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Monday, March 15, 2010

Health Care Vote

Well it appears that there may in fact be a vote (or votes) on health care reform this week, and I for one am glad. It's no so much glad over the specifics being discussed, but glad that:

a) Something is being done
b) That the "noise" will stop

The last major effort at health care reform, as proposed by the Clinton Administration, was defeated back in 1994 (or thereabouts). Congress was not in favor of that particular package and decided, in it's infinite wisdom, health care really didn't need to be reformed, so they did nothing. And nothing. In the meantime, my cost for mostly employer provided health care has done up something like 12% per year, or roughly 4 times the rate of inflation.

Four times the rate of inflation, and I'm a healthy person. Oh, and I am lucky to even have coverage.

Fast forward to today's debate, and you have calls for Congress to "start all over". Seriously folks, do we actually think that the Republicans, who will vote en mass against any reform, really want to start all over, or do we think they simply want this to stop and never rear it's ugly head again? After all, one or both houses of Congress have been in Republican hands now for the majority of the time since 1994 and yet there has not been a single, meaningful piece of health care reform passed by Congress in these past 16 years. They should be ashamed of themselves.

I'm sorry that this rant sounds overly partisan, but when I pay detailed attention to Republican proposals for health care reform, I see only one thing that stands out: Tort Reform. Mind you that's a great idea & it needs to be done, but the estimates I've seen indicate that even the most aggressive forms of Tort Reform will yield savings in about the 5% range. That's a far cry from the 12% it has gone up (at least for me) year over year. Tort reform is, I think, something the GOP latches onto simply because lawyers make easy targets. Like I said though, it doesn't do an awful lot to fix the underlying problems of the system.

Critics are going to claim that pending health care reform amounts to a "government take over of 16% of the economy", but these same critics don't like to mention that government, via Medicare and Medicaid, are already acting as payee for a substantial portion of health care expenditures in this country. Funny, but I don't see a loud cry from Republicans for a rollback of Medicare & it's "government takeover" of health care. Why? Because Medicare has one big thing going for it: It's widely popular with senior citizens who like to vote. It's also a program that, from what I gather, is run in a fairly efficient manner.

So yes, I'm very much interested in listening to any critic of current proposals who also mans/womans up & calls for the elimination of Medicare and its replacement with a private sector payee system. To me that at least seems intellectually honest.

In the end, I always try and look past emotional responses and towards facts and ideas. What I hear from heath care critics are a lot of name calling...

...government take-over
...budget buster

...and not a lot of facts. Many of these calls, from groups with names like "Americans Who Love Puppies, Apple Pie and Are Against Socialism in Health Care" call for current proposals to be voted down and for the process to start all over again. Come on, we know that's not true. Many of these groups are simply fronts for the Aetna's & CIGNA's of this world who are afraid that current proposals will put their red-lining and 14% ROEs on the line. Start again? They hope this never starts again. Consider the source.

Look, as I think I noted above, I'm not thrilled with everything I read in the current proposals before Congress, however something needs to happen. At this stage I will take a flawed solution to no solution.


sanjay kumar negi said...

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Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,

My objection to health care reform is not necessarily the government taking over health care. My objection is that I don't want to pay for it.

If the government wants to reform health care, by all means- do it- just don't send me the bill in the form of higher taxes.

I don't really care what the government does- as long as it does not affect me. As long as I don't have to give up my health care, and as long as I don't have to pay for universal health reform through higher taxes- the government can do what it wants.

Father Dave Bechtel

Stephen Albert said...

Sanjay...I absolutely agree. Personal responsibility comes first when it comes to this stuff.

Father Bechtel...So is what you are saying something along the lines of...

"As long as I have mine, the rest doesn't matter"?

Interesting sentiment. I don't want to pay more either, but conversely, I'm tired of for-profit health care companies earning 12% ROEs year-over-year while my costs increase even more year-over-year.

The fact that, for example, the Diocese of Scranton pay, say, 12 to 15% more per year for your health care doesn't impact you? I think it does.

- Steve

Anonymous said...


So how much more in taxes should we pay, before we can be said to be paying enough? I already pay 30%, as most middle class. (15% to federal government, 15% to social security.) This number does not include state or local taxes, nor does it include sales taxes. Local tax in Williamsport is 2%. I forget what the state percentage is.

How much more should you or I be paying in taxes?

Father Dave Bechtel

Stephen Albert said...

Fr Bechtel...with all due respect, the issue is one of health care costs that run 3-4 times the rate of inflation year-over-year, which is simply not sustainable. Income taxes are a separate issue.

I'll listen to any proposal from any group that has credible ideas, as long a those ideas put medical inflation in check and don't deny coverage to people simply because they are sick.

Change? We simply can't afford the current system, regardless of the personal income tax rate.