(Mike Zahara) – If your house caught fire, would you call the Fire Department, or build a new subdivision next door?
If your company made widgets and you were losing money and your costs were always three times the rate of inflation, would you analyze ‘why’ this was happening, or would you create brand new company divisions and hope that that would solve your problem?
I’m left with these silly scenario questions after having followed every step of ‘healthcare reform’ since the 111th Congress was sworn in on January 3, 2009.
I’m ashamed both the House and Senate bills came from my own party, but then again, I’m not really surprised. The US Senate version is barely tolerable and completely indecipherable. The US House version is the worst piece of legislation I have ever read or analyzed; they seem hell-bent on punishing insurers for all that is wrong with healthcare, conveniently forgetting that they passed the laws that allowed for what we have today to be our current reality.
We have the best healthcare system in the world. If you had a choice of all 192 nations within the United Nations to become ill in, the US would still be number one. No one touches us in care, medical advancements, technology…; people all over the world beat a path to our door for medical treatment.
We also have the most wasteful system in the world, the most wasteful medical consumers in the world, and nearly 50 million Americans are not insured.
We do have an affordability issue, an over-consumption issue, an access issue in rural America, a lifestyles issue, and first and foremost, we have a cost issue.
Unbelievably, neither the House nor Senate versions do anything to address costs both in care and coverage that always rise at 2-3 times the rate of inflation.
I’m serious, nothing! We’ve been telling you this for months and the following was released on the weekend to try to cover-up the bad news:
They are depending on rosy scenarios and modeling that a college kid would get a failing grade if she delivered such nonsense in a business plan for her MBA thesis.
I’m struck by how punitive the House bill is; it’s astonishing the requirements they’ve put in knowing full well the insurance industry cannot absorb them. This is because of the far left, progressive-extremist wing of the Democratic Party—that’s about 100 members in the US House—are insanely so far left, they’ve almost done a 360!
It’s not even a ‘carrot and stick’ approach—it’s all stick turned to riding crop designed to whip insurers, not to coax them into reforms.
They wrote into the current House version everything designed to drive out private insurers all together with single-payer their true goal. Canada and Great Britain are ‘single-payer’ systems and two of the worst systems in the world.
Thankfully, the US Senate is not going to let that happen, but we run the real risk of health insurers deciding that getting out of the business is the best option for their stockholders.
If just one pulls out of the market, it could create a domino effect and crash the stock market and further devalue the dollar.
It’s our reality that because of our economic issues and enormous debt that we can’t do this without the private health insurers.
Part of the problem is political philosophy. Some out there just hate markets, loath capitalism; they grieve for the bottom rungs of the economic ladder, but enjoy remarkably comfortable lives themselves while grieving.
On November 1, 2009 the Review-Journal had a great piece on healthcare and the reporter interviewed Launce Rake from PLAN. I’ve yet to meet Mr Rake, but his open hostility to even pausing to consider the private-sector, dripped in everything he is quoted as saying. He really does believe that a 9 million dollar CEO salary would somehow make a dent in the enormity of this issue.
It’s so naïve, it would almost be charming if many others didn’t also share his views; there are many people out there that really believe healthcare ‘reform’ will cost them nothing out of their own pockets, and should never cost them anything out of their pockets:
I’m sure Rake’s heart is in the right place; his head clearly is not.
Many people out there have no idea how insurance works either and people like Mr Rake and millions of others pushing this so-called ‘reform’, are blissfully unaware that their IRA’s, 401K’s, union pensions, and other investment vehicles all hold health insurers’ stock…and lots of it! By design, insurers invest their holdings very conservatively which makes them very attractive to institutional investors.
Insurance has been around for 4000 years; the modern concepts of insurance, since the 14th century! Insurance is about ‘risk’ and spreading that risk as much as possible to minimize potential losses.
But again, it’s not insurance that is the major problem; it is costs! We’ve only had health insurance for 80 years in the US and it didn’t become more available until World War II as an incentive to attract desperately needed workers during wartime.
We’ve never established a national policy on healthcare, yet the current Congress is set to do in 10 months, what we haven’t done in 80 years!
And they’ve failed abysmally by doing so. In trying to be all things to all people, they’ve missed the fundamentals. Before you can solve something, you have to know what the problems are, why they became problems, how to mitigate those problems, and what the best course of action is toward resolution of those problems.
Astonishingly, amazingly really, neither the US House or US Senate versions of ‘reform’ bother to do that!
The old adage is that a giraffe is a horse built by a committee; with what’s on the table from the House and Senate, they set out to build a horse, came up with a giraffe, and attached a zebra to its neck.
That’s how bad these efforts are; I’m not being facetious at all.
Our dilemmas are many. Our population is aging, 78 million baby-boomers entering their Medicare years now have a 43 trillion dollar unfunded liability for us to pay.
At current rates, Medicare alone, without any current healthcare ‘reform’ at all, will be consuming more than 25% of the federal budget all by itself—that’s just Medicare! This is fact; this is not fantasy, or partisanship, but fact.
We have to get a hold of these enormous costs first, before doing anything else.
We also have to figure out how to address all of the other issues too.
None of this can be done in 10 months of this year and we run the risk of making a mistake so large, that our currency is further devalued and our economy spins into Depression.
Yes, this is real. Our dollar is in the toilet, OPEC is thinking of moving its pricing over to the Euro, and we are printing money so fast and borrowing so fast that the ‘Full Faith and Credit of the United States’ is in serious jeopardy.
Other nations are seriously talking about the United States defaulting on its debts! In order to stave that off, we either have to have massive tax increases, or massive spending cuts; most likely both. Chinese college students broke out in uproarious laughter at our own Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, when he proclaimed to them the sinewy US economy earlier this year.
We’re fooling no one but ourselves, it seems.
We are currently 1.3 trillion in real-time budget deficits, with 43 trillion dollars in unfunded ‘entitlements’, whereas just 30 years ago we were up until that point, the world’s greatest creditor nation and today we are her greatest debtor nation because we just can’t stop spending.
To give you an idea that we’re not talking ‘Monopoly’ money here with these enormous amounts of money, I had to go out a buy a new calculator that handles ‘trillions’ to check the math for you!
So, how do we afford all of this healthcare ‘reform’ while all of these other things are also occurring?
Nor can we do ‘reform’ in an all encompassing Act of Congress because we have no money. Our nation is broke and you don’t take on a multi-trillion dollar new ‘entitlement’ when our own currency is valueless and we, as a nation, are looking under the nation’s sofa cushions for more money.
We also have a population that is still writhing from our economic collapse and there is just too much going on for them to absorb all that is going on around them. Realistically, that means they want us not to just tamp the brakes, but to slam on them and catch our breath, as well as handle this more rationally and far more judiciously.
It’s quite juvenile, and also stunningly arrogant, the audacity shown by both Houses that they could ‘solve’ or resolve all of these issues all by themselves in such a short time.
But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do. In fact, we can do a lot. We can easily pass a few basics this year and pass the tougher issues off to a National Commission to sort out for us and do this more incrementally over the next decade. And yes, I really do believe it will take that long to gently ease some of the bigger aspects into reality and to make sure they’re doing what we intend them to do.
The progressive-extremists will not hear of it for fear of Republicans being able to agree and have something to take home to their voters next year.
For that poisonous partisanship, we are moments away from Democrats losing the US House in 2010 and for years beyond that. Democrats not only face the prospect of losing both Houses as the polls close in 2012, but we could also lose the Presidency and Congress for a generation or more, if we push through a bad bill which they seem hell-bent on doing today.
The Republicans are just jeering from the sidelines and we can hardly blame them, can we, when Democrats are handing them the US Congress and presidency for the next 20+ years?
I’d let us continue to self-destruct too if I were them.
In my view, I think a Commission is our only alternative. Its mission will take a few months just to write as both branches tussle over what they would want the Commission to accomplish.
I think the Commission needs to be given at least 2 years, be made up of about 25 people from all walks of life, including respected, retired members of Congress, insurers, doctors, consumers, employers…and Congress can vote up or down what they come up with as the Commission is working and writing the various legislation.
I believe we have to break up the enormity of the issue into separate compartments and deal with each individually and have the ability to adjust when they’re done to see if solving one problem didn’t create another.
(Mike Zahara writes and publishes the www.WatchdogWag.com blog)