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Health Care Bill Thoughts

Editor:

According to Congressional and Senatorial proponents, the principal purpose of the current healthcare bill is “to provide affordable healthcare coverage for all Americans”, (including some 31 million Americans now without medical insurance coverage). A noble objective, but just how realistic is this goal?

Providing affordable healthcare to hundreds-of-millions of Americans, through the so-called “Public Option” (or its equivalent), is based on the single premise that the Federal Government is skilled at managing such colossal social programs both efficiently and cost-effectively. What evidence do we have that Government has the necessary knowledge and skill set to do so?

I hate to be a cynic, but do the words “government cost-overruns” mean anything to you? Do they ring a familiar bell? When was the last time you heard the words “federal government”, “cost-control”, and “cost-savings” uttered in the same sentence? Can you remember a single instance? Ever? Of course, I’m sure the current healthcare bill, with its “Public Option”, will be the one sole exception. Right?

Putting obvious sarcasm aside, let’s have a look at the Government’s track record when running other large, federally-funded programs such as Social Security, Medicare and the Veteran Administration’s Healthcare Program. This should give us some clues. We’ll start with Social Security.

Social Security: The Federal Government clearly rates a grade of “F” for its obvious failure to effectively fund Social Security and ensure its long-term financial solvency. Its poor planning and mismanagement of the Social Security Fund is legendary.

A case in point — Some years back, Congress, in its infinite wisdom, determined there was a “surplus” in the Social Security Fund. What did they do? They transferred this “surplus” to the General Fund, and proceeded to squander it on unrelated programs and pet projects.

Further, despite continuous news reports of rampant Social Security fraud, draining million-and-millions from the Social Security Fund each year, our friends in Washington have elected to turn their heads the other way, blatantly ignoring the issue. They have done little or nothing to meet this problem head-on, thereby permitting unscrupulous individuals to continue to siphon off millions-and-millions of illegal dollars from this cash-strapped fund, year-after-year. 

Well, guess what? As we all now know, Social Security is significantly underfunded, and is projected to go bankrupt a few short years from now. Yes bankrupt, and there is no concrete plan to save it.

So, I suppose we will just let this vital program go “belly-up”, at the expense of our elderly, and move on, allowing good old Uncle Sam to now manage a new, massive national healthcare program, just like he managed our Social Security Program. You’ve got to be kidding.

So much for Social Security, now, let’s move on to Medicare. 

Medicare: Despite a respectable job of providing basic medical benefits to the nation’s elderly, the Federal Government deserves a grade of “F” for its failure to adequately plan for the future solvency of the Medicare Program. Like Social Security, Medicare is also forecast to go bankrupt in a few short years and, again, your Government has no concrete plan to recue it. Imagine that.

Instead of putting a responsible plan in place to stave off the pending threat of Medicare bankruptcy, what does Congress do? They plan to annually strip some $500 billion from Medicare’s coffers (a program already destined for bankruptcy), in favor of funding a brand new national healthcare plan, it can also ill-afford to finance either.

Does it make any sense to you – to strip money from a financially-starved Medicare Plan to fund a new, massive, national healthcare program, when there are already insufficient funds to ensure the financial solvency and very survival of Medicare itself? Only in Washington, can such logic prevail.

And, while on the topic of Medicare, there is just one more thing. The same politicians, who are sponsoring the new healthcare bill, have just proposed expanding coverage, under the financially-strapped Medicare Program, to include those age 55 and older. This will, of course, add millions of new beneficiaries to this severely cash-starved program.

Brilliant, isn’t it? It’s so reassuring to have representatives in Washington who caringly look after our best interests, and come up with such innovative solutions to one of the Nation’s most serious financial problems.

Veterans Administration Healthcare: If you have been watching television of late, you have likely seen news stories and / or documentaries highly critical of the quality of healthcare services provided to our returning war veterans by the Veterans Administration.

Reports have repeatedly cited filthy, unsanitary hospital conditions, poorly trained medical staffs, inordinate delays in approving and providing needed medical procedures, poor or inaccurate diagnosis, lengthy waits for services, staff shortages, and a host of other complaints. I am personally aware of one returning soldier from Afghanistan, whose surgically repaired shoulder was botched by the Veteran’s Administration, and then required corrective surgery through a private surgeon (who, by the way, provided his services “free of charge”).

These deplorable conditions at the V.A. appear to persist, despite repeated promises by Federal Authorities that immediate steps would be taken to resolve them. Still, we hear the same old complaints, as veterans continue to wait and wait for promised improvements. So much for Government promises.

Interestingly, as added testimony to V.A.’s inefficiency and lack of sensitivity and responsiveness to the needs of returning vets, consider what just happened last week following President Obama’s speech to unemployed workers in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Following his speech, while calling for questions from the audience, the President was approached by a recently-returned war veteran, requesting the President’s help in contacting the V.A. for the purpose of receiving certain veteran’s benefits to which he is entitled. This young vet politely complained to the President that he had called the Veterans Administration numerous times during the past few weeks, but has yet to receive the courtesy of a return phone call. Of course, the President offered his assistance.

So, should the “Public Option” (or its equivalent) pass, the Veteran’s Administration provides us with some valuable insight into just how poorly a massive, new Government-run, national healthcare program is likely to be run. Using the Veteran’s Administration example as the backdrop, can you imagine what will happen to healthcare quality should this healthcare bill be passed, and the Federal Government assume responsibility for managing this massive, new federal healthcare plan? Can you just imagine the utter frustration you will feel when attempting to get straight answers from this enormous, administrative bureaucracy, especially if you, or a beloved family member, has a serious health condition requiring government approval and prompt medical attention? You will be lucky to even get a return phone call.

Finally, don’t count your healthcare cost-savings just yet. Can you just imagine the huge bureaucratic structure that will be needed to administer the myriad of provisions contained in a 2,000-page healthcare bill, written by our illustrious legislative leaders in Washington, many of whom were educated as attorneys? Administration of such an overwhelmingly complex bill will undoubtedly require a “cast of thousands”, and you, the taxpayer, will be footing the bill.

Now, based upon the historical evidence and observations presented here, is it reasonable to believe the very same Federal Government, that has failed so miserably in its financial management of Social Security, Medicare, and Veteran’s Healthcare, can now be counted on to also run a massive, new healthcare program, intended to insure millions-upon-millions of additional citizens, (including you and your family), at reduced costs? Do you truly believe this to be possible?

If your answer is “yes”, then you must also believe in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny.

Call your federal and state representatives today, and tell them to ditch the “public option” (or equivalent government-run alternative), before it’s too late. Tell them to also ditch the provision to expand Medicare to those down to age 55.

We need to stop the obvious insanity, and restore some basic common sense to Washington.

Richard H. Beatty

Ocean Pines

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