Restructure our economically unsustainable health care system

By Ed Weisbart, M.D.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Letters, Sept. 16, 2014

If public policy decisions were driven by good business sense, the United States would long ago have stopped wasting so much of our health care dollar on the preservation of an irrational insurance industry. With millions remaining uninsured despite 17.6 percent of our gross domestic product being devoted to health care, we must restructure our economically unsustainable system.

New information from a multinational research team reveals yet another piece of information about the United States: More than a quarter (25.3 percent) of our hospital spending is dedicated to administration. Scotland and Canada, whose single-payer systems pay hospitals global operating budgets, with separate grants for capital, had the lowest administrative costs at 11.6 percent and 12.4 percent respectively. Other developed nations form a spectrum varying with their nation’s particular model for health care finance.

If our hospital finance system were as efficient as Canada’s, we would have saved more than $150 billion in 2011.

It’s difficult to see the value we gain by continuing to carry these costs. Our life expectancy lags other developed nations', millions of us remain without access to affordable care, and we live with the unique fear that one major illness can force us into bankruptcy.

The uniquely American solution is hiding in plain sight: Improve Medicare and provide it to all Americans.

Dr. Ed Weisbart resides in Olivette, Mo.