Sunday, August 16, 2009

Health Care Reform

Dear Jimmy Duncan,

I got your newsletter the other day. Thanks for sending it.

First, I want to thank you, once again, for your courage as a Republican legislator who did not vote to initiate the mess that we call the Iraq War. Had others listened to your wisdom back in 2003, we may find ourselves in quite a different world than we are in today.

Though you are far more conservative in your political positions than I am, I like the fact that you think for yourself and are not afraid to take stand that diverge from party politics.

But I want to talk with you about health care. You said in your newsletter that: "Until the federal government got heavily involved in the mid-60s, health care was cheap and affordable for almost everyone. Doctors even made house calls. We took what was a very minor problem and turned it into a major problem for everyone." You continued to imply that the existence of Medicare and Medicaid is causally related to the explosion of medical costs.

I guess that I have to disagree with that analysis. I think that the skyrocketing costs relate more directly to two or three other things.

1. Medical costs have increased because of the increase in technological advances that while providing miracle diagnoses and healing options are incredibly expensive to use. Treatment costs are far more expensive today than they were in the 1960's.

One reason that I will always vote for you (though I am a registered Democrat) is the kindness you showed to my family back in the early 90's when my daughter was fighting leukemia. I will never forget that your wife actually came to my home and cleaned the day before we returned home from the hospital. (Thank her again for me.) In the 90's there were treatments, expensive treatments, that saved my daughter's life. Until 1973, there were no treatments available for children diagnosed with leukemia. Children lived a few weeks and then died.

The medical advances we have enjoyed over the last 40 years have been wonderful but they are high ticket items.

2. The second reason that costs have skyrocketed is that the medical insurance industry has grown astronomically. It is the elephant in the room. Medical insurance executives earn far more than the finest surgeons. Who pays for them? Well, actually Medicare and Medicaid pay their share. Rather than costing out medical appointments and procedures realistically, doctors and hospitals are pulled into an enormous pricing scam that affects individuals without insurance, the government, and those with insurance.

Congressman Duncan, it is my opinion that insurance companies, not Medicare and Medicaid, are responsible for increasing financial costs.

3. The third reason relates to insurance also. And it relates to litigation. Doctors and hospitals have been forced to insure themselves very heavily because of rampant litigation. The insurance costs that have been foisted on medical professionals because the government has not placed appropriate caps on awards and has not acted to protect doctors from frivolous lawsuits, has significantly raised medical costs.

Don't blame Medicare and Medicaid. They are victims, not causes.

Before I end my missive, I want to say one more thing. I want health care reform. However, I don't want it this year. I want a little bit this year and a little bit next year. I want change over the next 15 or 20 years. I want reform that is thought through, not pushed through. I want legislators to say, "Yes, I read all the sections of this bill and I am voting for it based upon knowledge of it's contents." You said in your newsletter, of the Energy Bill that it was 1,428 pages long and that "no one who voted for it could have known more than a fraction of what was in it."

(To me, that is a very big issue. And I have heard other legislators say this of the health care reform bill. If you and your colleagues are not reading the bills you are voting on, then who is? Who is writing all of these words . . . undergraduates from American University on work study assignment? If the bills are too long to read, then they are too long to vote on.)

I would say that it is time to change the system in more than one way. For me, I would like Republicans and Democrats to put both party politics aside and actually think about what realistic health care might look like in 20 years. My thought is that the best we can hope for might look like something that already exists in Canada and Scandinavia. Perhaps, you could do some research about the best of what is working in those places.

Oh, well, have a good weekend.

Betsy DeGeorge


cadh 8 said...

I agree with your reasons for the increase in cost of medical treatment in recent years. But you left one off. Another reason for skyrocketing costs is that medical need has increased. Even in the face of medical studies and advice, people continue to smoke, are obese, develope Type 2 diabetes, and generally don't take care of themselves. Of course this is not all people, but here in Tennessee, one of the most obese states in the nation, people definitely could do more to protect their own health.
And these costs do trickle down, or up, and impact the system.
I think in order to have successful health care reform, we must be willing to reform ourselves!

cadh 8 said...

Another couple comments:
I totally agree with the article about not reinventing the wheel. I mean, we had this discussion at my state job this week. Why try to start from scratch on a new process when you can look around and see what works for other people/states/countries and adapt those systems for your own. I am very much behind that.

But the article "Five Myths About health care in the rest of the world" does gloss over the fact that when "Insurance pays" that means WE are paying, either through tax dollars in a socialized system or through premiums to an insurance company. A trip to the spa is not free, just because the insurance company pays for it for stress relief. If we are going to reform this system, lets not step in deeper than we already are.
Some of the examples in the article were strong, some were not, but overall this guy has some good ideas. We do need to think radically. That much is clear. What we have is NOT working, that is for sure.
I did like how he said we have basically taken elements from all the other countries and used them badly. How sad!

brd said...

Many people in the US are patriotic chauvinists. We tend to want to believe that because we are United Statesians, we must have the best ideas about health care already and we shouldn't change because we are already, obviously, the best. The folks toting guns to rallies in the past weeks probably learned their pranks at college sports events. It is a wonder they didn't use grease paint to make their faces red, white, and blue for effect.

The first hurdle we need to get over as a nation is one of admission. We need to admit that our system is not the best one that we could have if it were planned well. Obama's mistake was to try to move forward haphazardly. He promised change. The change I'm looking for is a move away from the do nothing partisanship exhibited from both sides in this round of antics.

cadh 8 said...

So true BRD. It may be like turning the Titanic, but at this point it must be done. I mean the ice berg is certainly looming and even Medicare and Medicaid, no matter how you feel about them, are going to banckrupt regardless in a few years. No sense being silly about the whole thing, lets just fix it!

sample said...

Yes, i totally agree that the mediacal costs have icreased these recent years. One of the cause is the economic downturn and other the operations cost. thanks for sharing this with me!!

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