"Deficit Neutral" Health Care Reform
by Michael Collins
Absurdity upon Absurdity
The health care debate and general political climate compound absurdity upon absurdity.
First we're told that our health care is only worth the time and effort if the remedy has no negative impact on the budget. No deficits allowed. The deficit risk defines your chances for health and longevity.
At the same time, we see that Wall Street failures and the overseas war effort are not held to the same standard on deficits spending.
The federal government has committed $23 trillion dollars to prop up Wall Street's failed financial institutions. That's a fantasy figure and clearly deficit-friendly since it's twice the 2008 Gross Domestic Product of the United States.
On Tuesday of this week a smaller amount was offered up for the 2010 expenditures on the Iraq war and the expanded efforts in Afghanistan. The $128 billion was approved without a Congressional Budget Office analysis (note the absence of a link for "CBO Cost Estimates"). Since we're already over budget for 2010, this is also in the deficit column.
It's all right to run huge deficits to bailout Wall Street crooks and to wage deadly wars but it's not all right to even think about a deficit when it comes to preserving the health and lives of citizens.
The second absurdity concerns priorities. A rational approach to national policy would place citizen health care well above both Wall Street welfare and endless wars on any list of priorities. But that wouldn't do much good with the current legislative approach.
A political victory amounts to a loss for the public. Why?
The current legislation delays help for the uninsured for years. It limits the "public option" to those without health insurance. It does little or nothing to contain rising health care costs for in the near term. And it ignores prescription medication -- a major factor in out-of-control costs.
If you are insured now, you will get the pre-existing conditions exclusion lifted from future policies and some other benefits like moving your plan from one employer to another, etc. If you're self employed or a small business owner paying insurance directly to the tune of $1,200 to $1,400 a month per employee, there are no built-in cost control measures. If you're among the 54% of U.S. employees working for an employer that pays your health costs (self funded health insurance), using the Blue Crosses of the world to simply administer the plan, the savings you have now are, for the most part, what you will have after the "reforms" on the table.
Why? Because there are no cost controls for the underlying service, health care, and profit-driven insurance fees.
The cost saving elements of the bill from electronic records etc. are not going to appear in the next two years, if ever.
Current polling shows that 65% of citizens support "the government offering everyone a government health insurance plan like Medicare." The 10% to 40% that private insurers take out of the system for overhead and profits compares to less than 5% administrative costs for Medicare. By shifting health care costs away from employers to the government as single payer (in line with the rest of the industrialized world), U.S. businesses and workers could compete more effectively at home and abroad. After ten years, we might actually get some new jobs and higher incomes.
Unfortunately, the wisdom and logic of the people are not heeded by Congress and the administration. Government funded single payer health care is an approach forbidden in the current debate. A watered down version is the "public option" which President Obama said would be available to only the uninsured and, even then, on a limited basis. Congress is even talking about the states having public options at their discretion. It's all about getting a bill passed.
Meaningful reform and immediate relief are not on the agenda.
Those in charge think that we're so stupid we won't notice that our health care is either the same or worse should the proposed legislation be made law. Clearly, they think that there's no urgency to address the availability and affordability of health care. A political victory trumps a clear and present set of requirements for the good health of citizens.
It's time that the administration and Congress start behaving like adults and tell the truth.
As of now, the truth is that endless war and endless bailouts are the national priorities. The other key truth, soon to become painfully evident, is that the current health care reform legislation will do little in the near term to relieve the immediate problems of cost availability and affordability. It is faith-based reform that inspires little faith other than among the latest bailout beneficiaries, insurance companies that stand to acquire tens of millions of new customers.
Why isn't the health of citizen the number one priority?
Why aren't we getting the truth?
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