Tuesday, June 14, 2005

MY PLAN INVOLVES A LARGE GOB OF CAMPHOR IN HOT WATER, AND PRAYERS TO ST. JUDE. This interesting Washington Times column asks, with an nearly audible tone of optimism, "Health costs leveling off?" Health costs are not the same thing as health care costs, of course, and sharper eyes than my own probably stopped reading there, but, fool that I am, I rushed forward in search of good news.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports health care costs rose 7 1/2 percent in 2004, well under the 11.4 percent rise in 2002. The BLS also reports cost increases for employers for health insurance per employee per hour worked has slowed even more. From March 2001 to March 2002, those costs rose 11 percent; from March 2002 to March 2004, it rose 9 percent each year. But from March 2004 to December 2004, it rose only 3 percent.
That's encouraging. What, I wondered, forced down the price of a colonoscopy? "...health-care costs are being held down by the marketplace, partly in response to health-care legislation passed in the last four years." Ah, the ol' Invisible Hand! I read on:
For one thing, employers offer and employees are choosing health-savings accounts and high-deductible health insurance in greater numbers. HSAs were given a big boost in the Medicare prescription drug bill passed in late 2003. Indeed that was why most Republicans voted for a bill that included the biggest new entitlement program since Medicare was passed in 1965.
Biggest new entitlement program! Someone got rooked with this deal -- fortunately, it was the American people, those suckers, not the possessors of high-deductable insurance!

Or maybe there's enough losing to go around. Self Employed Web explains: "...rising medical costs push an employer’s health insurance premiums higher every year. As a result, many small businesses don’t offer any medical coverage to employees. And many self-employed people can’t afford coverage. But just as with your homeowners insurance, one way to save money on your medical insurance is to increase your deductible..."

Clients of such insurance could be exposed for thousands of dollars in charges if something goes wrong. But on the bright side, tax breaks are included, and tax breaks make everything better.

Well, I suppose it's a bit much at this late date to hope for a revival of those Cadillac healthcare plans of my youth, where you showed a card and the doctors took care of you for practically nothing -- just as it's a little late to dream of job security, an ever-increasing standard of living, etc. What was the name of that country where we had all that, anyone remember?

Oh, health (care) costs are also being contained by "health insurance policies that encourage healthy behavior." Some of them include gym memberships, apparently.

So the costs are being contained by higher charges for services, and by us trying really hard not to get sick.

Hell, that's how I've been keeping my health care costs down all along!

UPDATE. Some nice parsing of the Times' numbo-jumbo by WatchfulBabbler in comments. BTW, while the Washington Times prescribes Not Getting Sick to those worried about health care costs, John Tierney at the New York Times prescribes Not Getting Old as Social Security reform, citing septagenarian cyclists as proof that the fogeys are parasiting off a "form of welfare." Jesse at Pandagon correctly rejoins that Tierney's geezer Olympians are statistical outliers. What fascinates me is the growing consensus among compassionate conservatives that illness and old age can be willed away through gumption. Pull away the years, and the tumors, by your very bootstraps, slaves!

Naturally the Ole Perfesser concurs with Tierney, perhaps expecting that his own, inevitable transhumanist apotheosis into an immortal robot-lawyer will moot all need for government assistance.

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