Felicia Muftic: Democrats Missed the Boat
November 15, 2009
Sometimes political debates are like two ships passing in the dark. Unless they collide, one ignores the other and continues on course.
It certainly is the case in the debate on health care. One side prattles on, the other blares music to their passengers. Neither pays attention to the other. Those not on either ship are left in the wake, confused and floundering, having to piece together pros and cons themselves.
The Democrats have ignored the fiscal conservatives’ concern about the national debt. Republicans act as if the uninsured do not exist, even if those who are uninsured have a 50 percent greater chance of dying or that medical bills are one of the leading causes foreclosure and bankruptcy.
The Democrats have missed the boat: They have a great chance to help the economy in the long run. They have failed. On the table, currently, are two plans that have price tags attached by the Congressional Budget Office. The Democrat’s bill passed the House last week and the other one the Republicans released to the public one a day before the House vote.
The House Democratic bill would reduce the federal deficit by $104 billion in 10 years while the Republicans will only reduce it by $68 billion. If you are making your choice based on the deficit impact alone, then the clear winner is the Democrat’s plan.
How could this be, given an increase in of billions in government expenses? The Democrat’s House plan pays for it with increased taxes on millionaires, but it addresses the drag on the economy as a whole caused by 36 million uninsured Americans who seek care in an emergency room after they are too sick to ignore their ailments, the most expensive per patient treatment possible. They pass their high medical costs on to the 83 percent of us who have insurance to the tune of $1000 per family per year and cause our national average in health outcome in nearly all categories compared to the rest of the industrial world to occupy the bottom. We may have the best medical care in the world IF we have insurance, but as a nation we are paying two times more than anyone else in the industrialized world.
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Democrats would also cut Medicare’s administrative costs by nearly $500 billion, though no Medicare benefits would be cut. The Republicans want to continue paying private insurers an extra 14 percent to administer a plan called Advantage that makes no one healthier.
The Republicans have proposed some very good ideas to reduce costs. It is just that their savings are not enough to provide insurance to any more than three million of the currently uninsured and, in ten years, the percentage insured would be unchanged from what it is now.
If we were really serious about basing the decision solely on the long term consequences, then we ought to embrace the Republican’s ideas and include them in the Democrat’s bills. The more savings we can squeeze out of the system, the better, if you can ask me.
The Republican’s CBO score on their proposal to allow consumers to buy across state lines is a savings over ten years. It will provide an element of competition that is missing now. The Democrat’s public option scored a ten billion dollar savings. However, cross state purchases would work best if those buying Blue Cross could buy something else but Blue Cross in another state. The truth is, the monopoly is a federal one. The answer: to allow insurance companies to be sued for antitrust price fixing and collusion, but there is nothing in any Republican bill that would accomplish this. There is a provision in the House Democrat’s bill. Why not really blow the lid off the competition bottlenecks with all three measures: antitrust prosecution, cross-state purchasing and a public option?
The Republican’s proposal for a nationwide malpractice settlement cap was scored at a savings of $41 billion, two-thirds of the savings they tout in their entire plan. That concept has been embraced by the Democrats though a proposal to consider it is in a Senate committee but not in the House bill. If the Democrats want to add a savings of $41 billion to their already impressive national debt savings totals, they ought to do more than give lip service to it.
On an entirely different subject: The Fraser River is under attack from the Moffat Firming Project. Hearings will be at 6 p.m., Dec. 2, at Silvercreek. Get educated, get prepared by attending a “Save the Fraser Town Hall Meeting” at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 18 at the Old Church in Fraser. Maintaining the streamflow of the Fraser is the most important issue facing Grand County, our ecosystem, and our tourist based economy.
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