OUR VIEW: The ‘catastrophic’ price of health care

By Daily News • Last Updated 11:17 am on Thursday, May 16, 2013

Michigan’s leadership status in matters relating to the automobile industry may soon rise or fall depending on how we settle a very serious matter. Our state has the nation’s only no-fault law that includes unlimited lifetime benefits for medical expenses resulting from auto accidents.

The Catastrophic Claims fund costs Michigan drivers about $180 a year for each vehicle they insure. With genuine respect for all accident victims whose quality of life may be dependent upon such programs; it seems only reasonable to question why that aspect of automobile ownership is so high.

Let’s first assume that Michigan is truly special by leading the nation in assuring assistance to calamity victims who unquestionably need lots of help. They include not only totally innocent and/or otherwise financially responsible and careful drivers, but also the victims and perpetrators of tragic accidents whose involvement and personal circumstances may not be so appealing. They all must be helped.

Enter now the institutions that control the costs of medical services required in catastrophic injury cases: the insurance and hospital interests. Our state Legislature has generally been responsive to their cause. However, the ever-rising prices in those industries have raised some big boats for them, but have made it difficult for the rest of us to absorb their aggressive pricing.

Michigan’s catastrophic collision rates are set — and raised — by a committee of insurance company representatives, with minimal — if any — input from state officials. Furthermore, their financial records are not available to the Michigan public. Can you believe it? It’s a program of skyrocketing costs mandated by the state, but who advocates for Michigan taxpayers?

For a really absorbing picture of what America is facing, the March 4 issue of Time Magazine included an article by Steven Brill titled “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us.” It is a comprehensive but disturbing view of how American health care costs are established, and where they are heading. Read it.

We can and must do better.

Editorial opinions are the consensus of The Daily News editorial board.

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