me Me ME

Tuesday, July 5, 2011
I couldn’t write. I was too agitated to write. Now for someone like me who seems to write principally to vent, agitation is a useful state. Sometimes it is the starting point. But I have been handcuffed for over a week.

“If Congress really wanted to balance the budget,” I heard an elderly man say. “They could stop spending our money on things like…” an elderly woman continued. Turning my attention to the television, I found a parade of senior citizens complaining about the federal government having the nerve to allocate funds for anything other than their health, welfare, and happiness. Some of the claims were bogus, some merely exaggerations. The total of all of the alleged expenditures wasn’t enough to change anything. The commercial, sponsored by AARP, was simply one more salvo in the ongoing budget debate.

We are all in agreement that sacrifices need to be made. We are waiting for YOU to make them.

The nursing homes in Ohio feel that they are entitled to a larger and larger share of the State of Ohio’s budget. Deliver Medicaid care at home? Unthinkable. Thus we are treated to aged, decrepit seniors crying into the camera. “Please don’t take my dignity,” said the 200 year old guy wearing the Veterans of Foreign War hat. Too late. That ship has already sailed.

I heard the familiar strains of You Only Hurt The One You Love. The television screen was filled with sick people. The American Hospital Association wants you to know that cuts in federal funding will have an immediate impact on the elderly, children and the disabled. And just in case you have the sound off, their ad concludes with the camera focusing on the unhappy child in a wheelchair.

We in Greater Cleveland know how the hospitals have been suffering. It has been almost a week since a new facility opened!

We are in year two of the President’s health care reform. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has succeeded in keeping a smattering of adult children on their parents’ policies. It has eliminated policies that covered only children. It has cost millions of dollars for compliance. But, the PPACA has not reformed health care.

You may not like insurance companies. Hell, I’m an insurance agent. There are lots of days that I don’t like insurance companies. But, you can’t reform health care without addressing the cost of medical care and how it is delivered. And no one is more change resistant than the medical industry when the subject is money.

Every time the government proposes a cut in the funding or even the growth of funding of medical care, we see more costs shifted to those who are covered by private insurance and the television commercials reappear. My goal is to eventually be one of those elderly actors. I bet AARP pays well.

We have yet to have a serious discussion. And it is hard to blame the doctors. Do you want to take a pay cut? Would you want to work more, see more patients, for the same money, or G-d forbid, less? Everyone involved, from the lab techs to the hospital administrators, has the same argument. And until anything happens, all of the participants are staking out their territory.

We are all in agreement that sacrifices need to be made. We are waiting for YOU to make them.

Somewhere there is someone reading this who is pounding the table and yelling, “Take the profit out of healthcare!” Balderdash. There is profit at every step. The doctors aren’t volunteers. The labs, the pharmacies, the drug companies, the equipment manufacturers, the company that cleans the linens, they all expect to be paid for their efforts and rewarded for their risks.

Of course, we could bring all of this under government control. Wouldn’t that solve everything? A recent Wall Street Journal article detailed the incredible cost (waste) when people are covered by both Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare is a federal program. Medicaid is controlled by the individual states with a partial reimbursement from Washington. There are 9.7 million patients covered by both systems. “Dual Eligibles” have disproportionately higher claims as they expose the inefficiencies of the two programs and their inability to effectively coordinate care. The examples in this article will give you pause.

The answer won’t be found in a scary commercial. Old veterans and disabled children are just stage props. We understand that there aren’t any 2011 Cadillacs waiting for us at the corner used car lot. At some point we have to decide what health care we really want and how much we can and will spend. Those tasks are still waiting for Congress, Republicans and Democrats, to tackle with the President. The business models will work themselves out, once those questions are answered.

And will someone please get the child actor in that wheelchair a teddy bear?

DAVE

www.bcandb.com