Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Opinion Roundup; Health Care Costs Are Sky-High in U.S

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Opinion Roundup; Health Care Costs Are Sky-High in U.S

Article excerpt

Look at the costs for medical procedures in the United States and there is something seriously wrong.

Why should costs be double or triple those of other Western nations?

A new report from the International Federation of Health Plans makes the dramatic case that medical costs in the United States are out of line.

Here are a few of the facts:

- In 2009, Americans spent $7,960 on health care.

- Canada: $4,808.

- Germany: $4,218.

- France: $3,978.

The survey from the Federation of Health Plans showed that there also is a wide difference in prices. Take the cost of a Caesarian section.

The commercial average in the U.S. is $14,374 - higher than eight other nations surveyed. Even the lowest commercial average of $10,137 was higher than the average in seven of the eight nations.

Even more dramatic differences between highs and lows were noted for common surgical procedures like appendectomies and hip replacements.

Ezra Klein, The Washington Post columnist, wrote that previous studies show that Americans do not use doctors or hospitals more often than those in other Western nations.

Prices are high because there is no real market. Consumers are mostly powerless.

As Tom Scully, former administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in The Wall Street Journal, " The only place that the government fixes prices - anywhere - is health care, in Medicare and Medicaid. ... It is a disaster, and that is the problem."

And that is one way that the prices can be forced down, by giving consumers the information, the power and the incentive to shop for health care.

OIL PRICES: WHO'S AT FAULT?

When oil prices skyrocketed in 2006, Americans blamed oil companies (31 percent) or the George W. Bush administration (25 percent), reports The Wall Street Journal.

Now? We're blaming the Obama administration (18 percent), oil companies (14 percent) and Iran/Middle East unrest (11 percent).

One fact that seems to be missed is that oil prices are set as a world market. Oil companies are multinationals.

CHARTING THE ECONOMY

The best way to describe the economy is slow growth or muddling through.

A series of charts released by the White House provides some useful snapshots.

The private sector is leading in job growth: Government employment is shrinking while the private sector employment has grown for 23 straight months. Corporate profits are up 76 percent since 2009.

Unemployment: Still too high, especially for the long-term unemployed.

Median household income: It has declined in the last decade. Housing still has not recovered, and since housing still is the largest investment of most families, its significance can't be exaggerated.

Industry: The auto industry has added over 200,000 jobs since the bailout. …

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