Burning down the house

In trying in recent weeks to put my finger on exactly what it is the single worst feature about the Obamacare proposal, there are many things that come to mind… massive government control, exploding deficits, very real possibilities for abuses in the area of abortion and euthanasia… to name just a few off the top of my head.

However, it seems to me that the place to start is with the fundamental underlying premise – that we just have to do “something” about the uninsured.  While I don’t accept the inflated figure so often tossed around of “45 million without healthcare” (particularly since a large percentage of those simply lack health insurance, not health care … many of these by their own choice) , it is probably reasonable to say that there is some number uninsured through no fault of their own… likely in the range of 10-15 million.  Using the high end of that range for argument’s sake, that works out to approximately 4.25% of the US population.   This would seem to be in line with a number of national polls that show 80-85% of Americans as generally satisfied with their own healthcare. (There always seems to be 10% who complain about everything!)

So, in essence, what we’re talking about doing is tearing the entire system apart and remaking it for the sake of 4.25% of the population.  Maybe that makes sense in Obamaworld, but it makes absolutely no sense to me.  Judging from the huge numbers of people showing up at Congressional townhall meetings to speak out against this plan, it seems that it doesn’t make much sense to a very large number of others as well…and is further demonstrated by the absolute freefall the plan is experiencing in national polls.

In trying to capsulate this into an understandable illustration, I came up with the following:  Suppose that my house has some serious plumbing problems.  There are a number of approaches I can take to relieve the problem: fix it myself (not likely), find a friend with more knowledge to tackle it with me or pay a professional to fix it.  One thing that I’m not likely to do, however, is burn down the whole house so that I can build a new one with better plumbing!  I’ m particularly not going to try this approach if my neighbor tried it a few years ago and is now facing bankruptcy because of his giant mortgage on the new house…and his plumbing still leaks!

In a nutshell, that’s what I see the idiots in Congress doing – burning down the whole house of one of the best healthcare systems ever devised.  Is it perfect?  Of course not!  Nothing built by human beings ever is.  But there are plenty of ways of improving it without destroying it in the process… tort reform to stop frivolous lawsuits, allowing medical insurance to be sold across state lines, greater use of medical savings accounts, to name a few.

Like I said, fix the plumbing…don’t burn down the house!


About stevehull

Music director in Naples, FL
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3 Responses to Burning down the house

  1. Phil Hull says:

    I do understand the point you are trying to make, but I disagree with some of the logic you are using to make your argument. (I will try to do this civilly so things don’t get heated.)

