Health of Health Care

In a 4/23/09 WSJ article, Vanessa Fuhrmans reports on the health of the country’s health plans.

Wellpoint, the largest insurer, lost 2% of its subscribers since December. It ascribed the larger than expected 1/2 million subscriber loss both to layoffs and workers who are declining coverage under their employer’s plan. United Health Group, the second largest insurer, reported a subscriber loss of 900,000 in the first 3 months of 2009.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that the U.S. Census Bureau figure of 45.7 million uninsured in 2007 has grown to about 50 million uninsured. In a nation of 300 million, that is a 1 in 6 ratio. Of the estimated 9M people who have lost coverage since December 2007, Kaiser calculates that 3.6M have enrolled in Medicaid and other public health programs.

A Kaiser Family Foundation study of Medicaid fees from 2003 – 2008 shows that Medicaid pays physicians only 72% of what Medicare pays. In 2008, the average Medicaid reimbursement for the most commonly billed procedure, a 15 minute office visit with an existing patient, was $38. If you have a stopped up toilet, it costs $75 – $100 for a plumber to run a snake through the toilet bowl.

As the boomer generation nears retirement, swelling the ranks of both Medicare and Medicaid patients, should we be encouraging young people to become plumbers instead of doctors?
The Association of American Medical Colleges reported that the average educational debt of indebted graduates of the class of 2007 was $139,517. The site link is a student doctor network with a message board that you can read, but not post or comment.

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