Thursday, September 24, 2009

Real Health Care Reform.......

If you haven't had a chance to read my previous post about Health Care, here it is. To re-iterate my position, in short, I absolutely believe Health Care Reform is necessary. But my opinion is that changes should be made so that the private sector is cleaned up reducing costs malpractices (Tort and medical), making health care more affordable without sacrificing the current quality of care (which is excellent). And by private sector, I mean operations of Insurance companies and Pharmaceutical companies and NOT government.

In my previous post, I have detailed the reasons why I am skeptical about a public option in health care reform. Which is a Trojan Horse to eventually switch to a single payer system. The video below shows Jacob Hacker, one of the architects of the Obama Health Care plan talking about it. He blatantly admits to the statement just made.

Further reading about the bills and policies proposed thus far, it only reinforces my beliefs. In this post, I am going to concentrate more on the cost - benefit aspects. There are other more serious concerns like health care rationing and decline in quality of care that comes with having a single player system (refer my previous post again).

The status quo

Let's be honest. What is the biggest problem this country faces right now? It is getting out of this economic funk and making those job numbers go up. In the process of doing it, a lot of people's money has already been spent. The national depth is at an all time high, and is ever increasing; with the unnecessary war (debatable of course) and all the necessary and unnecessary stimuli including some very questionable bailouts of Wall Street and Mo-town. In the process, money was borrowed from other countries, but most importantly, the government printing press has been on over-drive printing currency like never before. We are seeing the fall out of that with the drop in the Dollar value, which could spiral down to new lows in the near future. In a situation like this, what is the most sensible thing to do? Cut government spending and try slashing that deficit as soon as you can.

At the same time, you have to steady the domestic ship. Of the many things on the "to do" list for this is health care reform. It is indisputable that health care costs have been exploding and adding to the strain of the economy of the country. This is seen and felt most only at tough times like this. During prosperous times, when most people have jobs, they have insurance and the pinch isn't felt as the common man's pockets aren't emptied. Even when we recover from this economic turmoil, it's inevitable that the economy will take a similar downturn sometime down the line. Essential things have to be fixed before that, and that includes health care reform.

(more) Issues with current proposals

It is universally accepted that health care needs to be fixed. At the same time, common (and economic) sense dictates that the government cannot afford to spend more of the tax payers cash. Now, the White House and some politicians try to twist and parse words indicating that the proposals put forth by them will not add the the federal debt. But, to the contrary, how in the world will it not? The numbers going around after research and analysis by independent firms and organizations is in the order of Trillions of dollars (with a capital T). Just to put things in perspective a Trillion is 1,000,000,000,000 .....that's with 12 zeros. And let's not fool ourselves, has any government program ever ended up sticking to their budgets, let alone spending less than estimated costs?....ever?

One of the most detailed analysis has been done by the reputed CATO Institute. You can look at their complete policy analysis report here. Here are the conclusions they have come up with based on all the policy proposals going around Capitol Hill:
  • Contrary to the Obama administration's repeated assurances, millions of Americans who are happy with their current health insurance will not be able to keep it. As many as 89.5 million people may be dumped into a government-run plan.
  • Some Americans may find themselves forced into a new insurance plan that no longer includes their current doctor.
  • Americans will pay more than $820 billion in additional taxes over the next 10 years, and could see their insurance premiums rise as much as 95 percent.
  • The current health care bills will increase the budget deficit by at least $239 billion over the next 10 years, and far more in the years beyond that. If the new health care entitlement were subject to the same 75-year actuarial standards as Social Security or Medicare, its unfunded liabilities would exceed $9.2 trillion.
  • While the bills contain no direct provisions for rationing care, they nonetheless increase the likelihood of government rationing and interference with how doctors practice medicine.
  • Contrary to assertions of some opponents, the bills contain no provision for euthanasia or mandatory end-of-life counseling. The bills' provisions on abortion coverage are far murkier.
Now aren't these numbers mind-boggling??

