Mike Klein Online

Health Care Reform: Drink Red Wine!

Atlanta Mike Pix_Press_Club_189_-_Version_2Everyone is right about health care.  It is the biggest, scariest thing out there.  This week I attended a health care reform discussion whose panelists included the vice chairman of a prestigious international corporation, a university health care policy researcher, an insurance industry representative and a successful businessman who employs about two dozen people.

None of them expect a really great, game changing result from current Washington paralysis.  All four agree health care insurance reform should focus on rewarding preventive health care, but they don’t see that in the current conversation that often resembles a train wreck.  They do not trust the process or the likely outcome.

Whether you support the current system (nobody should; it’s a mess!), the government single payer system preferred by high caffeine Democrats, or some combination of many proposals, we should not compare other country “systems” to our own and seek solutions in their “systems.”

Worldwide, there is no other system like the American way.  We invented the darn thing.  Ours is the leading example of a model that placed health care coverage primarily onto the shoulders of employers.

Health care author and journalist Andrew Holtz is a former CNN medical correspondent.  Writing on a blog this week, Holtz made this point: “The United States put a huge emphasis on employer sponsored coverage many decades ago.  It happened because there were wage controls during World War II and a shortage of workers.  Employers couldn’t raise wages to attract workers, but benefits were not controlled, so offering health care insurance became a popular enticement.”

The new system worked fine for several decades when the economy expanded with millions of new workers.  The employee base was young, healthy and it did not run up significant medical expense.  Today boomers retire early and when they get sick, they are quite often cured.   Boomers will live for decades.  All this living has to be someone’s fault so let’s blame good medicine, good diets and air conditioning.

Folks who compare the U.S. health care system to other countries are just lost.  These are not apples to apples comparisons.  Fewer people live in Canada (33 million) than in California (36 million).  The population of Switzerland (1.1 million) is one fifth of metro Atlanta (5.4 million). Germany has 82.3 million, the equivalent of California, New York, Florida and Massachusetts.

So, just as populations are different sizes, you cannot reasonably argue that applying the health care system that works in Canada or anywhere else in the world is a good idea for 330 million Americans.  Bulletin: the U.S. population estimate for the year 2050 is 392 million!

No doubt health care costs are nuts, up by double digits annually even when inflation is not going up.  But one reason you (or your insurance company) pay several dollars for a hospital aspirin has nothing to do with the aspirin or the nurse who brings it in a tiny white paper cup.  It has everything to do with paying health care costs for uninsured folks, including millions of illegals. Hospitals are not making their owners wealthy.  They too often run on razor thin margins.  Example: Grady Hospital in Atlanta.

Here’s something scary.  A National Taxpayers Union study of 2007 calendar year federal taxes paid found that the top 50% of U.S. taxpayers paid 97.1% of the tax dollars.  Do we actually think folks who do not pay federal taxes will purchase their own health care?  That is nuts.  It does not matter whether they are enrolled in the Obama plan, the Pelosi plan, the Baucus plan or the Queen Elizabeth plan.

Folks who do not pay taxes today will not pay for their own health care tomorrow.  Folks who already pay America’s health care bill will just pay more.  The only way you win is to become so destitute that your medical costs are transferred to someone else.

Another significant point is seldom discussed.  Today, there are not enough doctors and nurses to accommodate patient levels.  The medical community is rapidly retiring and it is not being replaced with an equal number of new professionals.  By one estimate, Georgia alone will have 200,000 fewer medical personnel than it needs within ten years.  Good luck seeing a doctor.

We are also witnessing a new and terrifying trend.  Mid career personnel are leaving to pursue life outside medicine.  They are jumping ship in large numbers.  Nobody in Washington seems focused on that issue.  That includes current generation journalists whose work is not very commendable explaining issues beyond the popular quote of the day.

Universal health care insurance might work if the government goal was to support only people who legitimately cannot afford private coverage.   Everyone else belongs in private sector insurance.  If you are temporarily covered by government insurance, the goal should be a return to private insurance as soon as possible.  Unemployed folks should receive coverage as part of their unemployment compensation.   Truly indigent should fall under government care but only until they are no longer truly indigent.

Instead we are going in the other direction as power players in Washington apparently want to put the maximum number of people into yet another new federal program.  Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are broke or near broke; we do not need another government health care program that over promises, under delivers and over spends.

Here’s a tip for your healthy life … Drink red wine, take a walk and hope for the best!

Posted October 7, 2009

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October 7, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , ,

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