Monday, June 1, 2015

Health Care

Our junior senator, Rafael Ted Cruz, is at least on target about one thing. In fighting the Affordable Care Act which has been dubbed Obama Care, Senator Cruz feared that if not repealed very soon the people would start growing to like it. That certainly has happened for millions and millions of formerly under-insured Americans who were suffering without adequate medical care. Obama Care is in fact working. 

Those who are detractors of Obama's program have yet to offer a single alternative. Americans should look at the very weak response from Republicans who claim we could do better. Rick Perry simply said we had plenty of coverage for poor people in Texas--they could go to the emergency room. Going to the emergency room may be a fine idea of good medical care for some folks, but it is sorely lacking in facilities for long-term ailments. And, those of us who pay for medical treatment, or our insurance carriers, are stuck with the bill. 

 America is said to have the best medical technology in the world, and is a place where--if you are well off--you can obtain the best medical care in the world. Unfortunately, however, the same cannot be said for people living from payday to payday or unable to work. Medical bills are the leading cause of individual bankruptcies. Today medical care takes an average of 16% from family income.  When Blue Cross started, only 6% of the family income was adequate  for medical care for the whole family.

Our conservative friends, and many in the medical profession, like to boast about how great medical care is in the United States. Yet, we rank 28th in the world of all nations concerning infant mortality.  Much of the blame for this situation goes to many of our politicians. They claim we should leave it alone and let free enterprise take care of it.  

As one writer has sarcastically said, “It’s very difficult to negotiate price when you’re on the gurney heading into the surgery room to have open heart surgery.” Market forces simply do not work. If you are told to take these pills, you do not stop to argue when offered a “take the pill or die” proposition. 

There’s often talk that fraud and phony ailments drive up our medical costs. Those are not the primary forces helping to destroy our economy. The primary cause of ever-increasing medical costs is fairly simple. It’s greed. Insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and manufacturers of medical equipment combined probably have more lobbyists in Washington than all other interests combined. 

For those of you who do not believe money makes a difference in politics, look at the successful lobbying that has been accomplished by medical care lobbyists. As an example, statutorily, Medicaid is prohibited from negotiating price with pharmaceutical companies. Also, so-called charity hospitals have grown like topsy and are paying their top managers millions of dollars. M.D. Anderson has two top administrators, each receiving $2 million a year. 

To make matters worse, in Texas--purely for political reasons--Rick Perry, who is trying to position himself as an ultra-conservative to run for president, has led our state in turning down billions of federal dollars which not only denies access to good medical care to millions of Texans, but also hurts the state in other ways. Hypocritically, conservative Republicans mouth that Obama Care is the biggest job killer ever passed. Unfortunately for conservative Republicans, this claim does not square with facts. 

A recognized economist in Texas, Ray Perryman, has calculated that accepting the money and wisely spending it for health care in Texas would create 60,000 new jobs in Harris County alone. Our current governor just gave away about a million five in tax payer dollars to lure a company building tractors to Texas that would give us less than 400 new employees. Compare that to accepting the $920 million on the table for Texas to provide health care that would help create 60,000 new jobs in one county alone.  

The next time you hear someone belittling the efforts of our current president to provide better medical coverage for Americans, ask them what alternative they would propose. 

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