Golf

Monday, June 15, 2009
Tenth Hole. Weymouth Country Club. Medina, Ohio. I had hit a surprisingly good drive. It was long, majestic, and in the fairway. My second shot on this par 5 was more than adequate. And now I was standing less than 100 yards from the pin, laying 2, with a sand wedge in my hand. I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to hit that ball high into the air and have it land, AND STOP, within six feet of the hole.

I knew what I wanted to do.
I knew, theoretically, how to do it.
There was no reason not to birdie this hole. At worst - par.

Bogey - 6.

Back on the cart on my way to the next tee, I realized how much my golf game has in common with the President's health plan proposals. He knows what he wants to do. He knows, theoretically, how to do it. But we have every indication so far that he is not going to reach his goals.

The consequences of my blown shots are the loss of a couple of bucks and another hit to my fragile ego. Missing the mark on health care is far more significant.

Before we go any further, I should, in the interest of full disclosure, reveal that I voted for President Obama last November. I volunteered and donated to his campaign. I also have no regrets.

As an Obama supporter, I receive daily emails from the ongoing campaign. And yes, health care reform is being run like a campaign. On Saturday I was asked to "Stand with the President". His three core principles are:

* Reduce costs - Rising health care costs are crushing the budgets of governments, businesses, individuals and families, and they must be brought under control.
* Guarantee choice - Every American must have the freedom to choose their plan and doctor - including the choice of a public insurance option.
* Ensure quality care for all - All Americans must have quality and affordable health care.

So vague. So general. No detail on how this gets done or how much it will cost. I sent an email asking for more information. I'm not holding my breath while I wait for a detailed reply.

Joe Biden was on Meet The Press yesterday (June 14th). When asked by David Gregory how President Obama was going to pay for health care reform, Mr. Biden quickly mentioned a few cost savings measures. His second option was, "Get rid of Medicare Advantage".

Millions of senior citizens currently enjoy the benefits and convenience of Medicare Advantage policies. As we learned two weeks ago from my interview with the Cleveland Clinic manager, private health insurance pays the most to a hospital or other medical provider. Medicare Advantage plans do not cover all of the costs but are still much better than regular Medicare. Costs are SHIFTED to the people with private insurance. If the government eliminates Medicare Advantage plans, senior citizens would be forced to choose a Medicare Supplement and hospitals would get less for their services. This pushes an even larger burden on those people with private insurance.

This is not hard to understand. There is nothing counter intuitive. Money goes in. Money goes out. Checks are sent to doctors, labs and hospitals. Where is the money coming from? If those doctors, labs and hospitals are shortchanged, who picks up the balance?

The President has been talking about a public plan to compete with the insurance companies. This sounds a lot like me competing with Tiger Woods. Here are a couple of quick questions:

1. Health insurance companies are real businesses. Their books have to balance. Premiums are determined, in part, by claims and risk. What would determine our new competitor's rates?
2. Will the government continue to under-pay the medical providers? If so, will the doctors, labs and hospitals be allowed to shift the costs to those covered by private insurance? That, alone, would seal our fate.

My golf game, with a little luck and a lot more practice, will one day achieve an acceptable level of mediocrity. Health care reform is different. There will be no Mulligans. There is very little margin for error. We are racing towards an August deadline. What's the rush? Regardless of your personal position or goal, you must have questions that have yet to be addressed.

Stand up and demand answers.

DAVE