Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has come out firing at Republican who claim that ObamaCare is draining the economy and hindering employment. Sebelius is making her case that ObamaCare is, indeed, lowering lowered Medicare and private insurance costs significantly. Mrs. Sebelius told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program that Medicare costs are significantly lower than before ObamaCare was passed in 2010, claiming, among other things, that the cost of Medicare went up less than 1 percent per beneficiary.
During the first decade of the current century, double-digit increases in health care costs year in and year out was the norm. Since ObamaCare was passed, health care costs are still increasing, but not in double digits, according to Sebelius. Mrs. Sebelius said that rate increases are slowing and that consumers are “finally getting a better bang for their buck.”
But, where does ObamaCare intend to wring cost saving out of the nation’s health care system in the future? These days, the first place one might be inclined to look for cost-reducing technology is in the cloud. Of course, the entire healthcare industry has been slow to embrace the cloud. But, as the cloud is further developed and the general population sees its power and becomes more comfortable with it, there is mounting evidence that cloud just might have the potential to spur an industrial revolution, of sorts, in healthcare and could come to define—or at least be a major factor—in the next phase of healthcare.
A couple of the main drivers of increasing medical costs are the medical device and pharmaceutical companies, which maintain very high prices and profits. Further, pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. are protected by Congress from attempts by Medicare to negotiate better prices. Often, hospitals take these high drug prices and mark them up 2x-5x on the patient’s bill. It seems inconceivable that medical costs will be lowered if pharmaceutical companies are not forced to relinquish their protected status and submit to real and fair business competition and an open market.
The medical costs crisis is especially acute for older Americans who might be facing retirement before they are ready. People who are 45 and older make up a disproportionate share of the long-term unemployed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and they have a hard time finding affordable health insurance. These people aren’t eligible for Medicare, so they are forced to go out on to the open market and try to navigate an expensive, complicated landscape. Sadly, there is no guarantee right now that they will find coverage, affordable or at all.
So, Mrs. Sebelius can declare victory all she wants. But, it seems that the real battle over the cost of health care has just begun. The questions are, where will it lead? What course will it take? And, where will it end? There is a lot hanging in the balance.