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SPOTLIGHT
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Obamacare ... or Republican diddly-squat?

Published on -11/20/2013, 10:28 AM

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You certainly do recall when the insurance agent performed the appendectomy on your grandson? No? OK, when he did the colonoscopy on hubby? No? Well, maybe the insurance company team supervised the chemotherapy on Aunt Margaret? No? Oh, I guess doctors, nurses and hospitals still do that.

So maybe Obamacare is not really a "government take-over of health care" like we keep hearing. Relentlessly, endlessly, ad nauseous.

And, let's get over the screw-up of the rollout website. That'll get fixed -- fairly soon I'm betting. As for the anti-Obamacare haboob (look that up), you can largely fault the insurance corporations and their bed partners.

From their perspective, what the hell's wrong with denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions if it makes more money? Even if they've just lost their jobs and have three kids in school? Isn't that following Ayn Randy pseudo-Christian ethics? You know, greed is what Jesus really loves. It's in the Book somewhere. Yeah, I'm being sarcastic.

Seriously. Until the Affordable Care Act, U.S. insurance companies were not required to shell out at least 80 percent of what they took in policy charges. Now they must. They could and did deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. Now they can't. They didn't want to help college kids stay on their parents' coverage. Now they can.

When all that changed, insurance companies got upset.

(I'm no conspiracy buff, but you gotta wonder whether policy cancellations were calculated in advance to inspire the recent House of Representative vote to return to business as usual.)

You know the sing-song how the present U.S. health care system is "the best in the world"? Well, it is quite good. Just costs an arm and a leg. To be specific, that's "two-and-a-half times more than most developed nations in the world, including relatively rich European countries like France, Sweden and the United Kingdom."

As a percentage of GDP, U.S. health care costs more than in the next 35 developed countries. In dollar equivalencies, per person the U.S. leads at about $8,000. Health care costs keep rising faster by far than overall inflation. In 2011 (the last I found ) general inflation was 2 percent. Health care costs rose at four times that rate.

The U.S. does lead in cancer treatment and survivorship, but provides pretty much average results otherwise. The U.S also leads in health research, and that's wonderful but doesn't solve the problem. (PBS News Hour, October 2012)

Two regrettable factors also add to costs: too many Americans are lard-butts who sit to watch Faux TV. Too many dummies still smoke. Dealing with those issues would be nice, but insufficient.

You've surely heard this before, but not often enough. Until now, the U.S. has been the only developed country that did not provide some form of universal health care, and save money doing it. Nine countries have a two-tier system, which means government provides basic healthcare and allows citizens to buy additional private coverage. Eight (now including the U.S.) have individual mandates where everybody, young and old, must buy insurance from private companies (following Romney's Massachusetts model). Sixteen of the developed countries have a single-payer system where government is the insurance provider. Why do that, you ask?

Physicians for a national health program argue that "a single-payer plan eliminates the excessive administrative costs inherent in managing the thousands of different health care plans and ... streamlining all of these plans and carriers into one efficient system that contains checks and balances on hospital, drug, and device prices [and would save] more than $200-$300 billion annually." Not chump change.

As it now stands, too many kangaroo-court Republicans (as another pundit labeled them) bitch and whine about evil "Obamacare," paint our former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as the wicked witch of Washington and the president as a Kenyan-born Islamic satanic socialist. Otherwise, the kangaroo'ers got diddly-squat in their pouches when it comes to health-care reform. And haven't had for years.

Oh, yes, they do blab about "tort reform," which the Congressional Budget Office has repeatedly estimated would cut health care costs by barely one-half of 1 percent. They repeatedly fib that Obamacare would drive up the deficit, when the CBO has in fact said it would reduce the deficit.

Well, most Americans agree, or should, that our health care system has shortcomings. The present Affordable Care Act won't fix them all. But let's start somewhere. Unless you prefer diddly-squat.

Bob Hooper is a fourth-generation western Kansan who writes from his home in Bogue.

celtic@ruraltel.net

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