Symposium 2011: Even before Obamacare, the cost of healthcare had been skyrocketing. What do you feel is the cause of the high healthcare costs? If Obamacare were to be repealed, what solutions do you feel would create downward pressure on healthcare costs?

Cartwright: As I recall, we talked about this four or five years ago when I participated in the last symposium, well before the American people had Obamacare shoved down their throats.  This just goes to show how stupid some people in Washington really are.  Medicare has trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities.  It has the capacity to bankrupt America. Obviously, Medicare isn’t working too well.  So, in their infinite wisdom, they decide to force through a massive healthcare bill for everyone else that isn’t going to work any better than Medicare.  It’s disgusting and insulting to the intelligence of the American people.


I have long supported the need for more affordable health care.  Premiums for consumers went up because of frivolous lawsuits that drove up malpractice insurance and the need to subsidize the costs of health care for the uninsured.  If you don’t have insurance and you got to emergency room, they’re going to treat you.  They won’t turn you away.  If you can’t pay, however, the hospital isn’t just going to eat that.  No, they’re going to find a way to pass along that cost to everyone else who has insurance or who has the capacity to pay the bill.


In addition, as was previously mentioned, we need to open up the insurance markets to competition across state lines.  That will help reduce the cost of health insurance as well.  There’s also massive fraud in the health care system.  People don’t want to talk about how doctors are scamming the insurance companies, but it happens each and every day.


We also need to focus on preventative health care which help combat longer term and more costly needs.  I think one of the biggest things is that Americans need to reassess their lifestyles.  They’ve become fat and lazy.  Poor diet and lack of exercise come at a cost, and that cost is usually in the form of more frequent health care needs.


I don’t think the government needs to be in the business of health care at any level.  But if they want to help, let’s scrap Obamacare and the government can set up an insurer of last resort.  In essence, they have various health care plans that you can purchase, in all likelihood at costs less than other insurers.  All they’re doing is basically adding competition into the market.  But again, you have to purchase the health care coverage.  The government plan premiums can be means tested or income based.  They can accept whoever they want without regard for pre-existing conditions.


There are many options that don’t necessitate an individual mandate and that don’t create a massive liability for the American tax payers.  I think we should explore those options instead of letting the government make the decisions for us.


I will say that there is one thing that surprises me and disappoints me.  At the last symposium I discussed a trend in several large retailers like Wal-Mart, Walgreen, and CVS to have physician assistants, nurse practitioners, or actual doctors in their in-house “clinics” offering care for minor illnesses.  I think they were offering these services at very reasonable prices and as an attractive alternative to going to the hospital emergency room for treatment of colds, flu, etc.  I really and truly believe that there is enormous potential for health care savings through an expansion of these in-house clinics.  It’s pretty simple yet ingenious.  Let’s say you get feeling bad, you may be coming down with a cold or sinus infection or something like that.  You have insurance that has a $20 co-pay for a doctor’s visit and a higher deductible if you go to the hospital emergency room.  If the in-house clinic is only going to charge you $20 for the consultation and you can get any medication right there, I think most people are going to opt for that as opposed to going to the hospital or their normal doctor.  Honestly, I think even those who go to the hospital as their primary care could afford the $20 visit to the in-house clinic.  I wholeheartedly support any expansion of these efforts to bring health care at lower costs.


Ultimately, as I said in my comments about Social Security, this is an issue of personal responsibility.  I don’t think we as tax payers should be paying for someone else’s health care.  Let’s make health care affordable and have options for everyone.  Look, many people who are uninsured right now can’t afford the high insurance premium and don’t go to the doctor because they can’t afford the high cost of health care.  Most people would be willing to pay if it weren’t so expensive.  Let’s give consumers more choices, bring down the cost of insurance, and bring down the cost of actual health care services.


RMC:  Frivolous malpractice lawsuits are one problem.  They drive up the cost of malpractice insurance which the doctors pass onto to customers (private payers and insurance companies).  The insurance companies pass along the costs to customers.  To a small degree, people with insurance have to subsidize those who do not have health insurance and seek treatment at hospitals and emergency rooms.  The insurance market isn’t very competitive.  There are restrictions on where insurance companies can sell.  If you’re in Florida and an insurance company in Texas has a better plan, you probably can’t get it.


Here’s a classic example.  I live in South Carolina and have a health insurance policy.  My uncle lives here in Florida and has a thirteen year old daughter.  Their health insurance for both of them and a comparable plan is less expensive, about 75% less expensive, than my plan and I’m in good shape and healthy.  But, I can’t get the plan down here in Florida since I live in South Carolina.  We need to open up the insurance markets.  Competition will drive down prices.


In addition, the sad reality is that we’re not a very healthy society.  A vast majority of the population has a horrible diet and doesn’t get any exercise.  This leads to a whole host of possible health problems that need treated.  Healthy people require less treatment and care, which is less expensive than those who are sickly and require much care.  Preventative health care is another great way of bringing down costs.  I was talking to some friends from Canada recently and they gave me a great example.  Evidently, residents of Toronto get free flu shots each year paid for by the government.  The government did a study and found out it was cheaper to give everyone a free flu shot than to treat those who ended up getting the flu.  Well, why can’t we take that as an example as to the benefits of preventative health care.


And finally, as I mentioned earlier, I think stem cell research is an important mechanism by which to treat and cure some diseases that require expensive health care.  There’s great potential for treating diseases such as Alzheimer’s, spinal cord injuries, etc.


Sydney:  A simple answer, although partly correct, is that sick people are the cause of skyrocketing healthcare costs. The main reason is that our healthcare system is grossly inefficient. I read an article recently that said a big problem is the lack of primary care (and preventative measures) and the overuse of expensive, and often unnecessary, medical services. Doctors are too quick to prescribe pills or suggest that surgery is the only option.


Obviously, the way to reduce costs is to improve efficiency. Why are American medical specialists the highest paid in the world if they are not necessarily the best in the world? Surely savings can be found in the system if someone in Government could look at the entire system and see where people are paying too much, or where money is being wasted.


Michigan:  I think we can all agree that some of the reasons for escalating health cost are greed, fraud, lack of audit and our court system.  People are living longer and we are finding new ways to prolong life.  If we can reduce some of the reasons above, maybe the cost of insurance could come down and be more affordable to the individual.  Employers should not have to carry the full burden of insurance.  As stated before, I think we need government clinics.  Preventative care is great except for the fact that a proper diet is not affordable to many people.  Low income families rely on a high carb, high sugar diet.  How do we resolve that?

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