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Animated Short: The Amazing Health Care Arms Race

At the crossroads of our national debate about jobs and our national debate about health care debt...

Is the (fictional) city of Hobbs. Its mayor has a big problem: How will he implement his scheme to bring in good clean health care jobs when every other American city is trying to do the same? How far will he go to nab those fabled 'medical tourists'? And what will the ensuing medical arms race mean for insurance premiums and taxes?

In this animated short illustrated by Adam Cole and rhymed by me, you'll hear the story of this amazing health care arms race that's unfolding in cities across America.

Tonight on Marketplace, I tell a real-life version of this story from the suburbs of Detroit. The story asks the question: Can local politics influence hospitals to over-expand -- driving up insurance premiums and taxes, and even creating a health care jobs bubble?

Check out some of the latest numbers on health care and jobs in The Health Care Economy Index.

And with that, enough talk. Watch the short already. And please let us know what you think.

About the author

Gregory Warner is a senior reporter covering the economics and business of healthcare for the entire Marketplace portfolio.
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I'm delighted to hear a physician say this. It would be great if you all would hit the editorial pages and vent. Somehow this needs to get some serious airing in the media. It's too late for some but not for all.

The short answer to the question, “Can local politics influence . . .” etcetera is surely “Yes, and so can national politics driven by lobbying from a rapacious health care insurance industry.” Meanwhile, health care just keeps getting worse. A new facility in northern CA, with a prominent “in-patient/out-patient” wing, looks like it was modeled after Jack-in-the-Box. You have to be blind not to see this bubble coming, and complete with government mandate for profiteering. Open up the classifieds and there are jobs everywhere. You have to dig a bit deeper to get the whole story (Making a Killing: HMOs and the threat to your health is a good place to start)—yet another speculative construction, development, and investment bonanza, like commercial real estate in the eighties (Savings and Loan fiasco), for-profit prisons, sub-prime lending, student-loan sharking, and toll highways. Maybe one day we’ll again put government to good use—public use—instead of private use. I won’t hold my breath, though. I’m surprised there hasn’t been more of a push to privatize our national parks—sell them to a Chinese firm to satisfy our balance of payments deficit or something. It’s really the only fiscally responsible thing to do, isn’t it? Just a waste of productive profitable investment sitting there fallow. No commercial financial return at all. If you can’t make money off it; sell it, rape it, or let it die.

Great cartoon! It seems that this could even be applied to universities and the building of better and more lavish dorms that are currently driving up the cost of college education.

Terrific piece and just what's needed for basic consumer information about the rising costs of increasingly unaffordable health care. I was without h.c insurance for 18 years until I got onto Medicare.

This is the reason why in some places hospitals and medical practices are closing up. We have more facilities than needs and less people being served properly by those that are left costing all of us more. Responsibility will soon have to be taken by the individual.

I would like to hear someone intent on analyzing the HC system talk about driving costs up by educating too many MD specialists, rather than Primary Care physicians. These specialists need to be fed, promoting over-referrals from primary MDs, who in turn are being pressured by hospitals who have to pay for mega-equipment. The monitoring agency for Congress (CMC) has never done it's job toward cutting these specialists slots and equalizing the pay system to encourage more primary care providers.

Further, the public's love for our HC remedies, from the pill to the surgery for fixing the sniffles to knee replacements, will cause us to keep 'whining over costs' and ranting at Medicare while we refuse to change our lifestyles, including preventive care approaches. Outside of cancer, we're pretty sure that about every other malady these days can be at least diminished by changing our unhealthy habits.

Please continue your excellent discussion to include some of these factors.

Ahh Yes... Now have any or all of our political candidates seen this (these) videos? And can they "Get the kind of Picture it portrays"? I would like to even hear one of them (or all) speak of decreasing the "Corporate Healthcare" waste that we have in America. And don't forget the "Corporate Lobbists". How about stopping them dead in their tracks? Where is Integrity that we need to run our country like we should, not like the way it is being run today?

Yes, all of the above with the added trick of making health care worse. Somewhere along the way health and care were eliminated in order to promote jobs, big wages and technology. Is it any surprise the ranks of those and Medicaid and Medicare are increasing?

Excellent observation about a medical facility and equipment phenomenon that is already the order of the day! Be sure to watch your muni investments. I don't think this bubble will burst for quite a while and I would like to think that a competitive market place for health insurance would begin to bring real competition into the pricing structure of health services and facilities.

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