Is "crisis" too strong a word for the increasing concern by businesses over the current inflation in health care costs? I wonder. Contributing editor John Carroll, in his cover story on this topic, cites the continuing cries of pain from the business community.
The pain is real. Even though the dollar has declined relative to the Euro and other currencies, domestic producers are saddled with health care costs that are nearly half-again as high as other industrialized countries (our competitors), despite, as we reported in April, clear evidence that ours is far from the world's healthiest population.
Naturally, there's talk of a government take-over, and I'll bet that there are quite a few executives who would find that more palatable than excutives found the stillborn Clinton plan of a decade ago — a plan that was mischaracterized as socialized medicine, but was actually heavily managed competition.
Let's face it: Nearly everyone who reads this publication is benefitting from health care inflation. Plan or provider, more income is welcome. Cost control is being driven by employers (under the guise of being driven by consumers), and plans are starting to respond with new programs, but there's doubt that "consumer-driven" health care can apply more than a temporary brake, and concern that it may actually harm some people's health.
Some health plans see this situation as a golden opportunity. It is an opportunity, but is our inertia so pervasive that we cannot respond with the kind of controls that will bring health care inflation into balance with the rest of the economy? Will workers stand for rationing (let's call a spade a spade)? Will employers resist unhappy workers' demands? Can insurers come up with anything truly new, effective, and acceptable? Please don't force me to guess at the answers.