Is $10,000 a lot of money? Not in health care

Mitt Romney is taking a lot of grief for his casual offer to bet Rick Perry $10,000 during the latest Republican Presidential debate. According to the dominant storyline, $10,000 is a sum so vast that only a really rich person like Romney could contemplate offering it up. Mentioning $10,000 somehow proves Romney is out of touch. Romney may have been a bit tone deaf politically but his betting strategy with Perry was shrewd. He offered the bet because he was certain he would win it (and he would have) and picked $10,000 because that’s toward the upper end of the range that Perry was likely to be able to afford. It really doesn’t have much to do with Mitt’s wealth level.

But setting all that aside, $10,000 is actually a very relevant figure for a discussion of health care policy, and it’s a figure the electorate should get used to discussing. Consider what $10,000 (plus or minus) represents in the US health care environment:

Health insurance

  • The average annual employer contribution to one worker’s health insurance
  • What my business pays for six months of family health insurance coverage
  • The amount my business’s annual health insurance premium for family coverage has risen over the past decade


  • The average amount Medicare spends per beneficiary per year
  • What a wage earner making $350,000 per year pays in Medicare tax  (employer + employee contribution)

Clinician salaries

Drug costs

  • Six years of Lipitor for high cholesterol
  • Six months of Humira for rheumatoid arthritis
  • Two months of Avastin for lung cancer
  • Two or three weeks of Cerezyme for Gaucher Disease

Treatment costs

December 13, 2011

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