Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Health Reform Buffet Syndrome

As the climatic vote on health reform approaches, permit me, if you will, to indulge in a play on words, namely the word, “buffet,” which allows feasting at a fixed price for comprehensive mix of goodies. As everybody knows, and Democrats keep reminding us, there is something for everybody in the current health care buffet, and we'll make it affordable in the short run, never mind the long-term costs.

The word “buffet” brings to mind Warren Buffett, the sage of Omaha, who has made a fortune on investing in companies with predictable returns on investment.

In a recent interview with CNBC, Buffett, said the current health reform bill does not control costs. He sees cost control as the central problem that must be addressed to reform the system, and he thinks we ought to start all over on health reform.

“What we have now is untenable over time,” said Buffett, an early supporter of Obama’s candidacy. “That kind of a cost compared to the rest of the world is really like a tapeworm eating, you know, at our economic body.”

“We have a health system that, in terms of costs, is really out of control,” he added. “And if you take this line and you project what has been happening into the future, we will get less and less competitive.”

That’s where the “buffet,” or “Buffett,” syndrome comes in. As long as Americans receive comprehensive benefits at the point of care, for benefits that personally cost them 10% or less personally, they will continue to feast at the health care table.

Expansion of costs of care will escalate, appetites for high tech solutions will rise, more people will congregate at the government buffet trough, and the federal budget will fatten.

The solution may be a la carte dining with health care customers paying more out of their own pocket to restrain spending on health care browsing. But that approach may be unacceptable politically for those who have become accustomed to a free-lunch free-entitlement mentality, and who believe health care is a right and a moral imperative.

Everybody, including those of us on Medicare, finds irresistible the idea of the health care buffet. When it comes to our own personal health, money is no object, particularly when we’re spending other people’s money. Unfortunately, as Margaret Thatcher observed, “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money.’


Beth said...

Well said. I hope you are spending some time in the next few days writing to the undecided Congressmen before the upcoming vote. I have a list along with phone and fax numbers up on my blog. Wealth is Not the Problem

Richard L. Reece, MD said...

Thanks, I have notified my Congressman and Senator. This looks like a cliffhanger, I hope we don't go over the cliff, but we might.