Saturday, November 24, 2012

Costs of Cancer Care

I have decided to do a series on health care costs. A friend sent me a link to an article on the cost of cancer care which is in two parts. And then it had links to more articles so now I am on a roll.

The first article is on healthcare financing and how we pay for our care and insurance. These articles are published on CancerNetwork.com which you will have to join to free of charge to read.

"Fundamental to questions centering on the expense of cancer care in particular and of healthcare in general, is the way in which Americans pay for the healthcare they consume. Most Americans are covered by some type of insurance, and consequently, when they consume healthcare they do not bear the full cost of the care they receive. That is the point of having insurance. We insure against healthcare losses just as we insure our cars and homes against loss.

However, because most private health insurance is an untaxed form of compensation, we spend more on it than we would if it were taxed like other goods and services. This year the tax expenditure, or foregone tax revenues, on employer-provided health insurance is $128 billion. Further, public programs like Medicare and Medicaid are also taxpayer-financed. Altogether, public health insurance and tax-preferred private insurance increase the demand for healthcare relative to the demand that would exist if the programs and more favorable tax treatment had not grown to their current levels.

The point here is that the healthcare advances, the types of technological improvements, and the total spending are all related to the particular financing arrangements that now exist. Though often onerous for patients, out-of-pocket cost-sharing accounts for less than 14% of total personal healthcare spending, while third-party payers account for more than 86%. The out-of-pocket shares for the components of spending on prescription drugs and on physicians are about 19% and 10%, respectively."

So if the true costs of our health care are hidden from us in tax exemptions, tax payer burden, and out of pocket payments, how do we really know what our costs are? I think we all feel our health care costs and national health care spending is too high and out of control. But if we do not even know what our real costs are, how do we cope with it? That is before the collection agencies and bankruptcy courts take away the rest of our money because of the mounting bills.

My feeling is that we need to take a close look at all of the healthcare system and how we pay for treatment, insurance, and absorb the costs of medical advances. This needs to be done systematically and individually. It can no longer be a piecemeal situation where the haves and the have-nots receive different levels of care simply because of what they can or cannot afford.

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