Friday, January 10, 2003

The Tooth Fairy Paid For My Prescription

One of the issues that is not raised often enough in the on-going debate on health care is that many Americans seem to view it as an entitlement that they are not responsible (at least directly) for paying for. They want the latest and best treatments and drugs available and howl when their co-pays go up by $5. Daniel Henniger addresses this today in a good piece at

Everyone's got a gripe about this subject, and this week the federal government poured its own can of gasoline into the cauldron with a report on 2001's spending Vesuvius. The average outlay on health care by every person in the U.S. was $5,035. Total outlays on doctors and their services: $313.6 billion. On hospitals: $451.2 billion. On drugs: $140.6 billion.

Interestingly, the rise in total outlays was not mainly because costs rose but for the quantity of medical care used. There is no other explanation: For Americans, consuming medicine and health has become a major pastime.

When politicians and policy makers meet now to talk about health care in America, they discuss it almost wholly as an interplay of economics, money and insurance. Theirs is a world of utilization rates, first-dollar coverage, provider profiles, outcomes and other such arcana. But for all the effort, if you look at the way we pay for health care today, there has been little real innovation around the subject in more than 100 years.

Gimme, gimme, gimme. More, more, more.

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