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Robert McMillan-Healthcare what’s new

December 2, 2011 @ 12:00 am EST


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Our speaker this morning was Robert McMillan. Bob has used the experience gained in his varied career to create a series of talks on which he has expert status. One of those areas of knowledge is healthcare insurance and the business of medical practice. While not being a doctor he was on the board of the American medical Association. He was also a board member of Empire Blue Cross.


He began by giving us a little background. Teddy Roosevelt was the first president to propose universal healthcare. The topic has come up under the administrations of many different presidents.


(President Nixon had a plan that was far reaching and better than the plan we have today. That was stopped because in the opinion of Ted Kennedy it did not go far enough. Here is a case of killing the good because you are fighting for the perfect-my note not Mr McMillan’s)


What gave healthcare the nudge was wage and price controls during WWII. Employers were not allowed to raise wages, so unions bargained for healthcare. Today 61% of all healthcare plans are provided by employers. But costs have been escalating out of proportion to all other costs. Today the cost of the steel in an American automobile is less than the cost of health insurance for the employees that have assembled it. There has been a 100% increase in healthcare costs between 2000 and 2010, and there is no abatement. The total cost of healthcare is now $2.6 trillion per year. According to McMillan the cost of Medicare is higher than the revenues that are collected to fund it.


He reminded the audience that there is a law suit that is heading to the Supreme Court that challenges the constitutionality of the mandate to cover all citizens. The Supreme Court allocates an hour or less to hear most arguments that come before that body. The court has allocated 5 ½ hours to hear this case. That is a testimonial to the complexity of the legislation that they will be judging.


From Bob’s explanation of the new legislation it appears to be unsustainable. The law has requirements that may make it unprofitable, or at least less profitable. The law requires that 80 % of the premiums on private insurance go to health service and that % is going to rise to 85% in a few years.


Having knowledgeable people in the room created the fertile ground for a good Q&A session. "Perhaps we are approaching medical care from the wrong direction maybe we should be looking at the root of the cost spiral" was suggested. Electronic Medical record keeping was suggested and that when completed will no doubt be a big help. Electronic storage and retrieval of medical information such as x-rays is now a reality, and while the initial cost of conversion is substantial, the cost operation is a fraction of what it used to be.

Personally I came away from the session with the impression that the status quo is bad, but this legislation may create the impetus for a workable system.