When it comes to health care, many of us have no idea of what costs what. The costs are hidden – and, quite frankly, those of us fortunate enough to have health insurance don’t want to know. Robert Samuelson has a sobering column on this state of affairs:

“For decades, Americans have treated health care as if it exists in a separate economic and political world: When people need care, they should get it; costs should remain out of sight. About 60 percent of Americans receive insurance through their employers; to most workers, the full costs are unknown. The 65-and-older population and many poor people receive government insurance. Except for modest Medicare premiums and payroll taxes, costs are largely buried in federal and state budgets.”

We all want some painless way to fix the healthcare system. We want everybody to be insured at no additional cost. We try to assure ourselves that getting everybody insured will save money in the long run. Samuelson debunks one aspect of this article of faith:

“One myth about the uninsured is that, because they’re heavy users of emergency-room services, providing them with insurance (and regular care) would actually lower their costs. This may be true for some — but not most. The trouble is that the uninsured don’t really use emergency rooms heavily. A study in the journal Health Affairs finds that their use is similar to that of people with private insurance — and half that of people with Medicaid. Extending insurance to all the uninsured would be costly, because they would get more and (presumably) better care. John Sheils of the Lewin Group estimates the annual cost of their care would rise 75 percent, to $145 billion.”

We can’t afford to be ostriches forever. A good place to begin curing your ostrich-itis is to read IWF’s “Five Ways to Improve Health Care for Women.”