FROM THE CHAIRMAN
by Michael Gregory, M.D.
The Real Economics of Health Care
July 24, 2009
I constantly hear that we have long had a health care system we can’t afford. Health care “consumes” 16% of the current GDP of the United States. Our elected officials are telling us that we need “Change” and that we will pay for it by taxing high-income earners and all the savings this “Change” will bring. I say “Baloney.” This is the same as going out and buying something on sale and telling yourself how much you “saved.” The fact is you have less money. Add to this the fact I have not, in 44 years, seen the government pay for anything on cost reductions.
Has it occurred to anyone that we have the health care system we do because the customer demands it? In almost 20 years in medicine, I have not ever heard a patient come into the emergency room and exclaim, “Give me cheapest doctor you’ve got!” The fact is when it comes to life and death, our culture doesn’t care about cost. Even if the best most expensive care doesn’t work and you die, you’re off the hook financially. Is health care in the United States expensive? Absolutely. However, the consumer wants it and is willing to pay for it, even if they don’t like the fact that they have to.
Now on the feature presentation, the economics of health care. Have you ever stopped to think where all of this money goes? It goes to doctors, nurses, hospitals, drug companies, medical device companies, etc. All of these entities provide high paying, skilled jobs that our elected officials are so dead set on “saving or creating.” However, if we cut health care spending, it is a necessary FACT that we will cut the amount paid to some or all of the above entities; which by the way, are the very entities where all of these highly paid people work.
Our hospital clients are almost always the first or second largest employer in their towns; shut down the hospital and a whole lot of highly paid, educated individuals are out of a job. This is one reason that communities support their hospitals with tax dollars and fight so hard to keep them open even if they are losing money. Did you know that, behind Wal-Mart, Banner Health Care is the second largest employer in my home state of Arizona, and, according to the US Department of Labor, more people in the state of Michigan work in health care than in manufacturing?
What is the real economic difference between spending money at your doctor’s office, buying a prescription medication, or having a cardiac bypass versus going to the movies, buying a car, or paying $4 for 20 cents worth of coffee at Starbucks? Fact is all of these things cost money and when compared to coffee at Starbucks, health care is still one hell of a value. If you think of health care as a value added component of our economy and not some viscous tax on society you may see it for what it is: the single largest provider of high paying jobs in our country.
As you can see, every dollar spent on health care goes right back into the economy! Most importantly, it goes right back into OUR economy, not China, India or some other distant land. When you buy health care you are buying American health care. 100% of your money goes to support American jobs. A fact seemingly lost on our President and many in Congress.
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