Too Much – Too Fast

Remember that joke about “How do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time.  We have an elephant in Congress called “Health Care Reform” and Democrats are trying to force America to swallow it whole.  This massive take over of the present health care system threatens a slew of unintended consequences and unforeseen costs absolutely unimaginable to those who are pushing for passage.  Millions of citizens realize this and are routinely disparaged and dismissed as Astroturf by elected officials and the media. 

Bismarck’s analogy about making laws and sausage comes to mind and this sausage is bound to be tainted.  Amtrack, Social Security, Medicare, the Postal Service, defense procurement, and The Indian Health Service are rent with inefficiencies, graft, theft, low morale, and above all huge deficits.  What in the world makes people think that a government takeover of 17% of the US economy won’t lead to more of the same? 

The best cure for this headless monster grinding its way to passage is a good explosion.  All versions of the bill should be stacked on the street in front of the capitol and detonated by the DC bomb squad.  The resulting confetti should then be picked up, debated and passed one piece at a time. 

Health care costs have risen dramatically for several reasons.  First is the amazing development of technology and wonder drugs which has accelerated since penicillin became available in the early ‘40s.  Does anyone want to go back to when life expectancy was 63? Our present life expectancy is now 78 and such progress costs money. 

Second; the massive handoff of medical costs to HMOs and insurance companies creates an insulating effect.  When people paid their GP doctor directly, it was a direct payment for services rendered.  Now the doctor bills the insurance company for whatever amount the procedure is pegged at and the patients do not care one way or the other whether the fee was fair since it only cost them a small co-pay.  The involvement of the insurance company separates the doctor and the patient from a true direct transaction.  Health savings accounts and catastrophic insurance coverage go a long way toward redressing these market distortions.

Third; trial lawyers delight in gathering up “victims” of medical malpractice and bringing lawsuits against doctors, hospitals, and medical suppliers.  They cherry pick venues and jury shop for the best jackpot potentials and then either force an expensive settlement or brazenly convince a jury that there is some connection between a procedure or medicine and the adverse effects on their clients.  These trends have led to huge liability insurance burdens for all providers in the industry.  Thousands of specialist physicians have discontinued certain procedures completely.

The flip side is that billions are spent on unnecessary tests for the sole reason to escape the potential of a damaging lawsuit if and when a patient does not recover completely.  The costs of the huge insurance premiums and redundant tests are passed along by physicians to patients, HMOs and insurance firms as higher fees for services.  Medical malpractice reform should be legislated to blunt these abuses.

Fourth; state insurance mandates which demand which services and procedures insurance firms must cover restrict choices among consumers.  A policy available in Colorado most often cannot be purchased in Washington.  Therefore people cannot select among a wide variety of plans and are strictly limited to plans approved by the individual states.  This unduly restricts interstate competition among insurance companies who being in business to gain customers and make a profit would quickly fill the gaps if allowed to and increase consumer choice dramatically. 

These are just a few of the situations that are adversely affecting health care costs and insurance availability.  They should be dealt with individually to reform care and reduce costs for the good of the entire country.  President Obama should stand before the American people and pull the pin on these massive and dangerous schemes now emerging from Congress and start from a clean sheet of paper.  His popularity will skyrocket if he is man enough to admit a mistake before it metastasizes into a national disaster.


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