A Costly Prescription for Health Care Reform

by | In The News, Weekly Column | 1 comment


health careThe President and Congress are guaranteeing that any government health care plan they pass will not cost the American taxpayer a dime. Never mind that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office figures it will cost some $1 trillion. Most people in western South Dakota are choosing to believe the CBO over their elected officials, and with good reason.

In 2003 Maine enacted its own version of universal health care. In an August 21 story, The Wall Street Journal reports, “The program was going to provide insurance for everyone and save businesses and patients money at the same time. After five years, fiscal realities as brutal as the waves that crash along Maine’s famous coastline have hit the insurance plan. The system that was supposed to save money has cost taxpayers $155 million and is still rising.”

A few years ago Tennessee tried providing public health insurance. Says The Wall Street Journal on August 17, “TennCare’s runaway costs show that the public health insurance proposal by House Democrats could bankrupt the federal government.” TennCare “became so costly at its peak that it ate up one-third of Tennessee’s budget.”

Hawaii’s version of national health care for children was abandoned after seven months because costs went out of control.europe

Those desiring a national health care system often hold up Europe as the standard we need to aspire to. It seems these other nations are having about the same luck with government health care as Maine, Tennessee, and Hawaii.

A July 12 article in The Times of London says that, even with their high tax rates, the Brits need more money to fund their national health care system. The Times says, “If we want to maintain an equitable and high-quality health service, it is time to challenge a long-held political taboo and consider the case for charging patients.” On August 12, the paper reported a group of 1,000 doctors, most working in the NHS, said the system had to “change or die.”

England isn’t alone, according to a Wall Street Journal article on August 8, 2009. In recent months, France has imposed American-style “co-pays” on patients to try to throttle back prescription-drug costs and force state hospitals to crack down on expenses.

Even more ironic, a poll reported in The Times on August 24 shows that 150 lawmakers believe the NHS is unsustainable in its present form and want to see the introduction of a private insurance system. Isn’t it ironic that, while we are racing headlong to try and socialize our system, England and France are going the other direction towards privatization?

We have no national sales tax in the U.S. Both England and France have national sales taxes ranging between 10% and 20%. In the U.S., our highest tax bracket is 35%. In the UK, the 40% tax bracket starts at £35,000. Indeed, they pay plenty, but apparently not enough.

Certainly, most U.S. citizens are not buying that a government-run health care option won’t cost taxpayers. It would be refreshing if Congress and the President dropped the rhetoric and stopped insulting taxpayers and told them the truth: a government option will cost you money, and probably lots of it.

medicareWe already do have government health care. It’s called Medicare, and it’s costing us a bundle in taxes, higher medical costs, and higher insurance premiums. It’s well documented that Medicare is going to be a disaster if we don’t cut benefits or raise taxes to continue to fund it. If our lawmakers really want to give us health care reform (and most everyone agrees we do need reform), maybe fixing the Medicare funding disaster would be a good place to start.

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