Millions of our citizens do not now have a full measure of opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health. Millions do not now have protection or security against the economic effects of sickness. The time has arrived for action to help them attain that opportunity…The poor have more sickness, but they get less medical care. People who live in rural areas do not get the same amount or quality of medical attention as those who live in our cities.
The above quote wasn’t taken from an Obama administration policy proposal. These words are from a 1945 speech by President Harry Truman. It is astonishing that over 60 years later, the health care crisis is not only still with us, but is slowly smothering us. How many years of oxygen do we have left until health care in America is entirely asphyxiated? Each year, the challenges deepen and multiply, which pushes necessary solutions and reform further out of reach. The financial costs of simply maintaining the current system are sailing beyond the stratosphere. The ‘reform’ strategies in my adult lifetime have been to promise, procrastinate and pray, methods which provide politicians with short term gains at our long term expense.
As I write this, Democrats and Republicans are arguing on reforms to preserve and protect Medicare, even though the contours of the solution are well known to all. Politics is a poison pill.
Last year, about 17% of the GDP was devoted to health care, compared with about 15% in 2003. It is projected that 20% of GDP will be spent on health care in 2017. Medical economists agree that the current rising medical costs are unsustainable. The present government will be under enormous pressure to reduce costs of healthcare. Do we believe that costs can be cut while maintaining, or even improving medical quality? Will budget slashers swing their axes so wildly to drive down costs that medical quality will be crippled as collateral damage? Will the country be satisfied with medical mediocrity as a side-effect of cost control?
Operating on the health care system requires major surgery. The fear is that the government will declare that the operation was a success, even though the patient died. President Obama has stated repeatedly that health care reform is one of his highest priorities. While he didn’t create the mess, once his Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed, he now owns it. Although I oppose Obamacare, and have explained my views throughout this blog, I congratulate the president for taking on this radioactive issue. This was a promise kept. Nevertheless, I hope that many of its damaging provisions will be repealed.
Will Obamacare ultimately sink from its own ponderous weight? If it does, or is watered down, the president may be tempted to start spreading blame around. President Truman, who worried about health care in America before President Obama was born, can offer our new president some advice on leadership. Remember his famous homespun maxim the buck stops here? Let’s hope President Obama remembers it also.