Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Let’s just pray health care away

   This is what passes for good government in a seriously retrograde moment in the 21st century.

   Texas Gov. Rick Perry the other day declared a three-day period of prayer to bring rain. And not just for that, but (clear throat) for the "the healing of our land, the rebuilding of our communities and the restoration of our normal way of life."

    He did this with a straight face. Texans were left to wonder: If it doesn't mist after Day 3, what then? Blame government? Or God?

    On the straight-face front, Congressman Tom Price, R-Ga., has defended Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to voucherize Medicare as giving individuals "greater liberty, greater choices."

     With, um, $6,400 a year in extra out-of-pocket costs apiece by 2022.

     Never you mind, says the GOP. Sloughing Medicare onto the private sector will lower health-care costs. Look at how competition in health insurance has resulted in lowered premiums.

     Oh, wait. Americans spend more on health care — $5,711 per person — than any others on the planet, twice what the British pay. America's "competitive" health care market has seen two decades of double-digit inflation.

      A cogent essay in Time magazine, quoting Yale School of Management's Fiona Scott Morton, explains why the elixir of the free market hasn't and won't bring health care prices down. 

      First, health care is not a "substitutable" commodity like, say, consumer electronics. We don't plan to have appendectomies. They aren't discretionary purchases. And we don't shop for providers like we would flip-flops and sunscreen.

       Second, under those circumstances, industry consolidation, and with it soft-shoe collusion, conspires to keep prices, and profits, artificially aloft.

       Rewarding consumers with choices? Not at all. Ryan's plan would "ration demand rather than expand coverage," says Time. That brings us back to that figure: $6,400 a year. The Congressional Budget Office projects Ryan's remedy would cost Medicare beneficiaries that much to match today's benefits in 2022.

      In other words, it isn't about choices or competition. It's about cutting Medicare at the knees, starving it of tax dollars, and awarding what's left to industry scavengers.

      Look at what the Republicans intend for Medicare, Medicaid, and the lusted-for slaying of "Obamacare." Imagine a time when the U.S. government revs the helicopters, Saigon-style, and evacuates the health-care theater altogether, leaving millions in despair.

      As pointed out in a New York Times editorial calling Ryan's costs controls "sketchy," the Republicans are determined to torpedo an independent board built into health care reform to monitor how money is spent on Medicare. Believe it or not, the GOP argument  is that such a board would be in a position of "rationing"" health care under Medicare.

     Yale's Morton says Ryan's proposal "is not solving the problem" of health-care costs, "it's solving the cost of government's health care. You'll have people who can't afford it. They'll just die."

     Emasculate Medicare. Ditto Medicaid. Repeal the Affordable Health Care Act. Blow away measures to control health-care costs.

     This isn't about improving health care ("choice") or lowering costs. This is about sounding the retreat on health coverage for the elderly, the poor and the working poor.

     By no stretch of the imagination, with their prescription, can today's Republican envision a day when Americans are healthier and when fewer are on the cusp of health-care catastrophe every day of their lives.

      This brings to mind, on the straight-face front, a $2.3 million study once funded under the Bush administration to see if prayer proved therapeutic against clinical illnesses.

      And so, under a state-federal partnership: We pray for wetness and wellness for us all.

      Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@wacotrib.com.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So, May 1 = still no rain! Way to go Gov! Seriously, only word for the Texas leadership is "shameful"!