Sunday, August 16, 2009

“We Don’t Want Socialized Medicine!”

One of the signs you see at all of those health care town hall meetings is this: “We Don’t Want Socialized Medicine!”

(Take it from someone who has been inside of politics and government for more than 30 years: The GOP is incapable of coordinating such directed protests on this sort of massive scale. If they were, they would have won the presidency and Congress last year. President Obama, as Community Organizer-in-Chief, based on the campaign he ran and won last year…now that is someone who knows how to organize people!)

But if ‘we don’t want more socialized medicine!’, then what do ‘we’, as a nation, really want? More ‘privatized’ medicine? The ‘same’ current unique combination of private utilization of health care supported by broad-based federal taxes on the entire population?

What in the name of George Washington and John Wayne is going on here?

No one seems to want true socialized medicine; no one seems to ‘like it’. And yet, the Obama Administration and the Democrats running Congress at the current time all seem to “want more of it”.

Here is what we would like to throw out there to just think about for the time being:

“What would it take to get the American health care system and attendant health insurance program heading towards a more privatized system?”

We have asked this question before. (see 'Principles') But now that we are flying right into the maw of the heated health care debate, we thought we would raise the issue again, to be more pointed about it.

Let’s face the basic facts of the matter. We have a privately-based health care ‘insurance’ system in America today, mostly funded by employers through the workplace, that pre-pays for 95% of all the health care costs we consume each year. The large majority of Americans are basically happy with it as it stands today.

Close to 50% of the current funding for all of the health care consumed in America comes from 3 pots of money paid by taxpayers: 1) payroll taxes; 2) general tax revenues and 3) borrowed billions from future generations. These taxpayer funds go to cover the costs of Medicare and Medicaid.

Don’t ever believe that the premiums paid by Medicare enrollees of approximately $300/month for Part B services cover the entire cost of Medicare. It does not, not even by a long shot. Those premiums cover 25% of the cost; 75% comes from the American taxpayer. The full cost of offering the standard, full-blown coverage for the average senior citizen in America is now around $1000 per person, per month.

That is around $24,000 per retired couple per year, ladies and gentlemen. And growing each and every day. We have got to find new ways to administer true health care ‘insurance’ not only for these seniors but for the entire population.

Let’s call our current health care system today something other than a ‘private’ or ‘partially socialized’ system. Maybe something distinctive like ‘Amerialism’.

Each of us wants to maintain 100% personal control over our health care decisions. But the vast majority of seniors can not afford the full standard health care programs and neither can those people who are living in poverty. We spend close to $1 trillion annually from federal taxpayer-supported health programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

The real question right now before us is this: “Do we want to move towards more socialized medicine? Or do we try to turn this aircraft carrier around and point it more towards a true privately-based adminstered and funded health care ‘insurance’ system?”

We believe the first step is to recognize that we want to insure everyone against truly catastrophic outcomes that can wipe out family finances and then go from there. The next step is to reallocate sufficient funds from the existing Medicare and Medicaid programs to help pay for such high-level ‘insurance’ coverage for every person, not just seniors and poverty-level families. Adjust the federal-allocated share based on household income and net wealth status and provide some sort of assistance up to 300% of the poverty level. 1)

And then allow every person to decide for themselves which insurance plan to buy into regardless of state or area. Freedom of choice works in the GI college program and the VA housing program; why not in health care as well? For those who are incapable of making those decisions for themselves, the family unit or a government agency can help them make that decision.

Under such a plan, this ship will be rightly turned back towards a more private system and other reforms can be passed later to finally break the upward death spiral in health care costs in this country. Without such fundamental structural reform in the entire health care industry, we will not be able to meet the other very basic needs of our nation in a very short time.

1) See 'Jefferson Health Plan’

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