DENNIS SEID: Health care won't be any less expensive

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

Few would argue that having health insurance is a bad thing. With millions of people contributing premiums, it spreads the risk and cost of health care coverage. Some people need more health care, others not as much.
While the rate of growth in health care costs has slowed, it hasn’t gotten any less expensive for you or me.
So what happens when you throw an additional 30 million people onto the rolls?
Supporters and opponents of the Affordable Care Act have their ideas of what will happen. And, no surprise, both sides are spinning the argument in their favor.
The Kaiser Family Foundation said the law’s measures aimed at curbing costs haven’t taken effect. Kaiser believes that the law will force insurance companies to compete on “value” to help bring down costs.
President Obama also said the 250 million people who already have coverage will get to keep it.
However, as The Associated Press points out, “nothing in the law ensures that people happy with their policies can keep them. Employers will continue to have the right to modify coverage or even drop it, and some are expected to do so as more insurance alternatives become available. … Nor is there any guarantee that coverage will become cheaper, despite the subsidies many people will get.”
The AP takes a swipe at Mitt Romney’s claim that “Obamacare” raises taxes by $500 billion, what he and many say is “the largest tax increase in history.”
According to the AP, the tax increases fall heavily on upper-income people, health insurance companies, drugmakers and medical device manufacturers.
Individuals making more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000 will pay 0.9 percent more in Medicare payroll tax and a 3.8 percent tax on investments. Sounds fair enough.
But will that really make it less of a burden on the rest of us?
If insurance companies, drugmakers and medical device makers have to pay a bigger share, doesn’t it make sense that they’ll pass those added costs to us?
Health spending in the U.S. already takes up 18 percent of our gross domestic product, the highest among the 34 countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Members include many of the world’s most “advanced” countries, plus emerging countries like Mexico, Chile and Turkey.
Don’t get me wrong. Having health care insurance is one thing; getting (affordable) health care is another.
It’s too bad a 2,000-page bill was shoved down the throats of Congress with the details to be sorted out later.
And those details typically mean it costs more for the rest of us. Working on the “affordable” part should have been the first priority before hoping we can “afford” to add another 30 million people.
Dennis Seid is the business editor at the Daily Journal. Reach him at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@journalinc.com.