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Politics & Power

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Real Healthcare Reform

Washington is all abuzz with talk from the left and the right about how we can best fix our healthcare system. The truth is both sides have a stake in things not changing that much. On the left you have unions supporting legislation that does not look too closely at how much some workers in the healthcare profession make because it would hurt union dues and if those dry up then their political contributions would dry up too. On the right you have corporate interests not wanting anything to cut into their profit margins because they would have less money and with less money, again, less would be going to political campaigns. What they should be doing is looking at what is best for America instead of who is giving to their campaigns.

Real healthcare reform would begin with Congress passing legislation capping the percentage of profit a company could charge for a prescription drug based on the actual cost of manufacture. Now for conservative critics of this idea, I understand that research is fueled by profits. You can factor in the research costs for each drug when you take it to market and still not charge a price that yields a several hundred percent profit margin. Also, Congress could mandate shared discovery between companies so that when one company makes a breakthrough, they can’t get an exclusive patent but rather a research license ownership which would allow them to charge a licensing fee to other companies who wish to use their discovery in the manufacture of medication to level costing and keep drug pricing truly competitive.

The next step Congress could take toward real healthcare reform would be to pass an executive compensation bill that put reasonable caps on executive compensation. Some would argue that one way of doing this would be to adopt a meritocracy mindset and make it illegal for anyone to make more money than the President as the President has unquestionably the most important job in the country. No corporation or organization is singly responsible for the lives of three hundred million people. The President of the United State alone bears that level of responsibility and therefore deserves to make the most money under the meritocracy model. More reasonable in modern America would be to pass legislation that set a maximum percentage of company profits before executive compensation that could be allotted for executive compensation. That could also curtail the practice of hiring more executives while laying off workers. The more executives there are, the lower each one’s salary would need to be if there was a percentage of profit cap on executive compensation. Also, if a company lost money, executives would have to feel the pinch in their pockets along with the people they laid off.

Now if Congress wanted to kill two birds with one stone they could also outlaw the “golden parachute” in the executive compensation bill. Make it illegal to include unconditional bonuses and separation buyout clauses in executive contracts. Make executives like any other employee. If the Board of Directors fires them for poor performance, they clean out their desks and leave. No big paycheck to get the hell out. Just leave and hope you can find another job like the rest of us. If anyone should get mandatory severance it is the people that work forty to sixty hours a week with no breaks and who never really get to take a vacation that get paid less than $100,000 a year. The people who actually make business work, they should get the buyout packages when they get let go.

Executive compensation and price gouging are two of the biggest causes of healthcare being so outrageously expensive in America. Those two things alone could reduce the cost of medicine hugely but addressing them would meet with huge resistance from the Republican side of the aisle. To be fair though, they are not the only things that could reduce costs to consumers. There are also labor costs associated with union labor predominately found in hospitals.

In most hospitals, union employees are incentivized to work double shifts and long periods of time without days off. In one Kaiser Permanente hospital in Oakland, CA administrative support staff on the hospital floors are paid sometimes up to three times their normal salary per hour depending on how many days in a row they have worked and whether they have gone over eight hours in a day. They call it “double time and a half”. When an employee has worked more than a certain number of days in a row they get time and a half for any time they work. If they work overtime or “do a double” which is back to back shifts, they get “double time and a half”. These workers are working long past what should be considered safe for someone in a medical setting and encouraged to do so with high pay. The hospitals could be much safer and save thousands and maybe even millions of dollars if they adequately staffed them and made their employees not work more than eight hours in a day. Congress could mandate that hospital staff be required to take at least two days off per week and not allow work patterns that lead to triple paying employees. Of course the unions would oppose this so it would meet with resistance on the Democratic side of the aisle.

Congress can do many things to improve the cost of healthcare for average Americans and could expand existing programs such as Medicare and Medicaid to include more people but they would rather grandstand and make good political theater out of the whole thing. Just addressing the three things I’ve laid out in this would save billions of dollars annually and they all make sense.

When you allow hospitals to charge five to ten dollars for a single aspirin because a nurse handed it to the patient the system is broken. The fix is not so much in legislating how much to charge for an aspirin but in addressing the core issues that drove the price of the aspirin up. Congress needs to address the things driving the cost of healthcare up. They need to expand existing programs to include more people that don’t currently have access to healthcare to reduce emergency related costs. They need to root out the inefficiencies in the current government programs and make them more manageable so that expanding them won’t cost trillions of dollars. They need to promote wellness and health in American schools and communities to reduce the number of people requiring regular medical care. Just funding wellness programs and sports in schools could reduce obesity and related health issues dramatically.

Real healthcare reform will come when politicians stop worrying about polls and start actually trying to treat the causes and not the symptoms of a broken healthcare system. They are essentially trying to treat festering wounds with bandages instead of antibiotics. While the wound won’t look as bad it will still fester as long as it’s infected. If the cost of healthcare is too high then find out why and address it. If people are unhealthy driving an increased need for healthcare services then find out why and address the problem. If politicians actually fix healthcare, they’ll get re-elected so they should stop worrying about elections and start working on getting the results that will make them hard to beat in the next election.

Troy Wilson-Ripsom - Staff Writer | Give your feedback on this article. | Click icon to Digg this article



Get Involved

Do you sit and yell at the TV when politicians come on? Do you shake your head sadly whenever you see a homeless veteran? Is that all you tend to do?

It's time to put up or shut up America. We all love to talk about how we could do things better or how we would do it if we were in charge. Well, it's time to put your money where your mouth is. If you can think of it, you can write it down. If you can write it down, you can type it. If you can type it, you can e-mail it and if you can e-mail it, you can send it here.

We at Reform America are committed to giving voice to anyone who wants to put their ideas out there to make our nation a better place. As the readership grows, we are able to take those views to a wider and wider audience. Grassroots campaigns begin with voices speaking out. You have opinions. Voice them. We aren't about conservative or liberal. We aren't about pro-this or anti-that. We're about Americans and the First Amendment. Reform America is about politics by, for and of the people. You are the people. You only need to speak up. America is listening. Send your article to: stories@reform-america.net



Have You Been Downsized Due to Outsourcing?

For several years now we have listened to some within the business community tell us that America can't compete on a global scale unless they send our jobs overseas where they can be done cheaper. The question becomes, if we don't have good paying jobs here, how can we sustain our own economy? We want to hear from you. Have you lost your job? Have you been forced into a lower wage job due to outsourcing? Has outsourcing been a success for you? Did you end up in a better job?

Tell us your story so we can make sure the politicians see how outsourcing really impacts the workers who are backbone of America. Send your story to stories@reform-america.net





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