How About that Healthcare Ruling?

OK, I’m cracking my mental muscles as I begin to write this up!

Regardless of your position on the recent Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Healthcare Act – whether you cheered or decided you need to pack up and leave the country, you really need to consider this.

We, as citizens, have failed to answer the fundamental questions before we came up with solutions!

Question number one: “Should the Federal Government have a fiduciary role in the health of its citizenry?”

Question two: “Should the Federal Government engage in health care policy?”

These questions serve as the starting point for anything else that follows. Unfortunately for citizens, this conversation begins at the midway point. In fact, because we have such collectively short memories, we’ve had this debate and answered both questions back in 1965 with the passage of the Social Security Amendments which created Medicare.

For nearly 50 years, the federal government has engaged in health care policy and has been paying the freight, at least for select portions of the population – the elderly, the poor, the young, the military, and veterans. The associated costs for engaging in this market last year ran the tab to taxpayers nearly $1 trillion. In fiscal terms, $1 trillion represents 28% of the entirety of the 2012 budget! It also represents 40% of the total revenue collected by the government.

For the mathematically challenged, this means that for every ten dollars collected by Uncle Sam, $2.80 was spent on some form of government-assisted health care. To make up the shortfall, Uncle Sam then borrowed another $1.20 – which will eventually need to be paid back, with interest!

The arguments used to fight the Affordable Health Care Act are actually nothing more than recycled hyperbole used in the 1960’s in the fight against Medicare.

Ronald Reagan stated his opposition to Medicare back in the early 1960’s, in his best William Jennings Bryan impersonation:

“And if you don’t do this [oppose Medicare], and if I don’t do it, one of these days, you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.”

Nicholas Kristoff, in his November 2009 Op-ed article, The Wrong Side of History, wrote:

“Similar, ferocious hyperbole was unleashed on the proposal for Medicare. President John Kennedy and later President Lyndon Johnson pushed for a government health program for the elderly, but conservatives bitterly denounced the proposal as socialism, as a plan for bureaucrats to make medical decisions, as a means to ration health care.

“The American Medical Association was vehement, with Dr. Donovan Ward, the head of the A.M.A. in 1965, declaring that “a deterioration in the quality of care is inescapable.” The president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons went further and suggested that for doctors to cooperate with Medicare would be “complicity in evil.””

These dire warnings of soviet-style health rationing never happened. Nearly 50 years later, elderly Americans continue to receive excellent healthcare. What is happening is soaring medical costs are eating the federal budget – which was the impetus for the Affordable Healthcare Act! Since the government has a financial stake in the cost of healthcare, action was needed to control costs.

Those that think the repeal of the Healthcare Act will somehow “save America” are, in reality, living in a fantasyland.

This is not to imply that I personally think the Affordable Health Care Act is a great piece of legislation. I recall saying, when the bill was passed, it was the equivalent of placing a band aid on a gaping chest wound.

Regardless of your political leanings, there is very little to be happy about in this legislation; however, the cries that this legislation is the end of the nation are over the top. Medicare did not ruin the U.S., nor will this. If my memory serves me correctly, Ronald Reagan spent 8 years in the white house and did nothing to reform or to dismantle Medicare.

We are way too caught up in hyperbole. Call it the Gingrich/Limbaughmification of American discourse. Chicken Little looks like a sage compared to these guys. In the world of Gingrich-Limbaugh, everything is a threat to our nation’s identity, every tax increase (or proposed tax increase) is the largest in the history of the nation! There is a reason why they take this tack – MONEY! They prey on the millions of “dittoheads” out there that have no ability to objectively form their own opinion beyond that which is handed to them on the airwaves.

There is ample room to be critical of the Healthcare Act. In fact, it might be one of the worst pieces of legislation the government has passed in quite awhile. The biggest problem I see in it is that it doesn’t go far enough to control government costs, not to mention covering citizens for healthcare insurance. A strong criticism, sans hyperbole, of the legislation can be found here.

Let’s focus on the first. All things being equal, the cost of medical care in this country continues to rise. Governmental outlays for medical care, already $1 trillion annually, can hardly be expected to turn downward – especially as our baby boomer generation enters their long-lived golden years.

The cost of doing nothing about this will likely bankrupt the country

The Affordable Healthcare Act basically slows down the inevitable, but is not necessarily a solution to the problem.

50 years later, we need to return to the questions posed at the beginning of this article – with a twist:

Question number one: “Should the Federal Government have a fiduciary role in the health of its citizenry?”

If the answer is yes, then the only feasible option, from a cost-control standpoint, is to extend the Medicare program to all citizens. If the answer is no – and there are ample conservatives that share this view – then Congress should not only repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act, but also repeal the Social Security Act Amendment of 1965 and get out of the healthcare business altogether.

Question two: “Should the Federal Government engage in health care policy?”

If the government no longer has a fiduciary stake in the costs of healthcare, then to the extent government is involved in healthcare policy should be limited to the scope of the role of the Food and Drug Administration. Although, in this anti-regulatory environment, that too may be on the chopping block soon…

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One Response to How About that Healthcare Ruling?

  1. Janna says:

    So glad to visit your new blog home. I will be a frequent guest.

    The photo of the family on top is AMAZING!! I think it is the best family shot I’ve ever seen.

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