If you pay attention to such things it becomes very apparent that depending on where you live and how much income you have, and when you need it, primary healthcare varies widely across our nation. The example below is specifically about worker’s compensation but is endemic across the healthcare spectrum.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Howard Berkes, why are so many states moving to cut workers’ comp?
HOWARD BERKES: Well, there are a couple of things that have occurred.
One is, medical costs have increased so dramatically over the years. But the other thing is, we have had a couple of recessions in the last 15 years, and states are competing with each other fiercely for business, and one of the things that businesses complain about all the time is the cost of workers’ compensation insurance premiums….
As businesses complain about these costs, they go to lawmakers in state — in state capitals around the country and say, this is one thing you can do to help us compete with the next state. And, of course, each state is dropping costs, is lowering costs, so there’s this competition to be lower than the next state….
And this [differences between States] is really apparent when you talk about catastrophic injuries like arm amputations. So we looked at — we visited with two workers, for example, both living near the Alabama-Georgia border. On the Alabama side of the border, the worker who lost his arm in an industrial accident looked like he would get maybe about $48,000 maximum in his lifetime as compensation for his injury in weekly payments and in compensation for the loss of his arm.
But just across the border in Georgia, the worker there who had a nearly identical injury and an arm amputation, nearly identical age at the time of his injury, he will get somewhere in the neighborhood of $700,000 more over the course of his lifetime.
A big part of this overall healthcare problem is due to economic fluctuations over time. Because most State must balance their budgets it becomes necessary to reduce spending during recessions and given the current environment they seldom get raised back to adequate levels during the years of prosperity. If people just got healthier during recessions than they are during prosperous years it wouldn’t make any difference but that simply is not the case. So, things like Medicaid, worker’s comp and such get reduced because of budget restraints. Of course the same thing applies for education. The first thing that often gets cut are education budgets and that is utter stupidity, but that is another story.
The obvious solution that most of the rest of the world has already learned is to federalize healthcare. If the federal government needs more income to meet the people’s needs during hard times they can simply print more money. No, that isn’t a long-term solution but it is an effective stop-gap in order to provide a consistent level of healthcare to all our citizens and at reduced levels of expenditure. The rest of the industrialized world spends about 8% of GDP for healthcare while the U.S. spends 18% and they have higher satisfaction level to boot. Some day we will get over our extreme stubbornness in this area and federalize our healthcare like everyone else has already done.