Exercise, Not Insurance, the Key to Good Health

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), April 6, 2015 | Go to article overview

Exercise, Not Insurance, the Key to Good Health


Byline: Reginald Jensen For The Register-Guard

Any discussion of health care costs always turns to how someone else must take responsibility for them.

The March 27 guest viewpoint by Roger Hite is a good example. Medical care becomes more expensive every year - not only in the United States, but also in Europe. Hite's theme was that the nation should first revise the Affordable Care Act and then replace it with a single-payer system, under the theory it would reduce costs.

In 2002, England boasted that the costs for its single-payer plan for those older than 64 decreased in relation to the costs for younger people. But the reason was that the majority of those older than 64 avoided seeking care. If someone had a medical problem other than a heart attack, the average wait time for health care was 123 days, and in some cases 450 days. The average wait time for elective surgery was 365 days. These results exclude all people who withdrew from the system, or had been waiting for more than four years before 2002.

Wait times in the United States typically average one or two weeks for non-elective surgery, and six to eight weeks for elective surgery.

Hite suggests that Medicare be replaced by a single-payer plan, and he implies that costs will be reduced. He said, "The government does, in fact, do an exemplary job of managing the Medicare program."

However, the cost for medical care for those older than 64 in the United States ranges from double to four times the cost of care in Europe. The costs in the United States for all medical care, other than Medicare, are about the same as in Europe. Costs in Europe are rising at a rate higher than in the United States.

The average health insurance premium in the United States for a single person younger than 65 in 2013 was $5,884 per year, and for family coverage the premium was $16,351 per year.

The average cost of medical care for those older than 64 is $24,000 ($12,251 paid by Medicare) per year, or $48,000 ($24,502 paid by Medicare) per couple. Most older couples can't afford $48,000 a year, which means younger people must pay for some of it under Hite's or any other proposal.

Executive salaries aren't the problem. Joseph Belth, publisher of the Insurance Forum in Indiana, listed more than 1,000 insurance company executives with salaries of at least $1 million a year in 2012. …

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