On June 24, for the first time listening to Barack Obama I was left with a ho hum feeling. Typically you are either jumping with enthusiasm (maybe you, not me), or you are left with a modest depression. Last night he discussed health care reform, a topic I do know something about. Sure everyone raised their hand when asked if the system needs fixing, but we all know that. The President’s replies to tough questions were rather bland I thought and of course they did not address the real issue or answer the question, but then again neither did the CEO of AEtna.
Obama danced around the question related to the government option being proposed relying mostly on the competition theme from no profit motive and no large overhead, but ignoring the issue of underpaying for medical care as does Medicare. Although no one asked the question specifically as I recall, it would be interesting to learn why we need a government plan other than to get the government into the health care business more than it already is, especially in the face of an employer mandate, a connector to make coverage available to individuals and subsidized coverage for lower income Americans. I was pleasantly surprised at the low key nature of the sales job, there were no horror stories. A man from Massachusetts stood up and said he did not have health coverage and could not afford it. I do wish the President asked him how that was possible given that Massachusetts has an individual mandate to obtain health insurance, but that wasn’t going to happen.
It is hard to argue with a point of view that supports higher quality health care, health and wellness programs, and administrative efficiency. The little secret is that any benefits from those initiatives will take years and years to attain, while the cost of expanding coverage, of subsidizing the lower income (defined quite generously by the way) and generating an increased demand for health care services will be immediate.
A private group analyzed the cost of the House of Representatives draft legislation and came up with $3.5 trillion over ten years (compared with $1.5 trillion for the Senate version). The truth is that the problem is so complex the time frame so long and the variables so great nobody knows which begs the question, why the three month rush to figure this out?
Mr. Obama, slow down and get this right because you won’t be in office when we know whether what you want to do worked or not, but the rest of America will be stuck with the results of the summer 09.