The woman on the phone was adamant. She demanded to know what benefits are now a part of new health policies and what does she have to do to change her old contract to a new one. Damn it, she wants her share of all of the free stuff. It was the second one of these today. I told her that she was already getting the no copay annual preventive care visit. Neither she, nor her twelve year old, had any need for the new birth control, IUD, and Morning After Pill benefit. And since her daughter is only twelve, the opportunity to stay on her parents’ policy to age twenty-six is hardly relevant. It didn’t matter. She KNEW that there was something that someone was getting that she wasn’t.
We have reverted to a nation of ten year olds, jealous of the kid who broke his arm and now has a cast. Where is our cast? I want my cast, and crutches, too.
And so we begin the next stage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the over-promise and under-deliver phase. The calls come in daily from people who believe that they are suddenly going to get fabulous coverage for free. “The doctor told me that I can’t be turned down or charged extra even though I have Type I Diabetes and a stent”, the gentleman insisted last week.
I have begged physicians to honor a simple agreement. I won’t practice medicine and they shouldn’t practice insurance. It makes sense to me.
It is important to again point out that we are not talking about health care. We are discussing the payment of health care services. Who is going to pay for the doctors, hospitals, and other medical providers and products?
In this highly politicized environment, this issue may be the most contentious of all. There are a couple of reasons for the heat:
- We are talking about almost 20% of the economy
- We are potentially discussing life and death
- We all have a stake in the final product
- We all think we know what we are talking about
Heat, but no light. The truth is that the differences between the real actions on the right vs. the left are hard to find. So the fight isn’t about real differences, but about vague notions of entitlement. The Republicans promise to repeal “Obamacare” and institute patient-centered health reform, a term that happens to test well in focus groups but means more than simply eliminating malpractice suits.
Look at Medicare Part D (Rx), a program that was created by a Republican controlled House, passed by a Republican controlled Senate, and signed into law by a Republican President. Here is a law that trampled on patients’ rights, states’ rights, and common sense. But it did help certain people get reelected and did a world of good for both the insurers and the drug companies.
When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators. - P. J. O'Rourke
So one side has a large segment of the population frothing at the mouth in anticipation of more free stuff, while the other side is desperately trying to convince Americans that the current system is a stone’s throw away from perfection. Of course, the only perfection is the cynicism that both sides have mastered.
Medical costs are rising as doctors and hospitals adjust pricing in anticipation of more government involvement. New fees, like facility charges, are appearing on our bills. Medical buildings are now hospitals, and that increases all charges. Your insurance premiums reflect those increases. There isn’t anything complicated in this. Every time the cost of care increases, every time you are given a new ‘free” benefit, every time the definition of what constitutes preventive care is expanded, your premium has to increase.
And if the government, an organization incapable of comprehending the concept of a balanced budget, prevents the insurer from raising the premium as the costs increase, the policy is terminated. Governments can print money. Insurers can not.
We have just less than 100 days till the election. Just under 100 days of exaggeration, distortion, and out-right lies from both sides. But one day, a year from now or maybe two, you will need to go to the doctor. Who negotiates the fees, who processes the paperwork, and who writes the checks will matter that day. If you happen to talk to any of the people running for office, ask them who is going to be doing that for you.
And more importantly, ask them where the money is coming from.