The Rally to Reform Health Care and Its Costs

If you care about letting our representatives know about reforming the health care system, then plan on coming to Washington, DC on June 25, 2009. This is the day when a national rally is scheduled on reforming our health care system -- once and for all. Check out one website, http://healthcare09.org, to know more.

To be sure, the "perfect storm" is now gathering for serious reform, with President Obama giving his most recent public radio talk on health care reform, and several members of Congress speaking out on the subject as well. Last week, the media caught wind of studies suggesting that over 60% of those filing for bankruptcies had as a catalyst the inability to pay medical bills. There was also a major piece in the USA Today featuring the HHS Secretary and the head of the White House office heading health care reform, and CNN highlighting the subject too. And, to be sure, the roll-out for planned federal legislation is set for the end of this month.

Even though the major political issue appears to be whether reform will include a public plan within options available to the public, the crux of any reform remains financing its cost. Revising the system is said to take an anticipated $1.3 trillion. Speaking of cost, one would be wise to read the just published article by noted Harvard physician and scholar, Atul Gawande. In the latest issue of the New Yorker, his article, "The Cost Conundrum", appears. Read it!

The focus of the Gawande piece is not on whether there should be public versus private plans, i.e., who pays for the care is irrelevant, or the millions who are uninsured and underinsured, but on the motivation for those rendering health care in various parts of the country. He focused his research on McAllen, Texas with analysis of what is being done at the Mayo Clinic facilities in Rochester, Minn., Arizona and Florida, as well as in Grand Junction, Colo. Surprisingly, his research suggests that cost and quality are inversely proportional --lowering the costs of health care does not mean lowering health care quality. In fact, quality remains when costs are lowered. Are we surprised?

While we hear from those in Washington (like we also did in the last several days from Sens Baucus (D.-Mont.) and Grassley (R-La.)) that perhaps employees and consumers will have to be taxed in some way for health care coverage provided by employers, before that legislation comes out by month's end, maybe, just maybe, our elected officials should think twice about paying for health care reform by burdening the taxpayer even more than they (we) are forced to do now. Using Gawande's piece as a stepping stone, maybe its time for those in Congress to recognize that what is fueling the increasingly high cost of health care is the system presently in place --paying for quantity and not for quality rendered by those in the medical profession --besides the waste and inefficiencies that have already been spoken about in the media.

While we are talking about costs, why not seriously consider paying for health care reform by levying a tax on those entities which produce substances that are inimical to a healthy lifestyle, like tobacco and liquor, or perhaps sweeteners that go into all sorts of food products. This tax not only could be used to finance the needed reform, but it would also have the effect of forcing consumers to think twice about spending lots of money to buy such products or ingredients. I am not saying to eliminate such ingredients or products; just that consumers should be made to pay more for them if they really still want them. If all of us cannot maintain healthy lifestyles on our own (look how obese on average we have become), then maybe we will think twice about shelling out precious cash for the amount of products that do us no good.

See you at the rally.