Thursday, August 20, 2009

You can’t watch the news or read a paper these days without the topic of health care reform coming up. It is hard to get through the rhetoric and decide what our legislators should do. I do know this: my family has been through several serious health issues in the last 18 years and they have had an impact on our bottom line. My daughter was diagnosed with leukemia when she was seven weeks old. She went through 28 months of chemotherapy and we are blessed to say she is cured. The bill for her first month of treatment, which did include a helicopter ride to Madison, a week in the ICU, surgery, numerous blood transfusions and several doses of chemotherapy, cost $52,000. Fast forward 18 years and this year my husband developed a herniated disc in his neck. He had outpatient surgery and was in and out of the hospital in 12 hours. The bill from the facility was $56,000. Just for the facility. Something is clearly out of line. We are fortunate to have health insurance through my husband’s employer who has felt the impact of our health woes as well. The company was dropped by their carrier the year after our daughter was diagnosed and when they found a new carrier, the rates were significantly higher. This resulted in a larger portion paid by the employees which meant less take home pay for all of them. Uwe Reinhardt had a commentary on the CNN website this week that was very informative. “Milliman Inc., an employee benefits consulting firm, publishes annually its Milliman Medical Index on the total health care spending by or for a typical American family of four with private health insurance. The index totals the family's out-of-pocket spending for health care plus the contribution employers and employees make to that family's job-related health insurance coverage. The Milliman Medical Index stood at $8,414 in 2001. It had risen to $16,700 by 2009. It is likely to rise to $18,000 by next year. That is more than a doubling of costs in the span of a decade!”
Uwe Reinhardt is James Madison professor of political economy at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School. From 1986 to 1995 he served as a commissioner on the Physician Payment Review Committee, established in 1986 by Congress to advise it on issues related to the payment of physicians.
I listen to people rant and rave and fear change. They say we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. I am still not sure what the answer is but we do need change and I think we need less shouting and more listening if we are going to solve this problem. Go to and click on commentary for the entire article. Susan

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