    First of all, I disagree with your reducing the number of uninsured just because you don’t believe that estimation. In almost all families, health insurance comes from your employer when you are a full time employee. With unemployment and underemployment being somewhere around 20-25% there are tens of millions who no longer have full time employment or the means to purchase health insurance on their own. I know that when I was unemployed it was impossible for us to afford the cost of health insurance.
    Second, I believe the poll number you cited about 80-85% of people who are satisfied with their healthcare was a poll of people with health insurance. (I am one of those people. I love our health insurance and I don’t want to go on a government plan.) The problem is that there are still tens of millions of people who aren’t satisfied with the situation. Let’s meet in the middle between your 4.25% and my 20% and we’ll say that 13% of American’s over 18 don’t have health insurance. That comes out to around 28 million people. Add in the 15% of the rest of the adult population that is unsatisfied with their health insurance and that number raises to almost 57 million people or 26% of the adult population of the United States. One out of every 4 people is not happy with their healthcare situation. That’s a little bit more of a problem than the 4.25% you based your post on.
    Lastly, I want to give you an example from my own life and why I support at least some kind of reform. Over the past couple of years, my company has delayed or canceled scheduled wage increases due to increasing employee benefit costs. Our insurance rates have gone up anywhere from 8-18% annually over the last few years and it has become a burden that the company and the employees must share. Employees are paying significantly higher premiums each year for less coverage and sacrificing wage increases to offset the increased cost to the company. To put it simply, we are taking home less pay each week and paying more for our healthcare due to decreases in benefits. It is putting a huge strain on many of my co-workers. Thankfully, Cassie has better coverage at a lower premium through the Salvation Army so I don’t have to deal with that problem. For many people I work with, they don’t have that option. If some kind of reform will reduce the cost of healthcare for companies and lead to higher wages for employees, imagine the amount of financial stimulus that would be.
    I don’t care about a government option. If there is a better plan that can make insurance cheaper and cover those who want coverage but can’t afford it that doesn’t involve the government, I’m all for it. I just haven’t heard it yet.
    You’ve spent hours trying to shoot down Obama’s plan, but what would you do to fix the problem? That’s what I’d like to see at these town hall meetings. I’d love to see opponents stand at a microphone and say, “Here’s a better plan.”
    Here’s what I’d like to see:
    1. Tort reform. You can’t fix the healthcare problem if doctors are paranoid about malpractice suits left and right and paying truckloads of money for malpractice insurance. (This is virtually impossible because of the cozy relationship between Democrats and trial lawyers, but it needs to be done.)
    2. Sensible treatments for patients. This follows point #1. If doctors are less concerned about being sued for malpractice, they will not be forced to run costly and oftentimes unnecessary tests to cover their butts. If I go to see my doctor about some minor knee pain, I probably don’t need an MRI that costs thousands of dollars. Reducing unnecessary procedures will help the balance sheets of insurance companies and allow them to provide the same level of coverage at a lower price.
    3. Free preventative care. Healthcare gets increasingly expensive the sicker you get. The easiest way to costs under control is to catch diseases early. Free cancer screenings, free annual physicals, free well baby and well child visits, free blood sugar and cholesterol tests. All of those services and more should be provided free with no copay to ensure that people are more likely to get into their doctor’s offices and get checked out regularly for diseases and conditions that could potentially cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to treat if left undiagnosed.
    4. Eliminate denial of benefits for preexisting conditions or serious illness. Every time I think about this issue, the thought pops into my head, “What will Kyle Duguay do for health insurance when he starts working?” Kyle had a life-threatening illness when he was a child that requires ongoing care to manage and it’s possible he may never qualify for affordable health insurance because of it. I don’t think that a chronic condition or prior illness should exclude you from having health insurance. And I certainly don’t think that it’s right for an insurance company to drop someone who is suffering through cancer treatments or the like just because their treatments cost too much.

    I’m not smart enough to fix this problem, but I know it is a problem and doing nothing is not an option.
    Think back to the tax reforms of 1986. The tax system was a mess and both sides wanted reforms. The Republicans wanted tax rates lowered and the Democrats wanted loopholes closed. Both sides were able to get what they wanted and everyone benefited in the end. We need that kind of resolution here. This is the rare situation that it’s possible for everyone to get a win if both sides can just forget about beating each other and try to get the best possible bill passed.

  2. Dad says:

    You’ve raised a number of issues so I will take them one at a time. This response will deal with the issue of numbers. I did not simply disregard the 45 million figure because I don’t like it. There is a great deal more to the Census estimate that is so often quoted than is usually presented. I quote this from one source but I can get it from multiple sources:

    “Data from the Census Bureau debunks the lie continually promoted by the mainstream media of the legendary 47 million uninsured Americans:

    • 9.5 million people are illegal aliens
    • 8.3 million uninsured people are those who make between $50,000 and $74,999 per year and choose not to purchase insurance
    • 8.7 million uninsured people are those who make over $75,000 a year and choose not to purchase insurance

    This leaves approximately 20 million uninsured; less than 7% of the population. Why do some people choose not to purchase insurance? 60 percent reported being in “excellent health or very good health” and purposefully decided not to buy insurance.”
    (post here)

    In addition, another approx 8-10 million are eligible for various existing programs (ie: Medicaid, SChp) but have chosen not to sign up for them. If you do the math, you will find you are right in the 10-15 million range I was using.

  3. Dad says:

    You will be pleased to know that we are in total agreement on the first two of your suggestions for sensible reform. If you will look at my original post, you will see I mentioned tort reform as one of the possible reasonable ways to approach the problem. Much of the problem of skyrocketing costs can be directly traced to the John Edwards of the world whose ambulance chasing antics in pursuit of ridiculous judgments for extremely minor errors has greatly enriched the lawyers to the detriment of the rest of us…including their clients in too many cases. “Defensive medicine” is one of the few ways most doctors keep the sharks at bay!

    At least we can agree on something!

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