Why Our Aging Society Dooms Obamacare

Why Our Aging Society Dooms Obamacare

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As debates continue over just how well Obamacare can work (or even if it can), we might be better off investing our energies and hopes in the private sector.     

Craig Venter’s latest gene-sequencing venture is a case in point. The scientist and entrepreneur, well known for his privately funded efforts to sequence the first human genome, has launched Human Longevity, a new company that will help people live longer and healthier lives. The company has already raised $70 million from donors.

Venter has teamed up with stem cell pioneer Dr. Robert Hariri and X Prize Foundation founder Dr. Peter Diamandis to form his company, which will use both genomics and stem cell therapies to find treatments that allow aging adults to stay healthy and functional for as long as possible, Reuters reported. “We’re hoping to make numerous new discoveries in preventive medicine. We think this will have a huge impact on changing the cost of medicine,” Venter said Tuesday when he announced the venture.

Related:  Obamacare Diverts Us from the Real Health Care Debate

To say that it is key in the 21st century to combat the diseases of aging and enable active and productive lives well into our 60s, 70s and 80s is an understatement – and the private sector may well hold the answer.

With Obamacare, unfortunately, what we have gotten is botched websites and snags with the employer mandate, union obligations and states’ rights. And on and on it goes.   

The world’s most celebrated national health insurance scheme, the U.K.’s National Health Service (UK NHS), is also looking to the private sector for answers. With the hiring of Sir Stuart Rose, former CEO of retail giant Marks and Spencer’s, the UK NHS has signaled it needs a private-sector financial sensibility. The hospitals are ailing; wait times are dangerous; costs are spiraling; and trust in the NHS is waning. To top it off, the NHS is serving as the de facto model for the U.S.’s great health insurance experiment. 

To be clear, the NHS isn’t imploding because of corruption or poor management but because of the fundamental act of using 20st century health assumptions to solve 21st century health challenges. 

Once the pride and envy of much of the world, the NHS has been forced to permit a “top off” policy, in which British citizens can purchase private coverage to supplement NHS services to fulfill their health needs. Once unthinkable, this notion is today a basic necessity given the NHS’s inability to meet demand.

Related:  Health Care Savings Could Come from Unlikely Places 

Proponents of Obamacare – take note. Though the program was designed to be “flexible,” it cannot flex enough to abide the basic forces that cause it not to work in the first place.

The population is aging. People are living longer; birth rates are down; and an entirely new balance of old-to-young now exists. This balance will continue to skew as the 21st century marches on. As a result, more people will take from the public health insurance system while fewer people pay into it.

Innovation in all aspects of health care – from pharmaceuticals to devices to services – also costs money. When the NHS or our own Medicare system began, only a small sliver of these things existed and had to be paid for. Innovation enables our historically long lives and it’s illogical that we could reap the benefits without cost – but the costs render unworkable the social innovation we have known as national health care since World War II.   

Obamacare, the NHS, and other public health schemes are in precarious territory – and they’re exactly why people like Craig Venter are looking for solutions. It’s public need answered with private solutions. Publicly available national health care cannot deliver results that meet 21st century citizen demand, expectation and need. But Craig Venter’s gene sequencing just might.

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Executive director of the Global Coalition on Aging, Michael W. Hodin, Ph.D., is also managing partner at High Lantern Group and a fellow at Oxford University's Harris Manchester College.