Monday, January 30, 2012
Health Care’s Uneven Road to a New Era
Consider what it would be like to have a health insurance plan that capped annual benefits at $2,000. For any medical care costing more than that, you would have to pay out of pocket
Examples of care that costs more than $2,000 — and often a lot more — include virtually any cancer treatment, any heart surgery, a year’s worth ofdiabetes treatment and care for many broken bones. Even a single M.R.I.exam can cost more than $2,000. A typical hospital stay runs thousands of dollars more.
So does this insurance plan sound like part of the solution for the country’s health care system — or part of the problem?
A $2,000 plan happens to be one of the main plans thatMcDonald’s offers its employees. It became big news last week, when The Wall Street Journal reported that the company was worried the plan would run afoul of a provision in the new health care law. In response to the provision, McDonald’s threatened to drop the coverage altogether, until the Obama administration signaled it would grant some exemptions.
This episode was only the latest disruption that the health law seems to be causing. Also last week, the Principal Financial Group said it was getting out of the health insurance business, while other insurers have said they might stop offering certain types of coverage. With each new disruption come loud claims — some from insurance executives — that the health overhaul is damaging American health care.
On the surface, these claims can sound credible. But when you dig a little deeper, you often discover the same lesson that the McDonald’s case provides: the real problem was the status quo.
American families spend almost twice as much on health care — through premiums, paycheck deductions and out-of-pocket expenses — as families in any other country. In exchange, we receive top-notch specialty care in many areas. Yet on the whole, we do not get much better care than countries that spend far less.