The President and Congress Need Health Care?

The health care reform legislation would now become a joke if the consequences were not so devastating to million of Americans. In an effort to quickly pass legislation in the Senate, regardless of its content, legislators are removing anything that would prevent votes from being lost. This policy which, originates in the White House, reflects the President’s demand of passing a historic health care bill this year regardless of whether or not it meets the original goals. The goals were to insure all (or at least most) Americans, lower the cost of health care as well as the cost of health care insurance and to regulate the health insurance industry to cover patients with pre-existing conditions and to prevent coverage from being terminated. Guess what – we aren’t even close to achieving these fact, health care costs will increase, available care will be reduced, Americans will be taxed if they don’t purchase private insurance and in the end the cost of health care and insurance will increase significantly. Worst of all, it appears that the President and many members of Congress don’t care. We now have come to the point where not only Republicans are against this legislation but now many Democrats also oppose it. Regardless, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi (with the help of the President) are trying desperately to find enough votes to ram this bill through. The latest NBC/Wall Street Poll now indicates that only 32% of the people of the United States are in favor of this legislation, but this doesn’t matter either, the Democratic leadership is still hell bent on passing this disastrous legislation.
We lost the basic focus of what the goals are. First and foremost should have been the reduction of the cost of health care. There are a number of things that can be done. Tort reform would have created a tremendous savings by limiting the number of tests and procedures performed only to protect against litigation and it would have reduced physician and facility liability insurance premiums which could have been passed along to lower costs. Allowing most insurance carriers to offer insurance in most states would have created additional competition which almost always drives prices down. Regulating test and procedure costs based upon many years of historic data collected by government resources such as VA, Medicare, Medicaid, could have standardized costs at lower prices for most tests and procedures. Allowing FDA approved prescription drugs to be imported from other countries like Canada would provide substantial savings. Correcting Medicare/Medicaid fraud and mismanagement would save and reduce costs by hundreds of billions of dollars. This could be achieved by contracting independent auditors who would be paid based upon what they identified and recovered, thereby not costing anything, being paid from funds that were previously not collected and lost. When you add up the potential gains of implementing these actions, there is no question in my mind that ample savings could be used to cover more uninsured Americans under the Medicaid program. The costs to move these programs forward would be almost nonexistent when compared to the current legislation.
Instead our government is attempting to pass legislation that will reduce Medicare/Medicaid funding by $400-$500 billion dollars. This is supposed to save these programs that are deeply in debt. What it will do is reduce reimbursements to physicians and facilities. This will reduce the number of physicians who will accept Medicare/Medicaid patients, increase the number patients accepting physicians can treat, thereby drastically increasing the load and reducing the time available to schedule treatments, which of course creates a rationing situation. There will be additional taxing on most Americans. Those in the $200,000 earnings category will be taxed, those who have high end health care insurance policies nicknamed the “Cadillac Policies” which includes many union members and of course those who choose not to purchase health care insurance will be taxed, although some choose to call this a penalty. Insurance companies will be forced to take patients with pre-existing conditions, but they won’t be forced to offer low premiums. Forcing those who can’t afford this high cost insurance to pay a penalty for not carrying insurance on top of dealing with life threatening illnesses. There will be government agencies involved with health care decisions similar to one that recently suggested that women under the age of 50 do not need mammography screening. Prescription drug importing has been defeated in the Senate. Tort reform is not part of the legislation. And the list of negatives goes on and and on. Even the former director of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean, is now against passage of this legislation. Yet the President and Democratic leadership is still trying to push to through.
The passage of this bill has required the President to make deals with the American Association of Retired Persons, the AMA, the drug industry and the insurance industry to name a few. American Association of Retired Persons was promised the Medicare Advantage program would be discontinued in favor of American Association of Retired Person’s supported Medi-gap program. American Association of Retired Persons gladly supported the legislation for this trade off. The American Medical Association (AMA) which membership includes only about 17% of the doctors in the US was promised that a scheduled reimbursement reduction would be suspended if they supported the bill. Of course the AMA became a strong endorser. The prescription drug lobby agreed to a $80 million dollar reduction in costs to Medicare/Medicaid (basically peanuts) and support of the health care bill in trade for the continued blocking of importing low cost, FDA approved drugs from other countries. The insurance industry agreed to support the bill when congress had offered to penalize those who did not purchase private insurance, which would have increased the number of people needing to purchase insurance significantly. However, when congress dropped the penalty to $1500 the insurance industry dropped its support. One of the few groups that would not offer support for the legislation was the medical device manufactures. They were rewarded with a tax on their products.
If this legislation needs to be bought and sold to gain enough votes to pass, how good is it? If every political trick in the book is used, if every lie possible is told, if the majority of Americans don’t support it, if a large group of Democrats lead by Howard Dean and the majority of Republicans won’t support it – why in the world is it being pushed through Congress? Our President promised he would govern from the middle – he has been far left, he promised transparency – there are more closed door meetings than public ones, he promised to reach across the aisle – there is no co-operation between Democrats and Republicans. Today there is only one thing he can do to have any chance of savings his reputation and re-election -scrap this terrible bill and start over with real health care reform and no deals for anyone.