Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Kennedy Health Care Proposal: In Your Dreams

Obama’s health care reform is moving steadily forward, or backward depending upon your point of view. He has reframed the issue entirely, empowered by his political standing and Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. It is no longer whether there will be a public option (read: government take over), but only over the extent that the government will control our health care system. The GOP are trying to cry doomsday, but their damage control efforts are drowned out by the din of the Democrats. What a difference an election makes.

Senator Kennedy’s new legislative plan will provide health care to all Americans with employers and individuals making mandatory contributions. In this pay or play proposal, if someone does not purchase medical insurance, then the government would extract its pound of flesh through punitive fines. Private insurance companies, like casinos, would be required to pay out a specified percentage of their premiums as health care benefits. So much for the ‘fair competition’ between the government and private insurance plans that we were promised. Physicians and hospitals would be paid at rates higher than the current Medicare reimbursement schedule. In addition, Senator Kennedy’s draft provides new benefits to 10 million disabled Americans and would also expand the Medicaid program.

Assuming that Kennedy’s expansive and expensive government health care proposals are sound, how are we going to pay for them? The $634 billion ‘down payment’ from higher taxes on the wealthy and restraining Medicare growth won’t get anywhere near the goal line. Current estimates put the cost of health care reform in excess of $1 trillion over next decade. Even after all the new taxes are forced upon us, including those not yet proposed, there won’t be enough cash to fund this health care hydra. The government may find that its financial cupboards are bare after a few economic stimulus packages, bailing out and taking over General Motors, rescuing the financial industry, fighting a couple of wars, etc.

Obama recently indicated that he would consider taxing health care benefits, although he opposed this emphatically during his presidential campaign. This was a John Kerryesque moment when he was against taxing health benefits before he was for it. Keep in mind that taxing these benefits, which are more generous in the Northeast would mean transfering health care dollars to the Southwest, where health care plans have less frills and the percentage of uninsured residents is higher. Will New Yorkers, for example, be enthusiastic about subsidizing Texans with their health care tax dollars?

After they tax our health benefits, they will still need billions and billions of additional dollars to feed the health care beast. There’s not much low hanging taxable fruit remaining. Where will they go? The Senate is already considering taxing soda and other sweetened beverages to generate health care cash. What other windfall opportunities will they concoct? A health care tax on beef jerky? Caeser salad? Is this what our best and brightest in Washington have come up with to finance health care? Look what is happening in Massachusettes. Their miraculous medical model of health care is running out of money.

The government will need mile deep pockets. Look for them to raid the coffers of the pharmaceutical companies, medical insurance companies and American taxpayers. While single-payer government run health care remains the dream for many, I hope it will be a dream deferred. Dreams and fantasies are an important part of the human experience, but they can’t pay the bills. Wait a minute. What if our dreams could be taxed? Sure, this has never been done before, but new challenges demand new thinking. Let’s start slow with a modest surcharge on all dreams and daytime reveries. I’ll certainly be paying my fair share since the Kennedy plan and the permutations that will follow will surely give me nightmares.


Anonymous said...

Great Blog. I hope the world is listening.

Anonymous said...

Be afraid. Be Very Afraid. You don't scare me, Mr. Kirsch.

I wonder why you didn't mention that what happened in Massachusetts was that while the State Legislature put together an enlarged Medicare plan for all; George W. Bush rushed in and threatened the State: "No Way, and I'll cancel all your Medicare if you do that." That's when then Gov Romney announced that all health care would be private. Quite a coup for the old white boys, Romney & Bush, eh? Massachusetts was screwed by Republicans.

Now tell us something we can believe, Mr. Kirsch. When you tell the facts, please try to tell them all, instead of making your story conveniently come together. --Jane Carroll, Springboro, OH (formerly of Swampscott, MA)

Anonymous said...

Typical post from a typical greedy doctor. You can make so much money from having the whip hand over private insurers why would you want a government run plan, after all they might try to negotiate down your bloated incomes. It really is hilarious how you rich doctors believe so very much in the 'free market' but make sure the market is rigged to keep the number of medical graduates down. said...

Did you read that Baucus' staff is threatening anyone who attends Republican meetings on healthcare reform?

BTW, the reason that Massachusetts' insurance is failing is that the "greedy doctors" are not being paid enough to cover the costs of seeing patients and they're still at risk for Massachusetts style malpractice.

There is a huge and growing "public option" that is not supported by having enough doctors. Costs have gone up, waits have gone up, and many people can't find a family doctor.

Anonymous said...

Doctors are just pure greed. They oppose a public plan because it might affect their incmes. Pure, monopolistic greed - America's greediest trade union.

Anonymous said...

Great post Doc. The Massachussetts Connector is limited to Blue Cross of MA and a few other local yokel insurance companies. The cheapest cost for Blue Cross for a 55-year-old family is an HMO costing $18,900 a year. Their more expensive non-HMO plan costs $34,000 a year.

Blue Cross owns Senator Kennedy. In Boston you have to purchase this expensive garbage or face state fines.

Liberals will find out that if they make under $33,000 a year the taxpayers will pay the over-priced amount. If you make over $33,000 a year you are on your own to pay the behemoth insurance monopoly.

Ron Greiner get your HSA where the palm trees sway.

Anonymous said...

For you people who want everything to be giving to you; I am truly sorry that that is what being an American is all about to you. And to have the nerve to call this doctor greedy is completely obserd. This man has gone to school for a majority of his life to help people. He deserves what he earns. He is a true example of the American dream. Not a begger with his hands out who sits on his butt all day. Please get up and get a job so us hard working middle-class people don't have to support you lazy tax stealing bums!

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