Despite our conviction that we have "the best health care in the world," it appears that we're getting screwed.
Insurance is unaffordable unless you have a good package through an employer. But employers are now struggling to provide insurance because it costs so much. (See GM.) So, it looks like soon there will be more Americans joining the ranks of the 45 million of us without health insurance unless something can be done to lower the cost of insurance and/or health care in general.
The costs are surging like an uncontrolled fever, and what the researchers found is that politicians are devoting an extraordinary amount of time to changes that have little appreciable impact.
The high-profile push to limit medical malpractice claims, for example, may help doctors in high-risk practices. But it won't do much to stem overall health care costs. Malpractice claims and legal bills account for less than 1 percent of health spending, the researchers said, and aren't appreciably higher than in other developed nations.
The push to get patients out of hospitals and doctor's offices for less expensive treatment options doesn't seem to help, either. Americans now see doctors less often and spend a fifth less time in hospitals than people in other countries. Yet we still pay more.
As the costs continue to climb, U.S. policymakers eventually will be forced to look at this confusing health care picture. Among the more infuriating realities is that a system that turns to Medicare for old people, Medicaid for poor people and employer insurance for workers still leaves 45-million people with no coverage at all. We pay more, per person, than any other industrialized nation and still leave almost one of every six people in the cold. That's bad medicine.