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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Solving The Medicare Problem

There is no question we have a huge problem with Medicare. We spend 16-18% of our Gross National Product on health care and that amount is growing 6-7% a year. We spend twice as much of our GDP as any other developed country, and ALL of those countries offer universal care.

I think the best place to understand the problem is to begin with T.R. Reid's book, The Healing of America. He describes how health care is provided in a collection of countries, i.e., France, Japan, Germany, the UK, etc. In each country he shows how the system developed within the particular culture of the country. Every one of those countries delivers better health care than we do, with the single exception of serious cancer. I have had first hand experience with three of the countries he covers and I can tell you it was as good as anything in the U.S., and in one case, substantially better.

The thing you will notice is that he interviews a doctor in each country. They are all well off, but not out hugely rich.

With that fact in mind, consider this. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, thirteen of the fifteen highest paid professions in the U.S. are either Medicine or Dentistry. 13 out of 15!!

And there is another serious downside to this financial problem. The average new doctor now has a debt of $155,000 when he/she graduates. That forces them into high paid specialties and creates a serious shortage of primary care doctors. But we need more primary care doctors to take care of any aging population.

Do us both a favor and read The Healing of America. It is a good place to start.

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