British and Canadian citizens often encounter extended waits — days, weeks, months — for medical treatment. In our system, patients have customized health insurance plans to meet specific needs. Doctors are in ample supply and hospitals boast of cutting edge equipment. Patient choice drives the free market to constant improvement. The current debate to reform our system is a case in point.
As the debate develops, three issues must be addressed.
First, health care in our country is enormously expensive. Last year, we spent $2 trillion on health care. It accounts for over 15% of our GDP — an inconceivable amount of money.
Second, much of that cost can be avoided through modernizing the system. Health care personnel are educated professionals and able to effectively use new Web-based computer technologies that could save literally hundreds of billions of dollars every year.
Third, costs can be dramatically cut through continued tort reform efforts. There is an entire industry of trial lawyers out there who make multi-million dollar incomes off medical malpractice cases. One wealthy trial lawyer is even running for president. As a result, doctors routinely order unneeded tests or unnecessarily powerful medicines that cost thousands of dollars in order to avoid a paper trail that could be used against them in court. Doctors are under a constant threat in the current system. Every dollar these trial lawyers earn results in doctors having to raise prices on treatments for you.
As care becomes more expensive, fewer people can afford coverage. There are now 47 million Americans without health coverage, and the high cost is the reason for many of them. But even they are not going without care. Many of them are using emergency rooms as their primary care physicians, and thus driving up the cost of health care for everyone.
The next president must have a realistic solution to this problem. And this week’s news raised the stakes.