Friday, June 19, 2009

Chance for Sensible Health Care Reform Improves as Ultra-Liberal Proposals Start to Implode

Americans need health care reform, but what we do not need is a monolithic health care system owned and operated by the federal government and its ant hill of bureaucrats. Our medical advances and treatments lead the world. We need reforms to our current system that preserve the strengths but address problems with medical costs, affordability of insurance, portability of insurance to eliminate “job lock,” and inconsistent quality of care. We need a reform plan that keeps control in the hands of individuals and their doctors, not give it to bureaucrats in the federal government. One such plan is already on the table -- the Patients’ Choice Act (link; link; link; link).

As for the uninsured – take out those that already qualify for federal programs but haven’t signed up, non-citizens, and those who can afford medical insurance but feel healthy so risk going without it, and what’s left is only a fraction of the 46 million count that gets bandied about. I've seen estimates of 10-15 million (here's a well-documented analysis concluding the number is about 11 million). Tweaks to existing federal programs can address those truly in need, who, incidentally, usually can obtain care when they want it at emergency rooms, free clinics, and some doctors’ offices. Not ideal, not optimal, and in need of reform, but medical care is currently available, subsidized by hospitals and doctors from the income they receive from private insurers. No need to rush the overhaul of our entire system to deal with the uninsured problem. Why not take a few months rather than a few weeks?

So why the bum’s rush by Democrats? Why, of course, because the more time people have to examine and think about their proposals the less likely they will be to support them.

The good news – the first wave of cost estimates of some of the Democrat-proposed reform plans have been astronomical, and growing public and stakeholder concern over Obama bailouts, massive spending, unimaginable debt, and political rush jobs has the linchpin of schemes for a nationalized system – the government-run so-called “public plan” option (link)– in serious doubt (link). Even health-care-guy former Senator Tom Daschle, one of many Democrats disgraced recently by admissions of major tax evasion, dropped the public plan from his own health care reform proposal released this past week (link).

There are currently many proposals in various degrees of detail:

• From Senate Democrats on the Finance Committee (Baucus)
• From Senate Democrats on the Health Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (Kennedy/Dodd)
• From an independent group of Senate and House Republicans (the Patients’ Choice Act)
• From House Democrats, release pending
• From former Democrat Senator Daschle (with Republican props Dole and Baker)

A half-way decent overview of developments with most of these proposals is here from the Associated Press, which, however, true to its ultra-liberal bias, omits to mention at all the most advanced and, to the liberals, threatening Republican reform proposal – the Patients’ Choice Act.

And, as shocking as the Congressional Budget Office’s cost estimates have been, an editorial (link) in today’s Wall Street Journal warns that in the past such cost estimates usually have turned out to have been too low:
Useful to emphasize … is that CBO's number-crunching is almost always off --
predicting too much spending for market-based policies and far too little for
new public programs, especially on health care. The CBO score [read “cost
estimate”] for a new entitlement is only the teaser rate, given that the costs
will inevitably balloon as the years pass and more people mob "free" or
subsidized insurance.

John M Greco