Health care costs are the key to deficit reduction

By Thomas Clairmont, M.D.
Portsmouth (N.H.) Herald, Letters, Dec. 27, 2013

Sen. Susan Collins' editorial, "Bipartisan budget moves economy forward," (Portsmouth Herald, Dec. 22) states that this accord will save $23 billion over the next decade. She is so impressed by this figure that she mentions it twice. During this period, our government will spend over $45 trillion. This "savings" is the proverbial drop in the bucket. Right now, our national debt is increasing at a whopping $2.64 billion every day, $2 million every second. Her "savings" will be gone in nine days. At the end of this 10-year period, the national debt will be $23.5 trillion. We will be hearing that we shouldn't be spending money we don't have, that this debt is unsustainable, and about how the debt we are leaving our children and grandchildren is shameful. Once the election is over, the spending will continue on to infinity.

Meanwhile, a serious proposal by economics professor Gerald Friedman of the University of Massachusetts Amherst gets no press at all. He said, "Under the single-payer system created by HR 676, the U.S. could save an estimated $592 billion annually by slashing the administrative waste associated with the private insurance industry ($476 billion) and reducing pharmaceutical prices to European levels ($116 billion). In 2014, the savings would be enough to cover all 44 million uninsured and upgrade benefits for everyone else. No other plan can achieve this magnitude of savings on health care."

This proposal "would cost less for 95 percent of households and reduce the deficit by $154 billion in the first year," according to Friedman.

Republicans have a deficit of ideas on health care reform that actually help people. Here is a thoughtful opportunity for Sen. Collins.

Dr. Thomas Clairmont resides in Portsmouth.