Wednesday, December 16, 2009

For just pennies per day…

How much would health reform cost us? To the average person, the huge numbers being bandied about seem totally beyond comprehension. However, a thought-provoking letter to the editor in the New York Times yesterday suddenly put it all into perspective for me.

Lawmakers in Washington are attempting to keep the cost of health reform to $1 trillion or less, over 10 years. Every new version of health reform has to be “scored” by the Congressional Budget Office and it seems like, whenever that happens, everyone (at least everyone in Democratic Party leadership) holds their collective breath until the CBO releases its new estimates.

One trillion dollars is an eye-popping amount of money by anyone’s standards but how much is it, really? That’s “only” $100 billion per year. I just have to throw this in but, when I think about such staggering sums, I’m reminded of the comment by the late Sen. Everett McKinley Dirksen of Illinois who famously stated “a million here, a million there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”

Anyway, $100 billion per year truly is real money but there are a lot of Americans these days. In fact, according to the current U.S. population clock, from the U.S. Census Bureau, there are now more than 308 million of us. When you do the math, that $100 billion doesn’t seem like so much anymore. It works out to just under $325 per person per year, that is, $27 per month for every man, woman, and child in the U.S. or less than 90 cents per person per day. Now there’s a number all of us can get our arms around.

Surely, just about everyone has seen those TV commercials talking about how people can save a child in a faraway place for “just pennies a day.” It seems strange to me that no one is running a commercial touting that, for just pennies a day, “everyone” in the United States could have healthcare. Pennies a day could save a needy child far away or it could provide health insurance coverage to an additional 30 million Americans.

"Just pennies a day" sounds a whole lot better than $1 trillion, doesn't it?


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