Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Post Slacking and a Minor Medical Rant
The posts have been light. I have been working on a long post on health care reform, but am not sure I know enough about the various reform platforms to make an intelligent comment. I do feel that there are many factors impacting the price of health care. The problems facing health care include doctors and their secret, byzantine billing methods and holier-than-thou attitudes, insurance companies that perpetuate and abet the doctors, drug companies with their high prices and pills that cure or relieve any ailment (along with abetting doctors), and a nation of hypochondriacs. ("Help, I have a pimple on my ass and need an assendectomy, eighteen months of disability and a handicap parking sticker.") All four parties need each other in the current health care environment and changing this dynamic will be hard.

I am by nature against a national health care plan. (My dealings, however, with Medicare have been positive. It is a system that works and acts as a good safety net to most seniors.) I would like the "free market" approach to work. But try calling a doctor's office to get a price estimate before an appointment. You won't get one. It is disingenuous that a doctor's office does not know the cost of services. Doctors should provide an estimate, like an auto mechanic, and if more services are provided than the price increases. But people like their regular doctors and may not price shop before every office visit (imagine the nightmare of dragging medical records to each doctor). Insurance companies are actuarial experts and this expertise drives many medical decisions. Drug companies are big businesses, not altruistic enterprises, and they need to develop new drugs and new uses for existing drugs to survive (and deserve the opportunity to make a profit and have patent protections). All sides are going to have to play give-and-take to get any meaningful reform. Good luck.

I heard what I'd call a right-wing economist speak last week. He, of course, was against a national health care plan. But rather than have any serious comments or ideas on health care reform, he resorted to fear-mongering by saying that health care would be rationed. His example: if you're over 70 you won't get any major procedure, period; and if you are younger and need a knee replacement, for example, you will have to wait years. National health care is good unless you get sick (this is what is said about Kaiser!). This rationing notion is baloney and he knows it. I think everyone agrees that there are problems with health care. Democrats have the votes to get a national plan. Republicans need to step-up and push for real market reforms and not rely on scaring people with false information.

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