By Richard C. Dillihunt, M.D.
The Portland Press Herald, July 9, 2010
Health care costs remain a major concern of all Americans. Inflation in such costs has become increasingly important in our fragile economy.
Expanding alarmingly, much faster than that of the economy in general, these costs are dipping deeply into the ballooning budgets of middle Americans.
The dreams of a huge segment of our population — a car, a home, tuitions paid and high quality, affordable medical care — have been dealt repeated blows, turning dreams into a nightmare.
Adding this to astounding setbacks in the costs of conducting wars, the mortgage debacle and now the horror of the oil spill catastrophe, we need look no further than the pelican with frightened eyes, empty mouth and greasy flapping wings to see this gathering storm.
Now Washington sends us, by a narrow vote, new health care “reforms” touted as bipartisan solutions to our crippled health care system. Even a glance at these changes uncovers little more than a Ponzi scheme enriching some at the expense of others.
Put forth by a Congress held hostage by special interests beholden to an armada of lobbyists, these changes are minimal, difficult to understand, appear to have been written by special interests, and will take up to four years to implement — a stunningly long delay in managing an emergency.
Thus the money continues to flow to congressional re-election coffers and to myriads of health care industry executives accompanied by an expression borrowed from hedge fund lexicon-“IBGYBG,” meaning, “I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone,” explaining the delay in implementation.
New, so-called “insurance exchanges” touted to offer competitive health insurance costs will feature astronomical CEO and other officer compensation, and wasteful overhead due to endless administrative costs. In addition they will only provide insurance help to less than half of those who need it.
Current distribution of $250 checks to fix the “doughnut hole” problem in Medicare’s Part D is laughable — resembling peanut distribution on a pricey airline flight.
How will businesses fare with the new health care changes? For small businesses, it will be regulation to strangulation. For big businesses, the cost of providing pricey insurance to employees whose premiums have already rocketed to astronomical levels will be uncontrollable.
This will continue to cripple their ability to compete with other countries where the cost of health care is borne by everyone. Answer this — why does a new Chevrolet cost thousands more to build in Detroit than in nearby Canada? Clue: Who has universal health care with single payer?
If all said above is true, then why are the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries and other special interests refraining from a media blitz in opposition to this so-called “reform” instituted by the federal government?
That’s easy. They wrote it, they know it will benefit them, they are pleased that true, meaningful health care reform is not on the table, so they crouch inconspicuously like dandelions in spring lawns — waiting to return to the trough.
They have no reason to disturb a comfortable partnership with our employees in Washington: the U.S. Congress.
Harsh? Hardly. Harsh is the denial to our citizens of affordable health care, and denying us freedom from the stifling fear of financial ruin due to sickness or injury.
It is only fair that critics of proposed changes should have something better to offer America. Otherwise, the criticism may be misconstrued as just a knee-jerk babble against a government program with no basis in fact, and surely would be condemned by the for-profit health care industry.
Well, that’s not happening, because there is a less-expensive, less-complicated, time-proven, immensely popular, understandable, portable, comprehensive system of administering health care to every American with everything already in place.
Adored by a huge segment of our population, it is called Medicare. Medicare for all is waiting to solve our health care morass. Yes, waiting with its 5 percent administrative costs, compared to the more than 30 percent costs in the current for-profit system.
Ask Canada or other developed countries that have universal health care and single payer. Ask Nobel-winning economists Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, ask the majority of Americans who have been polled on this subject, ask the League of Women Voters, your medical society, your doctor — and then ask yourself.
Reconsideration of a true comprehensive reform is needed now. This is no time for tea parties.
Think about this fact: Those of us who bring this message do so for free as a public service, and have nothing to gain personally.
Richard C. Dillihunt, M.D., of Portland, Maine, is a retired surgeon.