Publisher's Note: Healthy 25-year-olds
By Jody Reese
Though it’s quite a stretch to call 25-year-olds kids, Gov. John Lynch’s plan to expand the Healthy Kids program from age 18 to 25 is an interesting foray into broader public health care.
Based on current life expectancy, with these changes to Healthy Kids and Medicare, the government would cover people for almost half their life. It’s a creeping of the dreaded socialized medicine.
But for most businesses, this isn’t dreaded at all.
Health care has never been an easy fit in the modern world of commerce. Many of our hospitals and clinics are not-for-profits and between government employees, the Veterans Administration and government health programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, the largest buyer of health care is the federal government. In reality, we have already have a hybrid system of socialized medicine.
Though our high-end care tends to be some of the best in the world, we as a country fail by all the other measures in evaluating the effectiveness of our system. It costs more and it does less — and it’s not faster and doesn’t offer more choice. In reality, countries like Germany offer better health care, more choice in less time and all for less money.
This is the problem with falling in love with an idea rather than a practical solution. We’re trying to apply free market practices to a market that by its very nature can’t be free because its customers can’t really negotiate and the barrier for competitors to enter a market are extremely high. We therefore get a hybrid system that fails to hold down costs and simultaneously offers low-quality care. And the result is huge costs for businesses to cover their employees with plans that nearly bankrupt those employees, through high deductibles or co-pays, if they really need it.
The cost to cover a family in New Hampshire can be more than $1,000 a month. As recent layoffs have shown, many are shocked at the cost they would have to pay through the COBRA program that forces employers to continue former employees’ health care. It’s not shocking to businesses — that’s how much the employer was paying. Manchester’s school department expects health care costs to rise $1.4 million next year and that’s just the increase. Increases each year tend to be in the 7- to 20-percent range. That isn’t a free market, that’s a market run amok.
Ever since President Bill Clinton took office 16 years ago, the public has been asking for comprehensive health care reform. In its place, we have gotten programs such as NH’s Healthy Kids and Massachusetts’ mandatory health insurance programs — all attempts to solve bits of the problem.
While I favor being honest and moving to a public-type system (for example, extending Medicare coverage to everyone), government already has the tools through its massive health care consumption to effectively take control of the market. It just needs the political will to do so. That’s something that could be done quickly and effectively.