Thursday, August 27, 2009

Unhealthy Environment

(cross-posted at Maryland Politics Today)

With no apologies to Glenn Beck, I would like to start off with what I know. I know that health care reform is sorely needed in these United States of America. This is something that is absolutely clear and the one thing that both sides of the aisle agree on. Right now, companies are being charged more and more for health care which is causing employees to pay more and more out of their pocket. In the case of small businesses, they have thrown their hands in the air saying that they cannot offer it because they cannot afford.

The health insurance companies as well as drug makers are being over-run by pencil pushers who are only looking out to make sure that the investors into the company are able to take something home at the end of the day. Slimy lawyers prey on people who already feel that they are taken advantage of, giving them lofty promises of millions of dollars because the doctor is not able to cure them or treat them and they are lied to when the victims of these ambulance chasers are told “the doctor did not do his job, he is suppose to make you better, right? Come on, let’s go to circuit court.”

Then there are the doctors themselves, who are paying out the ying yang for the few bad doctors who are giving a black eye to the good doctors, who honor their oaths and are bending over backwards to give their patients the proper care. Those doctors have to pay insane amounts of money to play defense against malpractice suits that should not even be apart of the equation. Many of these doctors are forced to leave the profession that they have taken years to study because of scenarios like these. The flip side to this, doctors are not able to make medical decisions to help their patients, because the pencil pushers mentioned earlier are making decisions to fill the pockets of their bosses.

This is a vicious and unhealthy merry-go-round that we have been dealt here at the reform carnevil #9. These are serious issues that need to be discussed, yet the very person that should be leading the charge has done nothing but wax philosophical while at the same time allowing the insane clown posse propose whatever they want in a bid to try and one up places where nationalized health care has yet to bring a ringing endorsement.

President Barack Obama (D) demanded that he receive a health care reform package on his desk by the August recess. His reasoning is that if you don’t set deadlines in Washington, stuff does not get done. Well, that joke was on him, because he did not receive anything. In addition, he said that the stars were aligned, the heavens have opened up, angels are singing…ok, I might be laying it on a little thick, however he did actually say that the stars are aligned and this is the moment. This is all well and good, but he has not proposed ANYTHING as far as what he wants to see in the legislation.

The result of the President not saying anything as far as what he wants to see reformed are H.R. 676 and H.R. 3200, two bills that I am not a fan of. H.R. 676 would practically require everyone to become a non-profit in order to be compensated from the Federal government for services rendered. It will also give a bailout of sorts, providing subsidies to clinics that convert to being non-profit so they can stay afloat.

H.R. 3200 is the big one. For starters, this bill will pave the way for government funding of abortion under the guise of “free standing birth centers.” Last I checked, a crisis pregnancy center is not referred to as a birth clinic, and most births that I know take place are in hospitals. On top of that H.R. 3200 is in effect creating another layer of bureaucracy and unnecessary rules which would move the rationing of services from private companies to the government, which will cause the government to go into further debt.

Now, here is what I think. Time has proven that a free market with common-sense regulation is successful if the government keeps its grubby paws off of the works. I credit the fact that the economy starting to recover is because of companies who are adjusting to the current marketplace and no thanks to the bailout from Presidents Bush and Obama.

It cracks me up how people come to me and ask, “How can you be against the Obama bailout when you supported President Bush?” I would quickly tell them, I wasn’t a fan of the Bush bailout, so why would I like the Obama bailout even more. The Bush bailout did not have any strings attached, while the Obama bailout had a number of strings attached, which cause banks for the most part to back away slowly.

In addition to that, the Obama stimulus provided for government jobs. The majority of Americans work in private industry. I assure you, as an employee in the private sector, I did not see one dime of stimulus money in my industry being used anywhere. So without any help from the government, businesses are recovering the old fashioned way because unlike government, they cannot print money.

Right now, reforming the rules that health insurance companies play by seem to be an idea whose time has come. This should also include throwing out that whole “pre-existing condition” clause out, because that is not fair at all. In addition, they should also look at tort reform. What is the point of having health care reform, if there are no doctors left to practice? The mentality of getting something for nothing has messed with many aspects of American life, but in particular the medical profession for too long. Not all malpractice cases fit all. There needs to be a process to decide on what is legitimate malpractice, and which cases are doctors going above and beyond to see that their patients are well.

Everyone has the right to health care, but that does not mean it should be forced on them. If they do not want to have any sort of health care coverage, that should be they’re right. However, if they do need treatment, they should have to pay for it as if they were driving without auto insurance and they get caught in a fender bender. Now that I have addressed the stupid people who can afford health insurance but do not get it because of some reason or another, we now have those who have to choose between having a roof over their head or health insurance. That is a choice that no one should make.

Instead of creating a whole new level of bureaucracy, let’s do something smart for once and use the resources that we already have, Medicare and Medicaid. Why not use them as the system in which those who cannot afford health care use one of those (heck, I would say combine them. Truth be told, I can’t even tell the difference sometimes.)

While I could have talked about how great it is to see Americans finally wake up to see that President Obama and the Democratic congress were trying to pull a fast one on them or the fact that U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-5th) insulted the constitution by saying that dissent is unpatriotic, while at the same time insulting everyone’s intelligence thinking that we would not remember what they said two years ago, I thought that it was more important to actually talk about the problem.

Thanks to President Obama, Pelosi, Hoyer and the cable news networks, people are talking more about the townhall meetings than the actual issue, whether it’s the problems or the ideas. It is now an unhealthy environment to the point that I would not be surprised that the caustic partisan rhetoric will cause President Obama to suffer his first defeat on domestic policy, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

P. Kenneth Burns is the editor of Maryland Politics Today. His email is kburns@themdnews.com.



1 comment:

Matt Johnston said...

Some of your comments have merit, but I have to take issue with the general premise of the piece. We do not need health care reform, even the poorest in this country get far better quality care than the poorest people in any other nation on earth.

What we need is health care FINANCING reform. The manner in which we as Americans pay for health care is not insurance no matter how you classify it. What the Democrats are proposing is substituting your current third party payer (your private insurance company) with the government. The result is that instead of massive payments to a largely non-competitive industry, we will be subsidiing massive payments using tax dollars. The former is distasteful enough, the latter borders on insanity and fiscal recklessness.

Without a doubt the best way to make health care financing better and easier is to do away with third party payers (whether private or public) and combine it with real tort reform in order to lower the cost of doing business for a doctor.

In place of the current, largely employer provided health care financing, you install a tax deduction for individuals to buy their "insurance." Currently employers get to deduct as an expense of doing business the cost of the insurance they provide, eliminate the employer deduction and substitute it for individal deduction. (for all the nervous ninnies out there, I doubt your cash salary will decrease and it may increase as employers look to keep the salary/benefits deduction up). But here is the catch, over time you have to eliminiate the individual tax deduction or raise the minimum amount of payment before the deduction kicks in. Right now, you can deduct medical expenses if they are over 7.5% of your gross adjusted income.

The idea is to reduce the reliance on third party payers by increasing the threshold of when the individual deduction kicks in. In turn, there will be pressure on the insurance market to provide a cheaper policy, but at the same time, the massive medical bill deduction can be lowered to say 3,4 or 5% of AGI, so that you can't really deduct your insurance premium, but can deduct medical expenses that are much larger. In the end we have true insurance, not a third party payer. (You can't deduct your car insurance can you? Well most of us can't).

The issue is not health care--but paying for health care and the sooner we start understanding the difference the better off we will be in this debate.

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