 2006 the normal household paid only around one eight of its total health care expenses. Benefits associated with these increased costs include extended coverage to those who were without it, more comprehensive benefits and an overall better state of national health. However many remain concerned about if they are getting the most for their money and a significant amount of people may encounter numerous health care related financial risks (“The Hamilton Project”, pg 1)
Before cost sharing can be implemented however, cost consciousness must be taken into factor. Should this be established and used effectively, it could reduce the cost of health to a rather fair amount. If cost consciousness is correctly utilized it therefore stands to reduce health care premiums and reduce the amount of people currently uninsured by reducing costs and only exposing people to small, manageable bills rather than those that tally very high amounts. In addition, through utilizing rewards and incentives for both patient and provider, it may boost the national health level overall. In the end, effective cost consciousness will reduce expenses, improve health, and shield people from some health care related finical dangers. (“The Hamilton Project” pg 7)
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No policy lack chances of fault and possibility of it being disadvantageous due to its nature of cost consciousness. While it may make health insurance more affordable for everyone and reduce financial risk associated with health issues, we must face the risk of amplified spending that falls extremely short of catastrophic levels. Since we cannot predict when and where this risk will take place, some people will be better off than others. In the end it is up to the individual to make their decisions about these trade-offs, which is the goal of effective cost consciousness. Also, it’s foolish to think that there is one cure all approach to our nation’s health care issues, for no one policy could account for all the different aspects involved (The Hamilton Project pg 9).
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So what exactly is cost sharing? Well, it’s simply an approach to maximize output for input, or making sure each dollar paid for health care is used in the most efficient manner. Also, this would regulate what care is offered to each individual based on their own needs. In order to accomplish this, “familiar managed care techniques” like offering incentives to providers that make them share a portion of treatment costs; will cut back on money wasted on excessive medical care that just isn’t necessary. Additionally, a “pay-for-performance” procedure would reward medics and health care providers for achieving major strides in health care. Finally if supply and demand can work mutually well, it could result in better coverage then the horrendous nature that is the HMO. (The Hamilton Project pgs 8-9)
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Cost sharing has always been a very important factor in the amplification of insurance cover in the United States. Primarily; public health plans have expanded their coverage across the last 40 or so years. Total cost-sharing rates have actually been reduced by about ten percent since 1965 with the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid, and these programs still reduce the rate today. With the increased number of participators in these programs, the rate of cost sharing has been reduced even more. However, with states beginning to boost sharing in these programs, sharing rates will undoubtedly be influenced by this. Next, although cutbacks and such have been publicized to wide acclaim, most private insurance companies aspire to create the most compressive benefits packages that they can muster. Nowadays, items that were separate costs; for example ambulatory services, doctor visits, and prescription drugs, are beginning to fall under normal insurance policies coverage plans. Lastly, cost sharing has pushed private insurance toward managed care enabled many companies to place people in plans that offered relatively low costs and deductibles (“The Hamilton Project” pgs 12-13).
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Overall, the general effect of increasing cost sharing is to reduce lax spending and has had no severe impact on health outcomes as a whole. Those who ranged from mid to high levels of income still retained about the same level of healthiness (or unhealthiness) as they had before cost sharing was introduced into their coverage policies. Although, those who have an extremely low income showed signs of poorer health then before cost sharing was introduced into their health plans. On the plus side, plans with the greatest cost sharing showed less time taken off of work due to illness or injury. Overall while maintaining some imperfections, when cost sharing was introduced into people’s health plans, it helped boost the standard of health on average (“The Hamilton Project” pg 23).
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Consumer directed health care (CDHC) is yet another possible solution to reforming our national health coverage. This plan incorporates a high cost deductible that is combined with a “tax-advantaged savings account”. CDHC places most costs of regular medical care onto the individual rather than the employer shouldering the bulk of the responsibility. By design, this persuades consumers to spend more efficiently and in turn, will make health care providers increase their standards of medical care. Through doing this, CDHC both bolsters the quality of medical care available and keeps cost growth at a sedate rate. Economists argue that this plan will help reduce lax spending because the consumer is in control of their own money as well as seeking out only quality providers. Critics of this plan propose that the individual cannot obtain the necessary information to reliably choose the best provider for their unique situations. Also, they worry that this plan will bring a large number of wealthy and healthy families away from traditional health coverage, leading to higher costs for those who either choose to remain in a traditional plan or cannot afford to move out of one (“Consumer Directed Health Care”).
The number of people in CHDC health plans has been on the rise. A survey conducted in 2006 showed that nearly 3.2 million people are a part of a CDHC plan, which is almost triple the amount from the previous year. Studies have predicted an estimated 30 million people will be in or a part of a CDHC health plan in the next decade. In addition, members of these plans were found to be both slightly healthier and wealthier than those in a different health plan (“Consumer Directed Health Care”).
Typically, CDHC plans reduced health care costs for those involved in them. Personal taxed favored accounts, such as a saving account for health care issues, are used in order to reduce spending at the individual level as well as out of pocket expenses. When compared to HMO or PPO health coverage, CDHC plans lowered general spending on medical services, called for marginal premium increases, and less use of medical services, reflecting a better standard of health (“Consumer Directed Health Care”).
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Evidence of a CDHC plan’s overall impact on the quality of care however, is varied. Studies into CDHC plans showed more people using precautionary treatments and sticking to prescribed therapy. However other studies depicted that many people in CDHC plans are extremely money conscious and may skip a test or to two save a few dollars, which could lead to developing serious medical issues down the road. Also, the satisfaction of many CDHC members is somewhat lacking, for many feel that their prior health plans were better than their current CDHC plan (“Consumer Directed Health Care”).
In summary, our national health care plan has its issues and economists are hard at work developing new and ingenious methods in order to overcome them. Whether we choose cost sharing or consumer directed health care or neither is up to the public. However, our nation as a whole needs to become more health conscious and get the ball rolling on a decisive plan for our country’s health plan’s future. As it stands today, average adults receive about half of the required medical care in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and the risk for below average care can be found in any community or neighborhood, however on the whole, the quality of care remains constant throughout the United States. In order to raise the standard of care across the nation, new technologies as well as improvement incentives for companies must be developed (“The First National Report Card on…”). As these new technologies and new innovations are developed for better and more efficient medical care we must ask ourselves however, can everyone equally afford and have access to them. In the end it is up to the individual American to decide where our health care issues end because, after all it’s our money and our health were entrusting the government with and I for one want to know what the future holds for them both.