Friday, July 24, 2009

The Grand Canyon

It is certainly something everyone should have the opportunity to see at least once in their lifetime...the Grand Canyon. Lisa and I saw it from a birds eye view when we went to Las Vegas a few years ago with some friends of ours. Even from our cozy plane seats thousands of feet in the air, you couldn't help but be in awe of the size and scale of it. It's amazing to see.

It is also that (The Grand Canyon) which separates rhetoric from reform. Here's the context. Unless you've been living under a rock for the last few months, you know that other than Michael Jackson's death investigation, the story getting the most air-time is the push from the President for health-care reform. He has pushed all of his chips to the middle of the table...he has put the pressure on Congress to pass a measure before the end of the year. Well, that was after the Senate Majority Leader and the House Speaker both said it won't happen before Congressional recess in August which was the original timeframe. We had the primetime pseudo news conference a couple of nights ago called by the President to pitch his plan one more time to the American people. A blind person could concede that the President has no lack of charisma or style. But what really counts right now is substance. It's the stuff that should be there when you pull away all of the pomp and circumstance. And instead of Americans coming away with a better sense of the plan itself and how it's going to be paid for, more Americans now disapprove of the plan and it's direction. Not helping things is his own admission a few days ago concerning his lack of knowledge of certain provisions in the bill itself. You don't have to be entrenched in the workings of the law to know that to push and pitch for a piece of leglislature that self-admittedly you don't have full knowledge of is fool-hearty and careless. It will also prove to erode his ability going forward to push major pieces of his agenda through Congress because he won't have the politcal capital or the power of his appeal to push policy forward.

In an effort to be solutions-focused instead of merely critical, what I would propose as an alternative to this bill is one that allows for the choice for medical care to fall in the hands of the citizens instead of the government. Are the citizens not smart enough to make their own choice regarding medical care? Give everyone without medical insurance a medical spending account. Lord knows there's enough money out there to give each of the approx. 50 million citizens without health care money in their respective accounts to get the medical care they need. Create a credit card, much like the one given to those who qualify for unemployment assistance, so that those funds are used for what they're intended. The card can be programmed in a way that would allow it to only be recognized at medical care institutions. Moreso, if the aim is to truly drive costs out of the health care system, put in place substantive tort reform. Doctors are forced to purchase all kinds of malpractice insurance before they can actually get to the business of the Hippocractic oath. The costs doctors incur to protect themselves from frivolous lawsuits is passed down to you and me and guess what folks, those costs don't decrease over time...they increase, which means that our medical costs continue to go up.

But to do this, it would mean that Democrats and Republicans would have to cut their ties to the special interests that allow them to profit from the exorbitant money gained by trial lawyers as a result of malpractice suits. I do find it interesting that the President mentioned going after these insurance companies that are posting record profits as medical costs go up...basically demonizing them for turning a profit when that's what effective business does. And all the while never even remotely mentioning that maybe, just maybe, the ridiculous amount of malpractice lawsuits and those monetary judgements may have some tie to the rise in medical costs. But then that would mean he'd be bringing scrutiny on a group of people with which he has close ties to (trial lawyers). He could if he wanted to. And if he decided to do so, it would probably affect some change which is duly needed. He still has quite a bit of political capital, which in this case, could be used to bring about true reform that could greatly impact all of us.

But therein lies the picture...the canyon-wide difference between rhetoric and reform.

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