The NYTimes had an article today on Pensions, outlining the common components of distress in the current pension system. Short study on the Internet will provide Anyone with a wealth of data. The provision of Health Care and Pensions have become a hazard-prone occupation. This Author thinks to provide a clearer understanding of the Problem (and will probably fail).
Health Care for Retirees faces skyrocketing Price increases in the health care industry, led by the vast run-up in Drug Costs incited by the Patent system currently in place; industries are pressed even in the provision of health care for present Employees, and are beginning to offer Co-Payment for services along with higher premiums for the employee. This will continue until Congress regulates Patent royalties--probably a demand that R&D and Production Costs be amortized over a Twenty year period with appropriate Product pricing.
Pensions are another matter, and the switch to (401)k Plans will not markedly help to handle the Problem. It derives because of Advertising practice in America, which offers Retirees a full range of entertainments at high Pricing; so high, in fact, that adoption of such entertainment actually increases the Living Costs of Retirees after retirement. Health Care and Basic Services follow the trend of Entertainment industries, bringing overall increases in Living Costs. (401)k Plans will not help much, as no Economist expects We will see the high Profits in the Markets as have been seen, because of the huge retirement from the Labor force coming, with little room left to increase Productivity levels; We are likely to witness high levels of technological advancement, but none which will actively advance Productivity. The only area such can be increased is Energy conservation, and Energy production is addicted to old technologies due to the high Capital Costs involved.
The United States needs a unitary Retirement program, and We have one, but it is insufficient under the current economic pressures acting through the economy. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid all originated in an era where Health Care was not increasing in Price relatively faster than the rest of the Economy. The Ageing and Retirement of the Population has created an artificial shortage in the Health Care industry, while the switch to Private provision of such Care has introduced the additional Cost of Profits into such Care. The argument of provision of better Care does not enter into this Argument, and such claims have not been decisively proven. It is known Private Care Providers will cut Services and Care to maintain their high Profit ratios. Reform must be introduced, whether it is regulation of Private Providers, or reintroduction of Public institutional Care. Case in Point: the return of multiple Patient wards in hospitals could possibly cut the Bed cost by 20%.
America has become used to the personalized care offered by the Private Sector in practically all aspects of the economy. Americans' greatest gripe is the lines of People waiting for service in Government agencies. Yet One must argue that America have seen the Years of Fat Cows as had Egypt in the Bible, and must face the Years of Lean Cows. Practices will have to change, as We need mass production practices in far more areas than simple manufacturing sectors. lgl