Speaking of health care….
We have to talk about this. Caution: some may be offended by the following. So, before you go forward, be aware that the content is strong. Some may not like it. If you’re open minded, want some facts and new ideas, tune in.
Health care costs are spiraling out of control. We know there are problems with our current system. We’re told if they are left untended, the current system will bankrupt us.
We hear there are 40 million uninsured people in the U.S. By the time you back out those who are illegal and those who will not buy insurance, you’re left with 10-12 million.
Those in the Congressional majority have introduced a variety of proposals to remedy this situation. Few, if any, of our elected officials have actually read what the staffers who draft legislation have put in these bills. That became painfully obvious during last months town hall meetings.
While the legislation is torturously grinding its way through Congress, the American people are waking up to other startling news.
We are starting to hear these frightening numbers over the next 10 years….
$13 trillion added to the national debt, publicly held debt passing $10 trillion, spending exceeding 28% of gross domestic product and per household federal spending topping $37,000 (compared to $25,000 now).
Let’s summarize. We now have trillions of debt. Social Security is going broke at a more rapid rate than thought. Medicare is on a collision course with financial catastrophe…and that’s before it starts absorbing the cost of Baby Boomer participation.
And now, in the middle of the worst recession in a generation, the President wants to nationalize – some say socialize – our medical system…17% of our national economy.
Let’s stop a minute and take a quick glance in the rear view mirror:
It’s telling us what many respected economists and financial prognosticators predicted: the so-called stimulus package has had very little impact on what looks like may be a bottoming out of our economy.
It looks like the taxpayers will get very little return on their investment.
Many experts tell us those debt and deficit numbers I mentioned earlier are under-estimated, arrived at only by assumptions that have little bearing to reality.
Incredibly, these numbers do not include $43 trillion in unfunded Medicare and Social Security obligations, almost guaranteeing insolvency absent radical reform.
Now we have this debate about a nationalized take-over of our entire health care system, which by all accounts will leave behind the residue of debt and deficits described above.
Few seem to have any faith in the Washington elite to run our country with any sensibility or common sense any more. They know Medicare benefits will be cut. They know none of this can be financed (much) without higher taxes, inflation or both. In today’s economy that makes America less competitive and less secure. And those toting the note – remember nearly 50% of Americans pay zero income tax! – are angry and letting their voices be heard.
Frank Lutz has documented this anger in his new book, What People Really Want…Really. People do not feel their elected officials are accountable. They feel no one is listening.
This frustration was evident at recent town hall meetings. It revealed itself again last week in the governor’s races in NJ and VA. A significant number of local races confirmed it.
At town hall meetings throughout the US many constituents knew more about the legislative proposals than the elected officials standing in front of their constituents. Others are angry because some politicians are hiding, refusing to hold town hall meetings.
Congressional leaders are saying all of this “orchestrated”; they refer to those attending the meetings as “Nazis” and “Astro-Turf,” as if the protests are not legitimate. Now that’s how to get the folks riled up.
To throw a little fuel on the fire, three weeks ago it was reported that a government agency notified Humana, in effect, to stop sending their customers letters that could be construed as misleading information about the proposals floating around Capitol Hill. Forget about the fact that within 24 hours the Congressional Budget Office verified the accuracy of the letter.
Former president Carter – even Bill Cosby – is telling us that most who oppose a government take-over of health care are racist. Not to be outdone, Mr. Clinton weighed in by resurrecting his family’s belief that all who oppose Mr. Obama are part of a “vast, right-wing conspiracy.”
Just a few months ago those in control of Congress held up the Congressional Budget Office as the paragon of honest assessments about the impact of proposed legislation. Now, when those assessments aren’t working in their favor, the CBO is the devil incarnate.
Yes, tempers are flaring. Each side says the other is misrepresenting “the facts.” One congressman is formally rebuked by the majority for shouting “You lie” during the president’s joint session speech. My father-in-law used to watch all the shenanigans in Washington, D.C. and say, “There’s a whole lot of prevaricating going on here.” Pure wisdom, that.
Now the House has passed a bill. It’s DOA in the Senate. The Senate Finance Committee tried to rush through a bill with little, if any, review. They will go back to the drawing board and try again. We should be frightened when they vote down a provision to post the bill on the internet for 72 hours for review and comment. These bills are being written by committee staffers, no one knows the provisions or tells voters what the implications will be.
As many of you know, I spent some time in D.C. a few years ago. Those who know me well know I came back from that experience with a different attitude about what goes on in our nation’s capital. Democracy with open market capitalism remains the best system. Yet, our system is in desperate need of repair.
What’s my reaction to the health care debate? I will not rant then offer nothing for a suggestion.
It’s said we will pay for part of health care reform (and the other programs contributing to this crazy amount of debt) through the savings generated by eliminating waste and fraud in our health care system.
My first reaction is those who offer that suggestion are either negligent or naive. Negligent because all that waste and fraud didn’t just appear in the last few weeks; negligent because those controlling Congress – including Mr. Obama as a sitting U.S. Senator – failed to introduce legislation to address this “waste and fraud” problem during the last two years of the Bush administration when they controlled Congress.
