Where to begin? The health care debate is picking up steam, and I fear the twin panaceas of “single payer” and “universal health care,” both Trojan horses of the first division, will suck up millions of gullible Obama-ites.
Trying to address health care in a blog is like trying to analyze the Civil War in a Twitter post. A 150-word, or even 1,000-word essay is hugely inadequate. One may as well try to get an online PhD with a 486 on a dial-up connection.
So I will not attempt to cover all the bases, but will focus instead on the dynamics of supply and demand, the philosophy of personal responsibility, and the fiscal and budgetary ramifications. Tort reform, insurance deregulation, electronic records, and other matters can wait for another time.
The fiscal & budget part is so cotton pickin’ easy, I’m going to make fast work of it and move on to the next item. Put simply, we cannot afford for Uncle Sam to take on another massive entitlement when it is already drowning in a sea of red ink and has gargantuan unfunded liabilities stretching from here to the next galaxy.
One of the many things I disliked about George W. Bush was his expansion of the Medicare program to include a prescription drug benefit for seniors. I’ve always thought it outrageous that ALL seniors are eligible for Medicare, regardless of income. But beyond that, Medicare, like most other government programs, costs FAR more than was ever projected, and has widened its scope enormously since its creation in the 1960s. It is rife with corruption, fraud, and mismanagement. It is living proof that “single payer” = fiasco policy.
So, Uncle Sam has unfunded liabilities for Medicare and Social Security totaling in the 10s of trillions of dollars during the next 50 years or so; the national debt is $11 trillion and climbing; annual deficits are out of control; and Bush decided to take on MORE entitlement spending? And now Obama and others are talking about putting the government entirely in charge of guaranteeing universal health care?
That would be like me running all of my credit cards up to the limit, gambling away the mortgage money, blowing all my savings on fancy vacations and fine dining, and then going out and buying a Corvette Stingray. Stupid; reckless; insane; idiotic; suicide. That’s what I think about the government taking another bite when it is already choking on its first few bites.
Now on to supply and demand. To put it simply, health care is a finite resource. There are only so many doctors, nurses, physical therapists, et al, to serve a growing population of 300 million-plus. You cannot wave a magic wand and suddenly provide high-quality coverage to everyone.
I know from speaking with former co-workers in Ontario that Canada’s universal health care forces some patients to wait months for routine tests or outpatient surgery. Some of them, if they can afford it, travel to the United States for more immediate attention. But many just accept their fate.
The $64,000 question: How is “universal health care” defined? How extensive is it? Does it include tummy tucks, aroma therapy, Botox treatments and contraceptives? Or is it far more basic?
The old joke goes, “You could pass out aspirin and Band-Aids to everyone and you’d have universal health care.”
This is simply meant to illustrate a point: We’ve got to clarify our terms so we are at least debating apples vs. apples. Currently I suspect the various parties quibbling in this debate might as well be speaking different languages. I don’t believe they’re understanding each other.
Lastly on this point, the finite nature of health care providers — personnel, facilities, equipment, and dollars — begs greater personal responsibility. The provider network can be expanded over time (provided the money is available and health care resources are used more wisely).
This segues us into individual accountability. If people help pay for some of their health care, and use it responsibly, the providers’ end will respond accordingly. More demand and sufficiently large payments (i.e., more market-based rates rather than arbitrary, bureaucratically-imposed reimbursements intended to constrain costs), WILL lead to more doctors, nurses, hospitals, clinics, and the like.
Think of it this way: When you take your car in for an oil change, new tires, or a new muffler, your auto insurance company doesn’t reimburse you for the maintenance, does it? No. You need to figure routine maintenance, insurance, and gasoline into the cost of owning a vehicle, along with the monthly bank note.
Health care is not a God-given right like the air we breathe. It is a valuable commodity that we should be willing to pay for if we are able to. In the days of government-imposed wage freezes, employers began offering health coverage as an incentive to attract and retain employees, and companies get tax breaks for providing such coverage. This is a convoluted system.
Let me propose something that might feel like a cold slap on the face to entitlement lovers: The cost of health care insurance and some expenses such as routine check-ups, flu shots, and dental cleanings and X-rays, ought to be paid by the consumers. People need to consider health and dental costs as a budget priority, just like groceries, utilities, the rent, and a car payment.
Many of the alleged 45 million people without health insurance are young, healthy, and could afford to pay for their own insurance, but elect instead to spend it on things like a car payment, nice apartment, or fancy clothes. It’s a question of how you set your priorities.
For those who cannot afford their own health insurance or treatments because of long-term unemployment, old age, health issues, etc., I am all for a safety net, as I’m sure the vast majority of Americans are.
I will have more to say about health care in the future, but do not believe in posting excessively long blogs.