The Cost of Doing Nothing



Dave Mann

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.

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Dave Mann is a former editor of the Observer.