Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Misconception - Universal coverage for all Americans will reduce costs

Unfortunately that is not the case; indeed it will create substantial added expenditures. Today we spend about $7500 per capita for medical care each year. That is built into our insurance whether it is commercial or Medicare along with co-pays and deductibles. In my view it is unfortunate that Congress has not done much to address the high and rising costs of medical care in the reform bills.

America is the only country in the developed world that does not have some system to ensure everyone of at least basic medical care coverage - shame on us. The bills in Congress now will mean that another 30 million individuals will have some form of insurance – this is certainly good. And those with pre-existing conditions will no longer be denied coverage. And that is certainly good as well. But offering coverage to all will cost someone, you and me, in taxes since the newly insured will presumably now expend the same $7500 each.

Certainly it is true that access to a physician for basic medical care will mean fewer visits to the ER, less hospitalizations, and better overall health for the individual. This will mean better medical care, a healthier population and it will reduce the cost of care some but there are still substantial real costs for getting medical care to 30 million of those not insured today. To think otherwise is to ignore reality.

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Praise for Dr Schimpff

The craft of science writing requires skills that are arguably the most underestimated and misunderstood in the media world. Dumbing down all too often gets mistaken for clarity. Showmanship frequently masks a poor presentation of scientific issues. Factoids are paraded in lieu of ideas. Answers are marketed at the expense of searching questions. By contrast, Steve Schimpff provides a fine combination of enlightenment and reading satisfaction. As a medical scientist he brings his readers encyclopedic knowledge of his subject. As a teacher and as a medical ambassador to other disciplines he's learned how to explain medical breakthroughs without unnecessary jargon. As an advisor to policymakers he's acquired the knack of cutting directly to the practical effects, showing how advances in medical science affect the big lifestyle and economic questions that concern us all. But Schimpff's greatest strength as a writer is that he's a physician through and through, caring above all for the person. His engaging conversational style, insights and fascinating treasury of cutting-edge information leave both lay readers and medical professionals turning his pages. In his hands the impact of new medical technologies and discoveries becomes an engrossing story about what lies ahead for us in the 21st century: as healthy people, as patients of all ages, as children, as parents, as taxpayers, as both consumers and providers of health services. There can be few greater stories than the adventure of what awaits our minds, bodies, budgets, lifespans and societies as new technologies change our world. Schimpff tells it with passion, vision, sweep, intelligence and an urgency that none of us can ignore.

-- N.J. Slabbert, science writer, co-author of Innovation, The Key to Prosperity: Technology & America's Role in the 21st Century Global Economy (with Aris Melissaratos, director of technology enterprise at the John Hopkins University).