Editorials Address US Health Care Costs

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Health Care Costs

The NewYork Timeson Wednesday published letters to the editor addressing a Nov. 25 editorialthat discusses rising health care costs in the U.S. and possible ways to improvethe nation's health care system. Summaries of several letters appear below.

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  • Marcia Angell: "I would certainly not agree with 'almost all economists' that 'the main driver of high medical spending here is our wealth,'" as the "per capita income of Americans is less than that of several European countries, and certainly not enough to explain our spending twice as much per capita on health care," Angell, a senior lecturer in social medicine at Harvard Medical School and a former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, writes in a Times letter to the editor. She continues, "Where we are unique is in leaving most of our health system to the tender mercies of profit-maximizing investor-owned businesses." While the Times is "right that Medicare-for-all 'is no panacea for the cost problem,'" the program "could easily be reformed. In any case, some sort of single-payer system will be necessary to control costs, even if not sufficient," Angell concludes (Angell, New York Times, 11/28).

  • Allan Ostergren: "The Times is right to call health care costs 'the worst long-term fiscal crisis facing the nation,'" Ostergren, director of the Institute for SocioEconomic Studies, writes in a Times letter to the editor, adding, "Although universal coverage could be cheaper to finance and easier to administer, few concur on how to preserve consumer choice or how to persuade the uninsured to buy into the system." Ostergren suggests that the solution would be to extend Medicare to all U.S. residents, "financed by an increase in the withholding tax and elimination of the tax subsidies for employee health insurance" (Ostergren, New York Times, 11/28).

  • Jan Warren-Findlow: The amount the U.S. spends on health care, "while troubling, should not be the main issue in the great health care debate," Warren-Findlow, an assistant professor of public health sciences at University of North Carolina-Charlotte, writes in a Times letter to the editor. She continues, "The focus should be on two things: one, the 47 million uninsured who cannot regularly participate in the health care system (not all of which is due to the high cost); and two, the poor state of our nation's health in comparison to other countries that spend far less in this area." She concludes, "We are the richest nation. First, let's allocate our economic, medical and research resources to provide good health to every American; then we can figure out how to do it cost-effectively" (Warren-Findlow, New York Times, 11/28).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health PolicyReport is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.

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