Another reputed Institute, The Heritage Foundation, has done some independent analysis of their own. Their study shows how the current health care reform proposals are going to complicate things and create more problems than solution for America. Here are just a few of their findings by their Center for Data Analysis (CDA):
  • Job losses would mount over time as potential high-income earners forgo job-creating endeavors. By 2019, the economy would offer 452,000 fewer jobs than it would have without the reforms.
  • Self-employed individuals as a group would have $16 billion less income in 2019 (nominal dollars).
  • The surtax would impose a deadweight cost of $12.8 billion in lost gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011, rising to $68.2 billion by 2019 and costing taxpayers an average of $46.7 billion per year.
  • A typical family of four would have $995 less in disposable income in 2019 -- enough to pay for routine annual checkups for the four individuals.
Their article also suggests how
"True reform would change outdated rules and regulations to give consumers greater choice and autonomy in their health care spending. Such reforms would lead to a more efficient and more effective health care system without harming the economy".

Apart from the cost and other factors that will affect the already ailing economy, there could be more regulation and mandates passed into law which will make things worse. Here's a NY Post article that talks about the impacts of certain mandates and regulations that could back fire and make the system more inefficient and/or drive up costs: coverage of "pre-existing" conditions and mandating preventive procedures in every plan. This article also weighs in on the drawbacks of a "public option" and how it will eventually lead to a "single payer system", which in turn is going to lead to higher taxes, long never ending waiting lists and rationed care.

And when the Obama administration and Democrats try to hoodwink people by saying "It will not add a single penny to the deficit" or "It will not require you to change you existing plan or doctor", it simply is untrue, or to be fair, vague in all legislative language thus far. The following video depicts the difference in language when the President talks to the people and when the law is explained on the house floor. Note the use of the term "requires".

If they are serious about "people keeping their current health plans", why did they vote against legislation that will guarantee it? And the most preposterous mandate of all is that everyone should buy health insurance .....or pay a fine. It is not a usual tax hike where the major burden is carried by the higher income folks (which is not fair by any means anyways). But, this is a tax on every individual in the country. It is funny how the President still tries to twist words to try convince people that it is NOT a tax increase. Read more about this here.

Here's another article by the CATO Institute explaining how mandatory health care is also a form of government take over of the system. Here's another one from the Wall Street Journal about how "ObamaCare is hazardous to your health". This article covers a lot of ground including cost, current system benefits and some very valid suggestions for health care reform.

Red or Blue?? ....Pick your own poison!!

As an individual it is hard for me to trust either party on this issue. The Democrats demonize the insurance companies and are somehow fond of Pharmaceuticals (hmm....wonder if it has to do with all the lobbyists??). And vice-versa with the Republicans whose campaigns are financed with a lot of insurance money. There are a number of shady things going on behind the scenes that needs to be followed to avoid backroom deals detrimental to true health care reform. Like the lobbying blitz of the medical-device makers and the sudden fawning of insurance companies by the Vice-President.

Debunking "for government health care" arguments

The most common argument I hear from people who still want the proposed reforms to take place, knowing all the facts is: "Well something has to be done!". I beg to differ on this. Just because the system is flawed, it doesn't mean you just go ahead and try change something without carefully considering the consequences. There are a number of things that can be done to improve the system and reduce cost without too much government spending. Why don't we start with that. Here are some:
  • Allow people to buy health insurance across state lines.
  • Eliminate mandates from health insurance policies.
  • Allow employees to actually own the policies their employers pay for ... which would mean they could take those policies with them.
  • Tort Reform and Medical Malpractice Reform
Also, in spite of the GOP being pretty much an opponent and detractor to reform than actually proposing changes, they too have some ideas that may work. Not all of them are great, but it is a start to try help the private sector clean itself up and get the health care reform on track, without deepening the pockets of Uncle Sam.

The weakest argument I have come across so far is that "the poor are suffering and cannot afford health care". While I can relate to the state of affairs, I do not quite agree that is a good enough reason for government care. Legislation should always be done with an objective mind, not letting emotions and empathy get in the way. As individuals we can carry out philanthropic deeds for the betterment of the downtrodden. But if you try to include that into health care reform law (or any reform law for that matter), we are eventually going to increase the national debt, reduce the quality of care and make health care as a whole universally suffering for everyone. True progress of society is not about taking from the rich and giving to the poor, making everything sub-standard and strenuous for everyone, but to try make the system as a whole work so that everyone in society can afford to have the same great high quality of health care.

I finish this post with this funny cartoon by Rob Smith Jr.:

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