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Planet Money

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The economy, explained, with stories and surprises. Imagine you could call up a friend and say, "Meet me at the bar and tell me what's going on with the economy." Now imagine that's actually a fun evening. That's what we're going for at <em>Planet Money</em>. People seem to like it.

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#87 Planet Money: Health Insurance Is Like An All-You-Can-Eat Buffet

August 31st, 2009

Episode 180 of 911 episodes

Much of the debate over changing the U.S. health care system concerns the Americans who can't get care. But a majority of Americans have insurance of one type or another, and for them, the health care system often more closely resembles an all-you-can-eat buffet. As a consumer, you don't have to worry too a great deal about the price, to a point, because your employer pays much of your premiums and the insurer picks up much of the medical cost. David Goldhill, author of an Atlantic article called "How American Health Care Killed My Father," calculates that the average cost of a family's health insurance over a lifetime is $1.7 million. Goldhill proposes that Americans pay for routine care up to $50,000 over their lifetimes, and then be required to build health savings accounts that would cover the rest. Goldhill's idea strikes Richard Kirsch of Health Care for America Now as very dangerous proposition. He says you can't treat medicine like any other commodity.

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