Some people should just not talk


I am not a regular listener, but I do occasionally tune in Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, sometimes to my great regret.  I admit to being on the conservative side, but I hope I am also reasonable and have a slight idea of what I am talking about when I write or speak.

When it comes to health care reform, these people are bizarre, firing up their audiences with misleading information, and more importantly presenting no viable alternative to address health care issues other than this country is about liberty.  Recently a small business owner called Limbaugh and said he was told that he would be required to pay 100% of the cost of health insurance for his workers under the proposed legislation.  Limbaugh told him that was correct; it is not.  He then said he heard that if he did not provide coverage he would be taxed at 8% of his payroll, Limbaugh told him that was the minimum; it is not, it is the maximum under the proposal, the minimum is 2%.  Limbaugh told him he could just push his employees into the public option and not provide coverage, which is not correct either. 

Of course we all know about the flap over end of life counseling. The next thing we know the AARP will be complaining that Medicare does not cover such a service.  I heard a woman at a town hall meeting say that the government was going into individual bank accounts under the new health care.  What she was likely talking about was the language dealing with claim payments being automated to providers.

This legislation says I am required to wear only briefs as a health precaution
This legislation says I am required to wear only briefs as a health precaution

It is not hard to understand how misinformation gets out there especially when nobody knows at this point, what any final bill will look like.

For those of us who have some knowledge of what is going on, there is enough to worry about regardless of your position on reform; we do not need anyone stimulating the exchange of false information to boost their ratings.

I doubt many people have read every page of HR 3200 the House version of health care reform and considering there is nothing comparable from the Senate yet, it is hard to believe there are many informed people.  I have talked with many congressional aides working on this legislation and even they give conflicting interpretations of the same language.  And isn’t that one of the points of this debate, can we afford to enact such a massive and complicated piece of legislation without full understanding what what is happening both in 2010, but also the impact in 2025. 

Social Security was never intended to be as it is today.  Successive Congresses have changed it repeatedly until we now have to figure out how to change it again so that it can be a viable program for future generations.  The same can be said for Medicare. That is one of the dangers of too much federal involvement in health care. 

The politicians do not help the debate either with their message that essentially nothing will change, we will control costs and health care will be affordable with coverage for all Americans.  You see, you cannot do all that; it is not possible.  Some things will change, costs will rise sharply at first and continue to rise with health care inflation, and “affordable” is in the eye of the beholder. Does affordability mean affordable premiums, affordable out of pocket costs; affordable increases in future premiums, etc.?  Some people believe what we are about to enact means affordable in all these things, but that too is impossible.

To give some insight on why we seem to be talking around ourselves, here is what an excerpt from the summary of HR 3200 prepared by the House of Representatives says (I added the bold highlights):

“Government is responsible for ensuring affordability of insurance through new affordability credits, insurance market and delivery system reforms and oversight of insurance companies…” 

“Improves low-income subsidy programs to ensure Medicare is truly affordable and accessible for those with lower incomes;”

From the legislative perspective, “affordability” means that someone else is going to subsidize the cost of the health insurance coverage; it does not mean that the underlying claim costs will be affordable.  That is the major flaw in this entire reform process.  When you hear the President talk about paying for the reform, he and others are talking about paying the increased costs to be incurred by the government for all types of subsidies and for certain types of research.  What you are not hearing is that costs for people who already have health insurance and for employers who provide group coverage are going to increase for at least the next ten years, likely more. There is nothing that will happen to influence the rate of health care inflation, which means that to sustain “affordability,” government costs will go up significantly above general inflation as well.

The debate is not over, but we are coming close to enacting massive legislation that will change this country significantly.  Let’s hope we do so based on realistic and achievable goals and focused on the real problems and not the concerns of special interests on either side.  That is not the case now.

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