Wednesday, January 20, 2010

An Ironic Election

The irony of it all. Ted Kennedy works his whole life for some sort of national healthcare policy. He dies just after Obama (whom Kennedy anointed as the next great national leader) becomes President. Obama's number one domestic priority is some sort of national healthcare policy (the president has never been specific about the policy). Then a Republican wins Kennedy's former Senate seat - a seat held by the Kennedy family since the 1950's. This tilts the national healthcare debate slightly in the Republican's favor because it gives them a thin 41 votes in the Senate. Is national healthcare now doomed because its greatest champion during my adult lifetime has died at the moment of its greatest chance for success?

I can only hope so. The bill has evolved into a patched together compromise that really doesn't please anyone. It has never adequately addressed the fundamental crisis of healthcare in this country - which is cost. Instead, it morphed into "boogie-man politics" (which is politics as usual, not the "change" Obama promised so eloquently in his campaign). It became all about healthcare insurance rather than cost. How can you promise affordable coverage if there's no upper limit on what can be charged for what's being covered?

I'd like any elected official to answer that question.

And don't tell me there's been a "healthcare debate" in this country. I had someone from the DNC call me a couple of weeks ago (they are always calling me begging for money which I never provide). My wife handled the call because, frankly, there's little I dislike more than talking on the telephone. I do enough of that at work. Anyway, when Jennifer challenged the caller on the president's healthcare agenda, the DNC guy said "well, you have to admit, at least we've had a national debate."

Bullshit. What we have had is a media circus conducted by the republicans back in August, followed by a hodge-podge of ideas from various special interest groups as the democrats try to piece together enough votes to support something, to support anything at all. This was no debate. A debate would be about why it costs $400 for a pediatric syringe when an infant is taken to the emergency room for a broken arm? Why does it cost $1500 for a routine colonoscopy but $3500 to remove one single polyp, a procedure that takes all of 5 minutes at the most and involves almost nothing more in terms of resources? Why doesn't the president believe tort reform should be considered as part of controlling costs so that American physicians don't have to pay the highest malpractice insurance rates in the world? Does he actually think that cost isn't passed along to the insurance companies who pass it along to employers who pass it along to the employees? Or in the case of medicare it gets passed along to the tax payer.

Until these specific types of questions are asked about physician charges, legal costs, the poor health habits of the citizenry itself, pharmaceutical expenses, the overwhelming inefficiencies of the business of providing healthcare due to the fact that physicians are some of the worst business persons on the planet, until all of this and more is taken into consideration we haven't had a debate at all. We've danced around the subject and called it a dialog. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Perhaps the American people sense this. Or at least the people of Massachusetts. Anyway, the top priority of Obama's domestic agenda has become a mess. Consider Clinton's attempt in 1992 and its deja vu all over again. And that's a good thing. Since the way this change was shaping up, it would only be for the worse.

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