Monday, August 3, 2009

Health Care Discussion Way off the Mark

I have heard two true statements about healthcare in our country. 1. It is the best in the world. 2. It is the most expensive in the world. The reason it is the best is because it is one of the most competitive in the world, with a population willing to spend for research and innovation, and entrepreneurs who see health improvement as a worthy, as well as rewarding goal.

But it is the second part, the most expensive, that the President and Congress are not really addressing. With all the money that flows through our health system, it becomes a target for lawyers. When a doctor pays half of his income in liability insurance we know there are abuses. I heard statements by the President of Doctors’ Insurance Company. He said, “For obstetricians, it is not whether you will be sued, but how often in a year.” He also said, “ In court, it is not whether the doctor made a mistake, but how damaged the patient is that determines the award.”

Insurance companies also see a chance for big rewards. As lawyers drove up costs for health, no family budget could cope with the typical costs. So it became necessary to have health insurance. Insurance companies had many years of double digit increases to insure profitability. Doctors reacted with extra tests and procedures that had more to do with protecting themselves than with helping the patient.

So why are we talking about creating government insurance? The real solution is in limiting lawsuits. Some states have led the way by creating medical review boards, a less expensive way of reviewing the case for merit. Other states have capped the rewards. How can someone who never earned more than $500,000 in a working life, and only bought life insurance worth $50,000, somehow get ten million dollars for pain and suffering?

Here’s the dirty secret. The largest contributors to the Democratic Fund Raisers are the trial lawyers. The President is a lawyer, and it is the most prevalent profession in Congress. Don’t expect any of these lawyers or Democrats to point to the real problem, with even less chance that they will fix it.

Let me make an analogy. Let’s compare our health care system with an automobile. The public, the car owner, brings it to a shop, the government, and says, “The engine isn’t running right.” One mechanic, representing the US House, says, “No wonder, it’s the wrong color. It should be blue.” Another mechanic, representing the Senate, says, “You’re wrong. It should be green.” So they argue the color. The manager, representing the President, says, “Just make sure the tires are properly inflated.” The captive media, always anxious to glorify liberals, duly reports these discussions as if they are serious. All parties ignore the engine. Some of the public gets distracted from the real problem as well.

Look at some of the other players in this debate. The American Medical Association sees an opportunity to deny participation to all alternative practitioners, such as naturopaths, chiropractors, herbalists, and some others who sometimes are producing better results than standard medicine.
AARP, which many years ago became just another captive of the Democratic fund raising machine, shows its real colors by endorsing whatever Congress comes up with as another move toward socialized medicine. AARP hardly notices how real socialized medicine ignores the elderly.

This whole debate brings to mind only one word… CORRUPTION!

Ken Weyler is a former state representative from Kingston, NH

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