Sunday, April 6, 2008

Health Care Privateers' At Odds With Facts and Themselves

It’s sad and slightly pathetic reading the conservative justification for our current broken health care system. What they end up doing is stringing together a series of facts and statements mixed in with a convoluted inside out, up is down logic that should send red flags up immediately.

To illustrate my point, a recent Florida Times-Union editorial tried so hard to turn ideological fantasy into reality.

They start by quoting from the Mayo Clinic's National Symposium on Health Care Reform: “Costs (of health care) will bankrupt the country if they continue rising at current rates. Yet surprising numbers of people get inadequate care.” One of the group's recommendations; “Government should ensure universal coverage.”

Nothing gets the privateers’ angrier faster than the idea of government involvement in providing for its own well being, us, we the people.

After the anger has set in, the privateers swing from one contradiction to the next. For instance, they have argued that those who are wealthy or young don’t need health insurance. Yet they freely admit that “if healthy people get the wrong disease, they can go broke.”

Without missing a chance to contradict that contradiction, they offer up the Republican talking point, “It may be time to drop the state mandates and allow carriers to offer a smorgasbord of policies nationwide - some bare-boned and others quite extensive. Then let people buy health coverage the way they buy car insurance - pick the policy best suited for their own needs and budget.”

How can you pick the best policy suited to your needs and budget without the chance you still might get the “wrong disease,” one that’s not covered, and go broke?

The privateers’ aren’t done yet. They brilliantly point out a quote on the Mayo Web site from one of it’s members: "All Americans must be guaranteed their choice of doctors and hospitals."

The privateer’s answer: “that would put upward pressure on costs.”

Huh? They didn’t just say that choice raises prices?

“Let people pay extra, if they want that option. But for those amenable to selecting from a list, let them do that at lower cost.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the free market would demand just the opposite, giving people a choice, forcing doctors and hospitals to compete. I thought the limited list of choices were more in line with restrictive insurance company plans and pre-selected government mandates. Which is it?

Finally, the privateers’ take the ever reliable shot at Medicare. “The government has a disastrous health-care record. Medicare costs, for example, will more than triple as a percent of the gross domestic product in the next few decades. It would take an immediate 122 percent increase in the payroll tax (to 6.44 percent) or a 51 percent reduction in program outlays to bring Medicare into balance. Are medical costs too high and services too limited now? Wait until government fixes your health care like it fixed Medicare.”

It’s convenient here to ignore the fact that a single payer system would include retirees, spreading the cost of this higher risk group with healthy individuals. They still haven’t really explained why the government can’t negotiate lower drug prices either. The free market would allow governments the ability to buy huge quantities at bulk prices. All the other industrialized countries in the global marketplace get to negotiate, saving their tax payers billions of dollars, why can’t we? Perhaps we should prohibit Wal Mart from using its size to negotiate lower prices?

The fact that seniors are extremely happy with Medicare is another reason why privateers’ hate Medicare. It works.

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