The Editor’s Desk: The Cost of Doing Nothing

Imagine this scenario. You come back from a night on the town with your spouse to find flames licking the roofline of your house. You call 911 and within minutes Marion County Fire Rescue arrives, but before they unpack their gear, the commander asks for your “Proof Of Fire Insurance Card,” which you don’t have. As the driver pulls away apologetically, he suggests you call another department that takes all calls. The only hitch? It’s over an hour away and will never reach your neighborhood in time to save your home.

How about this one? You drop your child off at Eighth Street Elementary for the first day of kindergarten and your daughter’s new teacher asks for your “Local School Coverage Card,” so you hand her the one you just received from your new job. She punches the numbers into her computer and tells you that because your coverage lapsed you’ll need to go to a cost-controlled school across town. Sure, the drive is longer and dozens of additional students will crowd her class, but what choice do you have?

Or how about this one? After a busy day of shopping at the Paddock Mall, you and a friend are putting the packages in the trunk when a masked assailant slashes the purse off your shoulder, cutting a deep gash in your forearm. Mall security witnesses the whole scene and calls OPD, but before the officer can initiate pursuit, he asks for your “Personal Security Card.” You hand it over and he soon nabs your attacker. Thirty days later, you receive an invoice for the 25-minute encounter. It’s more than $50,000.

I know these examples are absurd—they’re supposed to be. But why do we accept similar conditions in our healthcare system when we clearly would never tolerate them in cases of protecting our homes, educating our children, or ensuring our personal safety? Regardless of political affiliation, I’m sure you recognize that something must be done.

Sure, it’ll be expensive. Conservative estimates put healthcare reform’s price tag in the $1 trillion range over a 10-year period, and I’m sure we’re not going to find all of that in the inefficiencies of the current system. (That’d be a lot of change in the sofa cushions!)

But we really should be talking more about the hidden price of a growing uninsured and underinsured population.

“The economic cost of failing to fix our broken healthcare system is greater than the upfront expense of comprehensive health reform,” reported a January 9, 2009 article on the nonpartisan site “Seven chronic diseases had a $1.3 trillion impact on the economy annually, with the majority of that figure, $1.1 trillion, in the form of lost productivity.”

Take a closer look at those numbers. The total cost of healthcare reform over a decade is the same as the value of lost worker productivity in one year. In other words, true healthcare reform pays for itself very quickly.

But a larger reason looms. We’re the richest nation in the world—for now—and we have a moral obligation to take care of our own or pay the cost of doing nothing. Something tells me that’ll be much higher.

All my best,


Posted in Healthy Living Features

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