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Garland Robinette

"The Think Tank" Host
Weekdays 10am-1pm

Twitter: @garlandWWL
Email: garland@wwl.com

Posts from July 2012


Garland: Healthcare--Answers? We don't want to hear the question!
7.5.12
 
Am I the only one amazed at the Tower of Babel constructed around the SCOTUS ruling on American healthcare?  I understand your disappointment if you’re a Demodon’t.  I understand your elation if you’re a Repubican’t.  I understand your surprise if you’re an Independent.  (Judge Roberts actually crossed partisan lines to convince an increasingly cynical public that the Supreme Court is about laws and not clubs).
 
But, how about the question?  Over the last four years my lucky seat at the microphone has allowed me to learn in detail about the world’s leading healthcare programs.  Whether it be France (the world’s best) or Myanmar (the world’s worst), I feel I’ve read enough, researched enough, and interviewed enough to qualify this question as the most important to the world’s healthcare problems.  It is seldom asked.  It seems to anger those embroiled in the debate.  It seems to elicit a belief that you are being anti-conservative or anti-liberal.  How do we know the answer, when we don’t want to hear the question?
 
For those who believe in President Obama, the question seems to suggest that his answer to healthcare is not an answer and therefore the question is really a masked Republican attack or even evidence of a hidden racial agenda.
For those who believe in Governor Romney, the question seems to suggest that his alternatives are not the answer and therefore the question is really a masked Democratic attack.
 
These responses always surprise me, because the question is a very reasonable one.  No partisan attack.  No hidden agenda.  It’s simple:  HOW DOES THE HEALTHCARE GET PAID?  Which country has the money to pay their plan?
 
Isn’t that reasonable?  Isn’t that common sense?  I can’t get an answer.  Go ahead…Google it.  I know you’ll find glowing reports from all the top countries.  Hell, you’ll even find claims that America’s got the best healthcare (we’re usually around 37th right behind Costa Rico and right ahead of Slovenia).  But keep Goggling until you get to deficits, tax increases, healthcare cutbacks and those with a little extra money having increasingly more options.  I have not found one nation that can afford what healthcare they use now, much less provide for the future.  I have not found one expert in four years to provide a response.  Although they all have their favorites, they all admit that the costs are not covered.  Deficits in all countries are increasing.  Older populations and technology improving at warp speed combine to torpedo all programs. 
 
Let’s look at some examples.  France, number one in virtually every worldwide poll.   If you don’t believe the World Health Organization (some say the study was flawed), go to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (one of the WHO main critics) and look at their list of the top 19 industrialized nations.  France is number one….America was last.  The French love their healthcare.  But now many doctors are electing to work outside the system, because of low pay.  The specialists are responding to those who can pay out of pocket.  Citizens are beginning to chafe under the requirement that they give 21 percent of their income to the national healthcare system.  Businesses pick up more than half of their employees health costs.  Now businesses say they can’t compete in the world market, because the costs constrain their ability to hire more people.  All of which is rather minor, when compared against the amount of costs that are not being covered.  Would you believe $9 billion!  This is the best in the world!  (This report:  NPR Health Care Lessons From France, July 11th, 2008)  I can find no evidence of the spending being reduced.
 
Let’s try England.  “England is beginning to ration treatments for non-urgent conditions such as hip replacements, cataract surery, tonsil remove…” and the list goes on.  (Source—Heritage.org:  Could Britain’s Health Care Rationing Come to the States?)  Healthcare costs are up over 400%,  annual costs $158 billion a year, with a deficit of over $10 billion dollars. (Source - The Taxpayer Alliance, research note 49.) 
 
Let’s try Switzerland.  Every time I do a radio show on this topic listeners, who lived in or know a citizen of Switzerland, call in to rave about Switzerland healthcare.  It even looks like the answer to our problems.  As Republicans would prefer, individuals--not employers or the government--choose from a broad array of healthcare plans, sold by private insurance companies.   As Democrats urge, everyone in Switzerland has health coverage (required by law), with the government providing generous subsidies for those who wouldn’t otherwise afford it.   Two problems: One--Switzerland is only about twice the size of Louisiana.  I can find no financial models that would convert their program to accommodate over 300 million Americans.  And, two--more importantly--their costs have gone up 60% over the past ten years.
 
Like I said, research it yourself.  You’ll find big costs overruns with government cutbacks in popular programs, doctors’ refusal to follow the law and increasing social protests.
 
Some of the most interesting things are what you’ll find buried in media reports on healthcare in America.  Here are just a few examples:
 
1.  The Association of American Medical Colleges reports there will be a shortage of 63,000 doctors by 2015 and 130,600 by 2025.  Fewer med students want to be primary physicians because of low pay compared to specialists.  Get it.  Not enough money…a cost issue.
 
2.  States may refuse Medicaid payments because they don’t think they can afford the long-term costs.  Uh, not enough money…a costs issue.
 
3.  (New York Times):  “Crucially, we haven’t addressed the structural perversities that are driving the healthcare system to bankruptcy”…a cost issue.
 
4.  (Even a bi-partisan note from the NYT): “I think the Republicans’ defined-contribution approach is compelling.  It’s a potentially effective way to expand coverage so that people make cost-conscious, responsible decisions.  But the truth is neither I nor anybody else really knows what works.”  No one has computed the costs…and if they have, why aren’t they broadcasting the revelation from sea to shining sea?
 
5.  Why isn’t the question being communicated to the American public?  Well, first of all, take my test.  At your next dinner party or friendly coffee conversation say, “I don’t see anyone or any country that can pay for healthcare.”  You tell me if you don’t get a defensive response.  Like I said, the question makes us defensive, mad, or both.  For the second reason let’s check out the latest Obamacare polls after the SCOTUS decision:
 
*USATODAY (kind of liberal): “Americans split on health care decision” (almost 50-50)
 
*Gallup (kind of neutral): only 6 per cent rated it as the nation’s most important problem. 
 
*New York Times/CBS(kind of liberal):  poll shows 41 per cent wanted the Affordable Health Care law overturned, but the reporter said, “when you cross-reference the numbers only, 27 percent of those polled wanted the court to strike it down.”
 
*Fox News: (kind of conservative): “Put simply, in the court of public opinion, polling has consistently shown that ObamaCare was unpopular in 2010, remains unpopular now, and almost certainly will be unpopular come November.”
 
All that goes to explain…IT DON’T SELL to tell you something that goes against our base…the media’s base that buys our commercials and ads.  IT DON’T SELL to tell you something that either makes you mad or is something you don’t want to hear.
 
But I’m still holding on to that crazy belief my parents forever quoted…”There ain’t no free lunch.”  I see no answer out of this Tower of Babel if papa doesn’t arrive real soon to tell the kiddies that if we want it that way…we pay.  We just can’t believe our answers, if we refuse to hear the question.
 
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