The Cost of Doing Nothing

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We’re hearing a lot of talk these days from conservatives about the high price of health care reform.

We can’t afford that, they say. It’ll mean a huge tax increase. Sen. John Cornyn said last week that the Baucus plan would cost Texas taxpayers too much — $20 billion over 10 years to be exact.

Not to be outdone, Gov. Rick Perry — using an estimate from the health and human services department — pegged the 10-year cost at $60 billion.

I pointed out last week the flaw in this argument. Yes, expanding health coverage for millions of Texans will cost the state a lot of money — but it will also save a lot of money for county governments, which are paying much of the $7 billion a year in uncompensated care for Texas’ uninsured. (A lot of the cost for uncompensated care arises from people who lack health insurance showing up at emergency rooms in public hospitals — the single most expensive place to receive treatment.)

So health reform isn’t really new spending. It’s a cost shift: state government spends more, counties spend less.  

Today the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a study that shows just how much maintaining our current health system will cost Texas in the next decade. (Here’s a summary of the findings. You can find the whole report here.) 

It ain’t pretty. Details after the jump.

Dave Mann has been with the Observer since 2003. Before that, he worked as a reporter in Fort Worth and Washington, D.C. He was born and raised in Philadelphia. He thinks border collies are the world’s greatest dogs, and believes in the nourishing powers of pickup basketball.