Friday, August 28, 2009

Simple Health Care Points

The health care debate is simply one battle front of a much greater culture war but we still need to make some sense of it. I don't like the way each side of the debate attempts to compare the best (or worst) of one option with the worst (or best) of the other option. For example, the socialized health care proponents like to compare our infant mortality rate with that of other developed countries to demonstrate that our system is failing to protect infants. The big problem with the data is that the U.S. is the only country which counts all babies as babies. In other countries, premature babies who die aren't counted as infants. They're simply dead fetuses which means the socialized medicine proponents are comparing apples to oranges.  This isn't difficult to understand.

Now all of us, and I do mean EVERYBODY, are pro savings. We all want to cut the costs of health care in our nation and we all agree that there are plenty of places where efficiencies can be gained. For example: Medicolegal (yes, that's a real word) expenses have been estimated to add as much as $178 billion  per year just to cover health care providers backsides. This would include redundant testing, in depth reporting and in many cases, simply having to over engineer the whole health care system. The $178 billion is there in order to protect the health care providers from multimillion dollar awards for costs, pain, suffering, and punitive damages resulting from a mistake. Considering these huge expenses, tort reform should certainly be a key facet of any health care reform.

But you won't find any mention of tort reform in the bills before congress simply because, according to Howard Dean, the congress people are afraid of making the lawyers mad. Stop me if I'm wrong but I thought health care reform was supposed to be for the people, not the special interests.  (Note: in the video clip, I suspect that the questioner intended to say 200 Billion instead of 200 million but I don't know for sure).

One of the big points for pro-socialized health care is that it would "keep the insurance companies honest."  Currently, health insurance companies hide behind government protection because they get to deal with employers rather than the actual consumers of their product. We would make a lot of headway in this arena if we simply allowed the same tax protections enjoyed by employers to be enjoyed by all taxpayers who purchase health insurance. This would help break the monopolistic protection the insurance companies have, exposing them to the sunlight of consumer preference. We might need to tweak some of the rules about pre-existing conditions - perhaps even appropriating some tax payer funds to reduce some of the exposure (if we insist on having government involvement). But nothing in our current debate even refers to this option which would actually improve responsiveness to the health care consumer in both pricing as well as coverage.

So much for stuff that's not in the debate. What about some of the really bad stuff that is in the bill that Pelosi and crew are trying to foist on us. I have read at least some of the bill, probably more than the average congress person. One thing I find disturbing is that this "public option" is joined at the hip with the IRS. The IRS shares your income tax information with the health care bureaucracy in order to calculate "affordability credits." But there's more -- it is the IRS that the health care plan refers to for its pre-existing conditions definitions (I'll bet you thought that our government funded health care plan didn't even have limitations on pre-existing conditions). This may come as a shock to you but figuring out how to comply and/or dodge IRS regulations is a multi-billion dollar industry which is a parasitic tax on business and individual alike. Is it reasonable to think that socialist health care will be any better when it is administered with the IRS bureaucracy?

The reforms also claim cost savings due to the scale of the enterprise, implying that government can do things more cheaply than the private sector. A lot of opponents try to use the Postal Service vs. Fed Ex and UPS. For me, that comparison is off limits because delivering a first class letter to a rural route in Homer Alaska costss far more than the first class stamp. You see, our constitution provides for a postal service as well as carrier routes because communication is vital to freedom. But you won't find health care anywhere in the constitution. But let's make a comparrison to another entity that our government takes credit for: Our education system.

Who is pleased with our educational rankings in the world these days? Are you a fan of "No Child Left Behind?" According to my socialist leaning friends, we need to spend more on education in order to "fix" it. Now, based on the track record of government spending, how long do you think it would be before the cry for more health care spending in order to "fix" our socialist health care scheme? This isn't complicated. Just open your eyes and look at history, recent history.

Speaking of money, let's talk about the check book. Our nation is over drawn and living on credit cards. Long before we treat ourselves to taxpayer funded health care we need to get our bank book back in balance. The congressional budget office has already said that there will be no savings to our economy by going the route spelled out in the HC bill. It will cost us money. And that's based upon the rosy estimates being bandied around. How long has it been since a government endeavor came in below budget? What do you think will happen when we flood the health care system with millions more patients while watching the flight of retiring medical professionals who no longer want to play the game.

If we're going to have a health care debate, let's put some real ideas out there instead of just arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. I'm not sure whether our congressional representatives (either party) have the desire or the intelligence to sort it out. Which is the biggest reason why we need to step back. The free market, as ugly as it gets at times, has the unique ability to sort out massive and complicated problems if we just get out of the way and let it work. But I doubt it will get its chance because it seems that whenever we elect politicians they feel the need to control rather than enable. This will be our failure.

No comments: