cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
That was the title of an article by Jeffrey Schmidt that appeared in the American Thinker publication on November 27th discussing the funding debates that are taking place in Washington over the Medicare program. Then, today's Boston Globe carried an article that discusses the problems in the Massachusetts Connector healthcare program. Both articles should chill you to the bone...and they should convince you that politically-driven healthcare is simply a bad idea.
The Medicare funding process gives us keen insight into what happens once politicians get to decide how much and what sort of healthcare participants receive. There is some $390 billion available for coverage of the 40 million seniors and other beneficiaries of the Medicare programs. The discussion involves everything from possible changes (reimbursement reductions) to the very successful Medicare Advantage programs, to reducing physician's fees to reimbursement amounts for various treatments and therapies, etc.
What has been absent in all this debate is this: the process has not been about the best healthcare for Medicare recipients.
It has been about the political process with political ends uppermost in the minds of the participants. The politicans directly involved are worrying more about currying favor with some special interests, placating other special interests and punishing, yes punishing, other others.
Now, the other example: the Massachusetts Connector healthcare program. This program is run by the state politicians (they appointed the Board that actually holds the meetings, but we all understand that appointed boards are political organs). It requires that every citizen, save a few, must have healthcare coverage by December 31st or risk penalties that include confiscating their tax return dollars. Among other things, this mandate overwhelmed the system established by the state, truly a surprise :)
During the initial set-up of plans, the Connector board had to go back and browbeat the insurers to extract artifical premium reductions. That hen has come back to roost. The Connector staff has estimated that premiums for the several plans they designed will go up from 4% to 14% based on actuarial reviews given the costs that insurers have seen during this year.
However, the Connector can't afford this for fear it'll cause the program to fail. So what to do, what to do? They have an idea; let's go back and mandate premium increases of no more than 5%. What'll this do? Well, for starters, it is going to prove to the insurers that they were right all along, and that maybe they should think seriously about getting out of Massachusetts. Golly, if we can't mandate more losses for the insurers, then we can either increase premiums (since no tax money is currently involved) or we can reduce benefits. Can you spell R-A-T-I-O-N-I-N-G?
These are two classic examples of what happens when we entrust our healthcare to politicians. These are two excellent examples of what we can expect when "Healthy Wisconsin" is brought back to life next year as has been promised by the Democrats. These plans simply invite trouble for us participants. How is it that we can still insist on repeating the mistakes from which we should have learned our lessons?
Because the politicians see in this that which might well be the ultimate political control tool. There are too many politicians who believe they are the solution to everything when, in fact, they're more often the problem.
Will we remember the lesson, or will the promise of universal healthcare win us over? Will we trust the politicians with our healthcare future? I hope the answer to that question is NO.