Forget the Taxman: You're Working to Pay Your Doctor

The cost of your Doctor Insurance PlanIn the battle over Obamacare, critics have often focused on the effect that the health care reform law will have on employers. What tends to be largely ignored is the impact that the current health care system has on workers. It's no secret that health crises are the No. 1 cause of personal bankruptcies in America, but it's worth asking how much health care actually costs -- and how that figure has risen in recent years.

Recently, Forbes contributor Chris Conover took an interesting angle on the problem by calculating the health care costs of the average worker. According to his figures, taking care of the average worker costs $8,953 per year -- the equivalent of 58 days of work.

Of course, only about 11 percent of this is paid out-of-pocket by the employee; the rest comes from insurance -- and even if you get yours as an employee benefit, that indirect cost is still a significant part of your pay package. Either way, the costs, both to workers and to the government, are stunning. A big part of the problem is that the American medical system focuses on expensive tests and therapies rather than overall wellness, making it more profitable for hospitals and doctors to treat health crises, rather than encourage healthy lifestyle habits.

To make things worse, there's the fact that a lot of health care money is wasted. According to the Institute of Medicine, 30 percent of health care dollars are sucked up by fraud, excessive administration costs, unnecessary or poorly delivered services, inflated prices, or missed prevention opportunities.

It remains to be seen how well Obamacare will be able to ameliorate these problems. Some experts estimate that the program will lower health care costs by encouraging the market to focus on illness prevention. For that matter, its Independent Payment Advisory Board, which is tasked with finding ways to cut the nation's medical bill, could also make the the system leaner. Then again, the current, profit-driven system didn't develop overnight, and it will likely take a concerted effort over the course of several years to turn it around.

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The problem is gross over consumption of healthcare. And the primary culprit is government tax subsidies, provided through employer-sponsored health plans. People are deluded by thinking it's a great deal, not realizing that we all pay a price through reduced wages and through a misallocation of precious tax dollars.

January 24 2013 at 8:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Consider this. You can get a bottle of generic acetaminophen (Tylenol) for a dollar or two at the drug store/dollar store, but your hospital will charge your insurance $50 for two pills. A flu shot at Walgreens costs less than $30, while your insurance will be charged several hundred dollars for the same shot if you go to your regular doctor. Those are just two examples of the outrageous prices our wonderful health care system charges us.

January 16 2013 at 5:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Let me know when this writer gets the credentials to write about financial issues.

January 16 2013 at 12:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

even with insurance,,, a "simple" gall bladder removal my wife had cost me $8,000 thanks to Obamacare,,,, cant get much worse that this,,,

January 15 2013 at 10:30 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to efat53yz's comment

That's all fine & dandy, except that Obamacare hasn't kicked in yet.

January 16 2013 at 5:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Craig and Valisha

Remember, they are practicing medicine and there is no money in a cure. When I take my truck to get repaired, it gets repaired, not just worked on. But the problem is, we live in a time when eveybody is "sue happy."

January 15 2013 at 9:04 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Oh, give me a break. Now it's the PHYSICIANS faults?? When are people going to own up to the concept of PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY?!? If you overeat, smoke, drink, have unprotected sex, use drugs, sit on your butt most of the day, etc. it is NOT the doctor's problem, it's YOURS. His/her only connection to the patient is to attempt to make them 'better', it isn't to be the babysitter.
Wellness begins with you. If you are born with a condition, that's a different conversation. But, for example, if you are diabetic due to lifestyle choices of your own, visit the doctor, get diagnosed, receive a treatment program, but CONTINUE to live that same's YOUR problem.
The amount of irresponsibility across the country just continues to grow everyday. THAT in itself is an issue that needs to be addressed in any healthcare debate. Unfortunately, most lawmakers rely on those who are irresponsible and dependent on government for votes that allow them to keep their own job. Until that pattern is broken, we will continue to see articles like this one. Pass the blame, don't worry about fixing one of the BIGGEST parts of the problem.

January 15 2013 at 8:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to doowat's comment

Also, writing a prescription for pills is a lot cheaper than having a gym in the clinic basement and employing a nutritionist as part of the staff. As well as offering other therapies to relieve pain.

January 15 2013 at 11:58 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

A very interesting article, but it would be wise to see how the increase in healthcare costs compare to other factors such as the increase in tax revenues and the increase in government spending.This YouTube video is very enlightening. You may find that you are woking much, much harder to satisfy the taxman than you are working to pay the doctor:

January 15 2013 at 8:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This should surprise no one. There is a mile-long stretch of road in the city I live near that 30 years ago was all vacant land. Today, it is lined on both sides with scores of doctors' offices and medical specialty buildings. Some are as large as an average elementary school.
The new hospital south of town has a HUGE central courtyard in the center of which is a decorative brick castle that covers 600 square feet of space and stands two stories tall. Note: This structure serves no purpose. It is simply for looks.
The front atrium is a gigantic empty space from main floor to the sixth floor roof. I once calculated that you could put a 24-unit apartment building in the same volume (my wife was having surgery and I had lots of spare time and a calculator on my phone). A nurse told me that it was to give the hospital an 'airy' look.
These modern monuments to medical excess have to be paid for by someone. Turns out that it's you and me.

January 15 2013 at 6:17 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to elendil3136's comment

In my county, we have approximately 4 high schools, 13 elementary schools, and 3 primary schools. To simply call them "buildings" is an understatement. They are palaces. Multi-level, atriums, sunk in basketball courts, sky get the point. Not ONE of these 'perks' help with the education of the students sitting inside.
So, just to make a point as you did, the modern monuments to educational excess have to be paid for by someone. Turns out that it's you and me.

January 15 2013 at 9:04 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
rick h

villainize the particular portion of the economy you want to take over, agitate the fools, repeat. the mafia would think this was a racket.

January 15 2013 at 4:42 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Aye,Captain Bill

The good thing is that we're finally addressing the issue for the first time. No one in America should have to go bankrupt because of healthcare costs.

January 15 2013 at 4:32 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply