Monday, January 7, 2008

The Solution to the Healthcare Crisis...or Not...

The presidential debates of January 5th, 2008 will provide weeks worth of subject matter for this blog, and I cannot think of a better way to kick off "The Right Bias" than with some candidate banter. For those just getting acquainted with this blog, which is everyone, it is an unashamedly conservative oriented blog; hence, the name: The Right Bias. Note the satirical play on words with "right" - I am referring to the double entendre.

Regardless of your political orientation, and my obvious position on the issues, I believe you will find the objective nature of this blog refreshing. I am not blogging to make wild assertions and baseless claims; instead, I hope this to be a thoughtful blog substantiated by sound economic, political, sociological, and whatever other relevant "ological" reasoning is pertinent. Your candid, but intelligent, responses are welcome here.

And so...my first topic: health care. This is a touchy subject for most Americans of late. Most of us struggle in some way with our health care options because of health plan restrictions, lack of a health plan, or increasing prices no matter what plight we face with our heath insurance coverage. I think we'd all admit that there are problems with the health care system in America, but we probably differ on how we think it compares to the health care in the rest of the World. Personally, I think ours is in the 90th percentile internationally and I want nothing to do with a socialized heath care system. Please ask the nearest Canadian what he or she thinks of socialized health care before forming your opinion.

This is my first problem with the Moore's that want to portray the U.S. health care system as second rate to socialized systems in other countries: How many people are illegally entering Cuba and taking advantage of its health care system? How does illegal immigration in the countries with "successful" socialized medical care compare to that of the United States? My point is that you cannot compare our medical system against that of another country unless you normalize with reference to key factors, such as the burden of uninsured, non-tax paying, illegal immigrants. A family member of mine is a high-level administrator for a health care network of hospitals in Texas. When asked what the greatest driver of high costs is in their system: non-paying patients; until recently, the local and state government had programs in place to replace their bad debts. Without the subsidies, their network is going into the red and guess who will get to pay more so that they don't have to close hospitals? That's right, the paying patients.

Yet another family member is a medical office administrator for a large private practice. In their case, non-paying patients are less problematic because they reserve the right to refuse service to uninsured patients. He identifies insurers and their endless billing codes as big contributors to high costs. In addition, they pay outrageous premiums for medical liability insurance - a consequence of a litigious society run amuck.

There are several other reasons why health care costs are high in our country, and I don't want to pretend that the burden of illegal immigrants or uninsured patients is the only problem. We do have a price insensitivity issue whereby I have no incentive to chose my health provider based upon cost because my insurer makes no differentiation in their coverage of my claims. If I personally benefited from lower costs, then I would be more selective as long as quality was not compromised.

But let's get on to the solutions proposed by the Democrats during the Saturday debates (1/5/08). Edwards, Clinton, and Richardson all had a "great" solution to the problem of uninsured Americans: make health insurance mandatory! (Obama was not mentioned because he stated his plan would not be mandatory.) Why didn't I think of that? You don't have insurance? The Democrats will fix it - you'll have to afford it and that way you couldn't possibly not have coverage, right? Don't believe me? Straight from Hillary's website, "Individuals: will be required to get and keep insurance in a system where insurance is affordable and accessible." (http://www.hillaryclinton.com/feature/healthcareplan/summary.aspx).

"Affordable and accessible." Are you satisfied with the TSA? How about FEMA? Social Security? Welfare? Do you think those government organizations are well run, fair, and fiscally responsible? Do you really trust the government to ensure your new, mandatory health insurance will be affordable, accessible, and worth your investment? Have you ever bothered to calculate the return on investment of your retirement benefit from Social Security? 16% of your salary stuffed away for 45 years and how much are you getting?

Not only is the Democrats' (and Romney's) plan a sure bet on a really bad investment, but think about the cost. Clinton claims the cost will be offset by a tax credit...but goes on to mention she will roll back some of the Bush tax credits. Hmm...let's give a tax credit here and take one over there...doesn't sound like much net savings to me. How long after the Baby Boomers have bankrupted the new medical system will my generation get left with all the tax burden and none of the benefit? What about my children? These plans are not sustainable.

All the campaigns claim that you will be able to keep your existing health plans if you choose. However, if you're like me and your employer provides your health plan but has been trying to weasel out of it more and more each year, do you think your employer is going to keep your existing plans when there is a mandatory, public plan available? Read Clinton's website carefully and you'll notice that she proposes large companies (like mine) will be expected to share some of this cost. That means additional tax burden on large companies to help pay for her plan. And do you think large companies are going to pay taxes on the Clinton plan while paying out of pocket for your private plans? Say goodbye to your private health plans.

The road to health care reform is arduous, but it is abundantly clear that a government funded and administered plan is the wrong choice for America. The Democrats want to pile more bureaucracy on the problem and get us dug deeper into this mess. What we need is medical liability reform, immigration reform, and a market driven system with incentivised buyers (patients). While this may be a directed outcome from the government it must not be operated by the government because we have seen what happens when the government is in charge. Let's keep this country's medical care high quality and alter the root cause of our medical cost nightmare instead of paltry solutions that cover up the problem and ultimately worsen our plight.

1 comment:

  1. I have worked in health care administration for over 35 years. I have seen much change in that time--most of it very positive. I firmly believe that America is a leader when it comes to health care.

    If this is the case, why is there so much criticism about the performance of the health care system. Most experts will say that the issues come down to accessibility, availability, cost and technology. They are correct.

    There are a couple of issues still missing--personal responsibility and a high level of expectation. When my wife and I were raising our five children, there were heavy doses of accountability for each decision and action and a discipline that kept expectation realistic. Today all of them are successfully pursuing careers.

    In health care, it is essential for one to be responsible. Please understand that there are definitely situations that are beyond the control of a person. It is reality that there are unfortunate health problems that befall a small percentage of the population.

    The greater majority of current health care issues are directly related to a lack of care and concern for for our physical and mental health caused by none other than ourselves. As hard as it is to accept this, it is the truth that none of us like to hear no less face.

    This lack of personal responsibility leads naturally to the second point--high expectation. So what if I lack care and concern for myself! Modern technology and my doctor and other health care providers will provide. Not only that, I won't have to pay anything or very little because my health insurance will pay it all. Nothing is further from the truth.

    These high expectations have caused us to become complacent. Ask anyone how much their health care truly costs them. They have no idea. They have grown to expect the best without accepting any personal responsibility.

    Experts will point out the vicious cycle that exists in the health care system from the four points I mentioned in second paragraph. For me, the most vicious cycle is between the lack of personal responsibility and a very high level of expectation. Until each of us takes responsibility and adjusts our level of expectation, the problems in the health care system will not be solved.

    No one can solve this, least of all a liberal.

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