Guest Opinions

Unregulated medical costs are the root of health care problem

Darwin Roy
Darwin Roy

We have a crises in health care. It’s not the cost of health insurance. It’s the cost of health care. Americans spend more than any other country for health care, about 17.1 percent of our GDP. Canada spends 10.4 percent, Germany 11.3 percent, Japan 10.2 percent and France 11.5 percent. Our per-capita health care cost is 2  1/2 times the average of the other developed countries. When U.S. companies compete in the world market they face a 6 or 7 percent disadvantage, not because of tax differences, but because of health care cost differences.

So does that give us the best health care system in the world? Far from it. We rank 37th in health care outcomes compared to the rest of the world. Compared to other developed countries the United States ranks 11th out of 11.

These issues are not the result of the Affordable Care Act or any other laws. They are the result of unregulated health care costs. Pharmaceuticals that can cost hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands per year, often priced as high as the market will tolerate. MRIs prescribed for issues that likely don’t require MRIs. Outpatient surgery that was four hours from check-in to check-out that cost $10,000. I know, I was the patient.

Insurance costs under the ACA went up because more people were getting health care, people who would have used emergency rooms for primary care, or just died. In the late 1980s the conservative Heritage Foundation proposed requiring everyone to have health insurance as a means of promoting early care and reducing dependence on emergency room visits for primary care. This would also expand the insurance pool, key to bringing down insurance costs. That plan, initially a Republican plan, was adopted into the ACA, Obamacare. Over time the ACA might bring down cost and improve health care outcomes. But it hasn’t had enough time to know.

So the question we should ask isn’t should we repeal the ACA and maybe replace it with a Republican version. The questions we should ask are what are our expectations for health care? Do we believe, as a nation, that health care should be restricted to those who can afford it? Or do we believe that everyone should have access to health care? If we believe that everyone should have access, the second question is, how do we get some control over the rising cost of health care? If we believe that everyone should have access to health care we have to accept that government will necessarily have to provide funding for those who can’t afford it. But allowing costs to rise in an unrestricted fashion will eventually lead to unsustainable costs.

I ask everyone, Democrat and Republican, to understand that those are the questions we need to ask and answer. It’s time for both political parties to sit down together to answer those questions, and work on answers. Time has passed for our representatives to simply go to their respective corners of the ring and do battle.

Darwin Roy, of Mayfield, is a retired businessman and the former owner of Clima-Tech Corp., a temperature control company with offices in Boise and Portland.