Healthcare costs will increase and continue increasing

Articles and speeches about rising healthcare costs are becoming more frequent. Witch-hunts to identify who among the providers of health care are the main culprits follow. Who is it that cruelly seeks to make excessive profits out of the pain and suffering of the ill and dying?

In an interview with Geoff Colvin (Fortune magazine March, 15, 2010), Delos Cosgrove, CEO of the Cleveland Clinic chain of non-profit medical centres in the US revealed what he called a “dirty little secret”. “Regardless of what happens with health-care reform legislation, the costs are going to go up. We have more elderly people, and we can do more for them. So regardless of what happens, we can really only try to contain the rate of inflation. The cost is going to go up over time”. The “other side of the equation,” he said, is “suffering has gone down, diseases have gone down. Deaths from heart disease in the past 15 years have gone down 30%. That’s tremendous progress.”

Dr Cosgrove knows his subject. According to the article, in 2009 the Cleveland Clinic had 4.2 million patient visits, revenue of $5.5 billion, patients from 80-plus countries, 2,000 doctors and patients on its staff, and carried out 4,000 heart transplants and 170 lung transplants.

Crucial issues that do not receive adequate attention in discussions about healthcare costs are that:

· The primary responsibility for my health care lies with me and with no one else.
· I am totally responsible for paying all the costs related to any illness I may suffer.
· It is my responsibility to attempt to cover myself against medical expenses related to catastrophic events that may occur in my life.
· If I wish to remain healthy I have to ensure that I follow a nutritious and healthy diet.
· I must exercise to keep myself healthy.
· I must avoid habits and activities that are harmful to my health.
· If I ignore all of the above I must not look to my fellow citizens to pay the costs of my irresponsibility.
· I have no right to expect my fellow citizens to bear the cost of my wellness or welfare.
· My fellow citizens have no right to band together to force others to pay the costs of my healthcare – no matter how concerned they might be for my well-being the initiation of force to supposedly do “good” is bad.
· I would be most grateful for anything they may volitionally do for me out of generosity.

There is no doubt that if everyone were to follow my personal healthcare creed, costs would decline and the “healthcare problem” would diminish substantially. The probability that they will not, is where a great deal more debate should occur. Mention of my own creed is a reaction to spiraling costs of healthcare and what the individual can do about it. It is not about the most desirable public policies to deal with healthcare for the poor. That is an entirely different debate.

Author: Eustace Davie is a director of the Health Policy Unit (a division of the Free Market Foundation). This article may be republished without prior consent but with acknowledgement to the author. The views expressed in the article are the author’s.

HPU Feature Article: 4 March 2010

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