By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Consider all costs of U.S. health care

All those Democratic Party presidential candidates are exhausting us with health care promises and warnings: “My plan does this” … “Your plan does that” … “Medicare for All” … “Create a public option.”


Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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President Trump joined the fray in June, saying he soon will announce a “phenomenal” health care plan. “We already have the concept,” he said, but don’t hold your breath awaiting coherent details.

Meanwhile, every presidential candidate has “my plan” for health care, as if it’s a simple puzzle. I suspect none of them have actually administered a company health insurance program trying to navigate the complex inequalities of health care in America.

U.S. health care costs are twice the “comparable country average” per capita. Two-thirds of American bankruptcies are the result of medical issues. And it gets worse.

Our quality and results of health care lag behind most developed nations. Analysis by The Commonwealth Fund attributes that shameful situation to a lack of insurance coverage, administrative inefficiency and underperforming primary care. I might add the exorbitant cost of legal drugs and the excessive use of illegal drugs.

So many numbers are being thrown into the health care debate our eyes glaze over. Nonetheless, here are a few more broadly-rounded numbers to consider:

Subtracting the cost of Medicare — already funded by a 2.9 percent tax on earned income – we spend about $3 trillion annually on health care. That may be double the comparative average, but let’s just try to reduce it one-third, down to $2 trillion per year.

Raising $2 trillion would take a 10 percent tax on our gross national income. Prospects of increased taxation will be the primary scare factor used by opponents of single-payer health care and, most likely, our health care deficiencies will continue regardless of who is elected in 2020.

But here are a few more numbers, closer to home: Our company and its employees spend about 15 percent of total company payroll on health insurance that covers fewer than one-half of those employees. Let’s add the deductibles and co-pays those employees cough up for medical services; let’s add the stress from all those costs; let’s factor out employees getting health insurance elsewhere.

This is purely a best-guess, but I suspect total, company-shared health care costs for our covered employees is 25 to 30 percent of their gross pay, and perhaps higher.

So, if a 10 percent tax increase paid all costs of single-payer health care in America, I’d have to ask, where do I sign up?

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.


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