Demographics and government health care Posted by: McQ
on Monday, March 27, 2006
A couple of articles from Europe which, in my opinion, presage developments in the US if we're not careful.
First this about health care for the elderly in the UK:
The report's authors stated that "deep-rooted cultural attitudes to ageing" had led to thousands of elderly patients receiving inferior treatment to the young. The survey comes at an acutely embarrassing moment for Tony Blair, as the state of the NHS comes under increasing scrutiny amid widespread job cuts. Commitment to better care for the elderly has been a feature of Labour's winning election manifestos.
The over-65s occupy almost two-thirds of hospital beds and accounted for some £16bn of health spending - 43 per cent of the NHS hospital budget in 2003-04.
Now, whether you're a fan of government run universal health care or not, the point you should take from this is the largest consumers of health care in any country are the elderly (which is here defined by "over-65). I don't think you'll find much of a difference in gross precentages in the US than is found in the UK. At the moment though there is are a couple of dramatic differences between here and there: choice and incentive. Without them it isn't at all difficult to believe the elderly are not well treated in a universal system such as the UK's.
Demographic decline causes anxiety because it is thought to go hand-in-hand with economic decline.
With fewer, younger workers to pay the health and pension bills of an elderly population, states face an unprecedented fiscal burden.
The dependency ratio of those aged 65 and over to those of working age looks set to double from one-to-four to one-to-two in 2050.
Although birth rates are down in the US they aren't as low as that of Europe:
If current forecasts prove correct, then the US - which currently has 160m fewer people than the EU - will have equalled it by 2050.
In my opinion, Europe faces a pretty significant fiscal crisis which will manifest itself fairly shortly. While there may be nothing anyone can do (or wish to do) about the birth rate, we in the US at least have the opportunity to learn from Europe's coming fiscal problems and the impact. We face the same problems but have a little more lead time in which to consider and solve them. The question is, will we actually learn from Europe's problems and save ourselves the agony they seem destined to suffer?
We face the same problems but have a little more lead time in which to consider and solve them. The question is, will we actually learn from Europe’s problems and save ourselves the agony they seem destined to suffer?
Excellent questions and observations, McQ. There are definite concerns regarding the fiscal problems faced with government universal health care. I thought I would, and appreciate the opportunity to, add this concern. (and I believe that QandO has touched on this in the past.)
Last week I was listening to Jerry Springer on AirAmerica Radio. Jerry Springer, believe it or not, is a reasonable guy. (and unless one has listened to his show from time to time, one isn’t qualified to retort.) That being said, I was disheartened to listen to his views regarding childhood obesity and the “obesity epidemic” in general. The so-called “obesity epidemic” is a problem and should be addressed. However, one of Mr. Springer’s suggestions to address the issue was to tax unhealthy foods. Now the wise authors and readers of this weblog have no doubt heard this suggestion from other liberal activists and commentators, and have rightly so thrown these suggestions to the rubbish bin where they belong. The government has no business in deciding what we eat. I believe that if government run universal health care would give the government a justifiable platform in which to govern the health of the public’s diet. This is what frightens me about universal health care. The government cannot be allowed to tax our way to a healthier lifestyle. Period.
I believe that there are ways to use the tax system to promote a healthier lifestyle, however. Punitive taxes, …no. Tax credits, …yes. Perhaps there could be tax relief for producers of healthy foods, tax deducts for health club memberships, and a few other ideas. Anyhoo, I don’t know if the Democrats could ever implement a tax on unhealthy foods and remain a political force, though. Jerry Springer and others who suggest this might not get any traction. Even the Dem’s might be savvy enough to realize this.
Once the Dem’s start taxing ice cream, they’re finished.
I believe that if government run universal health care would give the government a justifiable platform in which to govern the health of the public’s diet. This is what frightens me about universal health care. The government cannot be allowed to tax our way to a healthier lifestyle. Period.
A similar phenomenon is already at work with "private" health insurance which is paid for by companies. They’re now demanding workers commit to lifestyle changes (quitting smoking for instance) or lose their jobs. This has had mixed legal reviews, but the same argument is being made ... i.e., if the company is going to pay for insurance the company should have some say in how people live their "private" lives.
At least in this instance there is some recourse. Get another job and go with a company who doesn’t make such demands.
But if and when it ever became government doing the insuring, I would suggest your nightmare scenario would indeed come to pass and you’d have no recourse then.