Saturday, February 26, 2011

Why Is America Going Broke?

Last week, my congressman, Rep. Frank Wolfe (R-VA), circulated an open letter to his constituents warning that America will soon be officially bankrupt. His letter included the alarming statistic that, on the current trajectory, by the year 2028, every single penny of federal government revenue will be eaten up by entitlement payments (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and so forth) and interest on the national debt. Nearly half that national debt, Wolfe noted, is currently owned by China and Saudi Arabia—perhaps not countries to which we wish to be financially beholden. You can read the full text of his open letter here.

Wolfe suggests a serious reevaluation of entitlement payments and I concur. However, to consider entitlements, we must also consider the cost of goods and services that are purchased with entitlement funds. A principal of these is medical care, accounting for a gigantic chunk of the federal budget at this time.

Here I offer a bit of anecdotal evidence that medical care costs are completely out of control: a line-by-line accounting of the bills generated by the health care establishment when I simply checked in with the rheumatologist about chronic pain and joint swelling in my left-hand ring finger:

--Visit to doctor’s office (10 minutes): $325
--X-ray (a technology developed in 1895) of my hand: $793
--Charges by a radiologist to look at the X-ray: $160
--Prescription: $418
TOTAL: $1696

Enough to very comfortably feed, house, clothe, educate, transport, and entertain a middle class family of four for a week or more. But clearly not enough to finance their health care, since each has 10 fingers and 10 toes.

I welcome comments on where to begin to understand and tackle the behemoth of American health care costs.

No comments: