Nothing seems simple any more, and the ongoing debate about how to best pay for health care in this country certainly falls outside the realm of the simple.
Health care costs are a dilemma. Americans are paying 40 percent more for health care than they were a decade ago. Out-of-pocket costs have doubled in less than a generation. We spend more than $2 trillion on health care each year -- that's nearly $8,000 for every man, woman and child.
We pay more for our care than anywhere else on the planet. Further, we pay for lots more care than most anyone else has access to or could probably fathom. Heart surgeries, cancer procedures and emergency care -- OK, we see the need and appreciate that care being available when we need it.
Every day, though, we see and hear about new wonder drugs that cure all manner of trifling ailments or afflictions but cause side effects much worse than the original problem.
These drugs, of course, don't come cheap, and included in that cost is the more than $4 billion the pharmaceutical industry annually spends on advertising those drugs.
So, we spend trillions each year on health care. We spend billions on prescription drugs. And we still have 40 million Americans who don't have health insurance, i.e. access to health care outside of an emergency room.
It is in this environment that our elected leaders in Washington, D.C., have pledged to "reform" the health care industry. We worry anytime politicians or bureaucrats try to "reform" anything, because mostly what will happen will be hearings and meetings and summits that result in policy papers and speeches and new laws that don't really do much of anything to fix the problem at the local level.
We predict that whatever "reform" we see concerning health care this year will be a half-measure.
The special interest groups -- in this case, insurance companies and giant health care providers -- will exert their influence, and the politicians will pretty much do as they're told. We'll hear a lot about how government shouldn't be in the health care business and how any sort of major overhaul will kill jobs. No one wants that, right?
When this phase of change is done, we likely won't have health care for all Americans. Nor will we likely see a strong "public" option by which Americans could choose a government-offered health insurance program, one that competes with the private market.
What we'll get is a watered-down version of some sort of voluntary thing that basically appeases the health care industry and doesn't do much to help John and Suzy Q. Taxpayer.
And so changing the way we pay for health care in this country will fade away. The folks in charge will declare victory and move on to the next fundraiser.
In the meantime, we, the people, should do our best to not get sick. Last year, health care costs contributed to two out of three bankruptcies. Aspirin, anyone?