Americans are paying for health care with more than money


by Dr. Philip Caper,
Special to the Bangor Daily News
Posted Dec. 19, 2013

Americans now spend close to $3 trillion a year for health care, around 18 percent of our GDP. That works out to almost $9,000 per person in Maine, almost twice as much per person as the average for other wealthy nations that provide health care for all their people.

Not only do we pay more, but we pay in far more ways than any other country. Some are obvious. They include health insurance premiums, “out of pocket” co-pays and deductibles, and payments for health care products and services that are not covered by insurance. Out-of-pocket payments are increasing every year as insurers shift more of the rising costs to their customers and employers to their employees.

We also pay in ways that are not so obvious. We all pay federal, state and local taxes to support programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, health care for federal, state and local employees, military personnel, the Veterans Affairs and many others. Since employment-related health insurance is tax exempt, we also pay around $250 billion a year in the form of lost tax revenues, that is then made up by higher taxes on all of us.