Health Care Madness

July 17th, 2009

In the previous post, Jan Barry wrote about “socialized medicine,” that great bugaboo of conservatives.  He effectively made the point that the present health care system, if it can be called that, often isn’t so great, and a new nationally standardized and controlled system might prove to be better.  He drew valid parallels with military medical care, the VA health system, and Medicare, all of which can be considered forms of “socialized medicine.” 

I don’t argue with his logic.  However, the health care legislation now in Congress is not the answer.  It’s being forced through the system without enough serious consideration and debate; in fact, it’s so long and detailed that it’s virtually certain members of Congress won’t read it before they vote.  Beyond that, it’s incomplete and constantly changing even at this late stage.  The Congressional Budget Office says it’s too expensive and will hurt the economy, which is pretty obvious to anyone paying attention.  The effects aren’t well understood, and the potential for seriously negative unintended consequences is high indeed.

Yes, health care costs must be reduced, and those citizens and legal immigrants who really don’t have access to health care should be provided for.  However, this number isn’t anywhere near the 40 or 50 million people cited by proponents of massive, incredibly expensive change (see Who Are the Uninsured?). 

What should happen now, and I think it will, is Congress should kill this legislation and go back to the drawing board.  After all views have been considered, the effects studied in detail, and reasonable sources of funding identified, a program can be developed that both the public and politicians have an opportunity to read and understand.  This is one of the most massive undertakings our government has ever considered, and it deserves very serious and thorough treatment.  If that takes another year, or two, or five — so what? 

The serious weaknesses of the current legislation and the damage it could cause are being better understood every day by the public, politicians, and the media — Democrats and Republicans alike.  As Susan Estrich wrote today:

What … explanation could there be for my friends in Congress and the administration thinking that what the country wants them to do right now is raise taxes and spend a trillion dollars to overhaul health care, much less to push it through in a month in a 1,000-page bill being rewritten every day? …

The idea that somehow you’re going to tax the “rich” enough to pay for quality health care for every American who doesn’t have it, can’t afford it or stands to lose it, not to mention for all of the undocumented aliens who receive it for free now and presumably will continue to in Obama health land, is almost laughable. It’s one of those things candidates say in campaigns, ignoring the fact that it doesn’t add up. But in a bill that might pass? Add a 5 percent surtax on every small business in the country that makes $250,000 or more? This is going to create jobs? What am I missing? …

No one is explaining to people how the big changes in the bill will affect people who have insurance now, which happens to be the overwhelming majority of all Americans (and an even higher percentage of all voters).

Will our premiums and deductibles go up or down? Will our doctors and hospitals be better or worse off? It is simply not credible to tell me that if I like my insurance now, nothing will change. If you turn the health care delivery system on its head and start regulating, mandating and controlling the terms, don’t tell me it won’t change things.

Changing the tax treatment of insurance benefits changes who gets them and who pays for them. “Controlling costs” means what? Does my doctor have to see more patients? Get more approvals before ordering tests? Order less expensive tests? I don’t know a single person who is willing to sacrifice, or even risk, their health care right now to an uncertain plan that they don’t begin to understand — except folks in D.C.

I went to my doctor this morning and suspect I had an experience that’s being repeated in doctor’s offices across the country. My doctor told me how worried she is about the plan. Actually, it was much stronger than “worried.”

She wasn’t a big fan of HillaryCare, but from her reading, it was a carefully drafted and thought-out program compared to what’s being discussed now. She’s convinced that if the administration succeeds, the ripple effect will cost Democrats the House in 2010 and her patients’ their access to high quality, affordable care.

I reassured her that the Democrats would never be that foolish. I hope. Maybe it’s time for Congress to get out of Washington. They’ll get an earful when they do.

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