Don’t get me wrong. I agree there is plenty of waste and fraud that needs to be cleaned up. How about this proposal?
Someone in Congress introduce a bill containing the legislative proposals and regulatory enforcement provisions to clean up “waste and fraud” before we move forward with a complete takeover of our health care. Frankly, Congress doesn’t have enough good will with me for me to take them at their word.
I’m from Missouri so I would like to see proponents of a nationalized plan “show me” examples of other countries who have successfully pulled this off without causing severe strain on their national budgets or who have not had to initiate a value-added tax (essentially a national sales tax) to pay for the exploding costs. Or had serious waiting lines as a result.
I say naïve because Massachusetts and Tennessee have passed a form of universal and/or mandated health care coverage. The program is busting the budgets in both states. Yet they seem to shy away from citing those states as shining examples of how great a nationalized plan with similar components will work.
Let’s give Mr. Obama this…he campaigned on this platform…he won…we knew this was coming…he had to know it would stir up a hornet’s nest…yet he did it any way. It’s been on the agenda of his party for 40-50 years. So, it’s no surprise this is happening, despite the difficulties. If the nationalized plan fails it is a serious setback to his presidency. The stakes are huge, for him and for our country. Give him an “A” for courage.
Whether this is good policy is another issue.
Unfortunately, this really isn’t about improving health care. It’s about political control and creating a legacy of permanent political supporters. It’s about the Europeanization of America.
My grandfather once said, paraphrasing someone else, I’m sure, “When a politician’s platform is to rob Peter to pay Paul, he can always count on Paul’s vote.”
And, there a whole lot of folks out there that vehemently oppose the European path. If they are a taxpayer, they also question whether it’s good to let Paul cast a political vote.
Here’s what I would like to see done before we turn one-sixth of our economy over to the federal government.
As I said before, have Congress introduce and pass legislation to identify waste and fraud, isolate it and eliminate it. Success here will go a long way to re-establishing the belief that government can actually function.
Allow insurance companies to sell insurance across state lines. There are already 1300 insurance companies out there. Increase competition even more. You can buy your automobile coverage across state lines, even your homeowners and life insurance. Why not health insurance? Most people don’t even know about this government regulation and it stymies competition and causes rates to be higher than needed.
Treat the tax deductibility of health insurance the same for companies and individuals.
Tort reform is essential to meaningful cost cutting.
Allow purchasing co-ops to be formed. Permit the co-op to accept individual or small business members and negotiate better policies with insurance companies.
Make pricing transparency from hospitals mandatory. Let people see what services cost before the procedure.
If a bill is passed and signed into law make it mandatory that Congress is covered by the same “government option” that the rest of us have to endure.
Eliminate current “pre-existing conditions” policy and make every policy portable. This means you cannot be denied coverage because of prior health issues. And, once you have a policy, you have it as long as you pay the premium.
For families with income below the poverty level, make it mandatory they enroll in one of the co-ops. Once they are enrolled, have the government send the co-op a check for $5,000. If a person receiving government benefits of any kind cannot present proof of insurance upon demand, all their benefits are terminated. This would be much cheaper than passing a law that creates over a 125 new government agencies and adds trillions to our national debt.
Allow an illegal who is paying taxes to come forward and enroll with a co-op. They can stay covered as long as they stay enrolled AND enter a program that leads to becoming a citizen within two years. If not, they will have committed a felony, subject to ten years incarceration. Deportation won’t work if we have no fences or enforcement of current policies. This will be good for all.
Now, I could go on and on but I’m exhausted.
There are two distinct visions in America about which direction is best for our nation. Ironically, the European path – fascist, socialistic policies – are being rejected in….yes, Europe. The other choice is the one most visible in Asia, emerging democracies, exploding capitalism. I come down on the side of the individual; on the side of capitalism; on the side of markets to reward and punish. We need government as a vehicle to defend our shores, not much else. In this latest recession it’s been easy to blame capitalism…those who make money. Capitalism did not create this problem. People created this problem. To be more accurate, the greed of people created this problem. The “market” didn’t create Bernie Madoff. Bernie Madoff created Bernie Madoff.
We have an immigration problem largely due to the fact our government officials will not enforce laws currently on the books. They don’t want to lose the votes. In 2006-8 there are video tapes on U-tube showing Bush officials warning Congressional committees about the impending crisis in our financial system, specifically Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They were ridiculed, called racist. They ignored the problem. Now they want us to support even more regulation which they, over time, will ignore.
It proves again one of my favorite thoughts – it’s behaviors that matter.
It’s going to get rough. We watching it manifest, up close. It will get personal.
Fifty years ago Ayn Rand penned a now famous – then heavily criticized – book that described as one of its two major themes the notion that the creative human mind requires political-economic freedom in order to achieve, to make the great advances that benefit an entire society.
This is a turning point in our nation’s history. We have the opportunity, as Rand described, to see if we unleash our citizens to provide the explosive growth we need to absorb massive deficits and compete in a world economy or whether in the alternative, Atlas will shrug.