Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Real Healthcare Issue


Now that the Supreme Court has completed hearing arguments on the Affordable Health Care Act, I'm hoping for a 2 to 3 month reprieve from all the online carping about 9 unelected officials deciding the fate of the health of millions of Americans. Don't blame the Court for doing its job, or the founders for adopting a system of checks and balances. Rather, place the blame equally with the two parties responsible for writing a horrible law to achieve a noble, yet misguided, goal: an obstructionist, “our way or no way” Republican party, and an absolutely spineless, passive-aggressive Chief Executive.

While the large number of uninsured Americans is problematic, insurance coverage in and of itself is not the root problem. When a 5 minute visit to the surgeon's office to have an abscess drained costs over $1000 out-of-pocket, after insurance pays the doctor, the problem is cost itself. Adding more people to the ranks of the insured will help, but it fails to address the real issue. Yes, part of the problem is that the insured ultimately pay for the care of the uninsured. The real factors driving massive cost increases are malpractice litigation and lack of competition on prescription drugs.

When I was growing up, a physician was the top of the socioeconomic food chain. Everyone aspired to be a doctor, and every mother aspired to have her daughter marry a doctor. Now, doctors are abandoning their practices due to outrageous malpractice insurance premiums. You can thank trial lawyers and their friends in Congress and the White House for that. We are also at a stage where seniors often face choosing between buying food or buying medication because they can't afford both. You can thank the FDA and big pharma lobbyists for that.

It should come as no surprise that President Obama's legislation ignored these issues. It is true that the legislation would have passed constitutional muster and never reached the Supreme Court if it had been written as a tax. Yes, the GOP would have raised a fuss over anything remotely resembling a tax. That's when an executive should act like an executive, use the bully pulpit and take the case to the people. Our feckless leader prefers to play passive-aggressive, let Congress take the initiative and control the dialogue, then play woe-is-me.

Why does no one in Washington have the cojones to identify publicly and then address the problem? Simple: trial lawyers and big pharma companies are huge contributors to BOTH parties. Since 2008, pharma money has been split evenly between both parties. Trial lawyers contribute heavily to both sides, with an advantage going to Democrats. When our President and Congresspeople are consumed by greed and self-interest, you get the Affordable Health Care Act instead of a real solution to the real problem. Stop whining about the Supreme Court and address your outrage where it belongs, and do so in November.

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