Health Care Reform Needs More Time

President Obama has been stumping heavily for his “public option” for health care reform.  He wants the both the House and Senate to pass legislation before the congressional summer recess (known officially as the Summer District Work Period) from August 3 – September 4th, 2009.

Health care reform is a gigantic and important issue, as Obama has proclaimed.  However, to expect congress to pass a 1,000 page bill that only a handful of people have read (much less researched) is pure folly.  Now it appears that this legislation will be postponed until after the summer break; that’s a good thing.

There are two reasons Obama wanted to shove a health care bill through congress prior to the summer break.  First, our great narcissist leader would be able to proclaim the ultimate victory for his suddenly wobbly presidency.  Second, when house members go back to their congressional districts, they’re going to get an earful about health care reform and it won’t be pleasant.  House members (including many democrats) are going to be tentative in their support for the Obama health care plan when they return in September.

To show you how absurd this health care debate has become, let me point out some of the nonsense that Obama has been spouting over the past few days.

1.    He claims that his “public option” will increase the quality of health care in the United States.  All of this is coming from a man who won’t shove lawyers, doctors, or insurance companies under the cost-saving bus.  Adding 40 million new participants to the health care system isn’t going to add any quality to the equation.  Government doesn’t promote quality.  US Post Office vs. Federal Express; Public School vs. Private School; Cook County Hospital vs. University of Chicago Hospital…..need I say more?

2.    Of course, in Obamaland (where everyone majored in Kremlinomics), the “public option” will result in lower health care costs.  When asked at press conferences where the cost savings will be found, Obama is mumbles vaguely about administrative costs and inefficiencies, but presents no hard facts.  Unfortunately for Obama, the congressional budget office has looked at the facts.  As reported in the July 16th Washington Post, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad asked CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf if he saw “a successful effort being mounted to bend the long-term [health-care] cost curve,” based on the health reform bills that have been introduced by Democrats in the House and Senate. “No, Mr. Chairman,” the CBO director responded.  In fact, he said, “the [cost] curve is being raised” by the health bills.”  Elmendorf went on to say, “In the legislation that has been reported, we do not see the sort of fundamental changes that would be necessary to reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount,” Mr. Elmendorf said. “On the contrary, the legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for health care costs.”

3.    Obama continues to hammer home the idea that those of us who are happy with our insurance and our doctors will not be affected by the “public option.”  He knows that his plan hasn’t a ghost of a chance of passing if those of us who are already insured are threatened.  Mind you, when the government starts running the health care system, all of the rules will be subject to change.  And change they will.  When the income tax was created by the passage of the 16th amendment, the income tax rate was 1 percent!  Once Obama and the democrats get their foot in the door; the crowbar will follow.  As a friend of mine in North Carolina says, “The government will be determining who your doctor is and what treatments you are eligible for in a skinny minute.”

4.    Obama claims that doctors, hospitals, and insurance providers are “all coming to the table” to cooperate with his administration in an effort to reform health care.  This reminds me of the time I visited reptile gardens in South Dakota. There was a mouse cowering in the corner of the python cage, waiting for the fateful time when the python wanted to eat.  I suppose that Obama would say that the mouse was “cooperating” with the python, but hospitals, doctors and insurance companies are coming to the table only to keep the government from fixing their prices and creating more competition.  As British health lobbyist Julian Hobson says, “if you’re not at the table, then you’re on the menu.”

As in any other pursuit of mankind, the only way to really cut costs is to allow more competition in health care, not less.  Government bureaucracy stifles competition and raises costs.  If you want to see an example of government health care, go to any large public hospital or look at the fiscal nightmare known as Medicare.  If you want to see how competition reduces health care costs, go to a walk-in clinic at a CVS or Walgreen pharmacy.  Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Minnesota, which analyzed 22,956 visits by its members to Minute Clinics from June 2004 to June 2005, found the clinics cost about half an office visit — or $43 versus $87 — and less than half for other related costs such as lab services.  That’s not a formula that pleases physicians or insurance companies, but it sure makes sense for consumers.

Serious and sensible health care reforms are needed in the United States.  Unlike 1993, when the Clinton’s sought to reform health care, today even small businesses are looking for rational discourse on health care issues.  However, if we are going to make serious and sensible reforms to American health care, it is going to take time.  Rushed public policy is bad public policy.  Bank bailouts took place over a weekend, resulting in the TARP program.  We can’t afford to “Do Health care” over a weekend.  Health care is too important.  Let’s do it right.

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