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Politics & Power

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While The Debate Gets Locked On the “Public Option” No Progress Is Made On Real Reform of Healthcare

The Sunday talk shows and 24-hour news media have now decided the debate about healthcare is about whether or not there will be a “public option” to compete with private insurers. Lost in this latest manufactured controversy is the discussion of what might actually deliver affordable healthcare to the people of America. Instead of focusing on what is actually wrong with the system, the pundits and talk radio hucksters use their time whipping people into frenzies over issues that are non-existent. Once again the actual issues are abandoned to make sure that the most divisive topics dominate the discussion regardless of their relevance to the actual supposed subject of the conversation.

If you watched CNN over the weekend all you heard about the healthcare debate was whether or not Obama had backed off on a “public option”. Forget the fact that the presence or absence of a “public option” will make no difference to the state of healthcare in America if more core, fundamental problems with the system are not addressed, it made for good discussion so they focused on whether the President modified his position from a while back to accommodate the political realities of today. The news media doesn’t actually care about the need for substantive healthcare reform. They all have great health coverage through the networks. They just want to drive up the ratings with a manufactured controversy so they’ll get paid more.

So why is it that the people are so easily driven into furors about non-existent issues and left so completely nonplussed by the real ones? Why is it that Americans seem so sure that they know what’s going on when they hear utter dribble from Rush Limbaugh that has no basis in reality but have no clue when they hear the actual facts from less biased and more reliable sources? Are we just a nation of idiots? It’s time to focus folks. We need to put on our thinking caps and stop letting ourselves get distracted by the circus side shows of the talk shows and the ratings chasers. We need to think about what this should be about, not what some jackass in a set of expensive headphones wants us to talk about around the water cooler so we’ll all tune back in tomorrow for more.

The healthcare debate should be about what is driving the cost of healthcare and how to reduce those costs. If we don’t fix the problems driving healthcare costs up it won’t matter who is paying for it. We will all still get screwed! (Unless of course you own a pharmaceutical company, private health insurance company, or for-profit hospital, in which case doing nothing to change the actual system of providing healthcare in America is pretty good for you.) The problem is in the cost of healthcare! Inefficiencies, greed and outright corruption are driving the costs and that is what healthcare reform should be about.

When a major pharmaceutical corporation holds the exclusive patent for a drug that is the only effective treatment for certain conditions, they can charge whatever they want for it and we have to pay. When a hospital signs an exclusive deal with a manufacturer to use only their products for a set period of time, we end up paying not what the competitive marketplace would cause the price to be but rather what the manufacturer feels is the most that the customers can pay. Exclusive arrangements in medicine need to be outlawed. No exclusive patents on medication and no exclusive deals between hospitals and any service or materials provider. There needs to be open competition to keep the cost of providing care down. That doesn’t mean that hospitals can’t enter into contracts but there should be a law requiring a competitive termination clause in every contract allowing hospitals to get out of the contract simply because another entity could provide the same good or service for less than they are currently paying.

Another core issue of healthcare reform is the “pre-existing condition”. Insurance companies can legally deny coverage to paying customers because they are sick. That should be addressed in healthcare reform. If providers don’t want to directly provide coverage for people with these “conditions” they should be made to pay into a national fund to offer coverage to anyone that would normally be denied health insurance for a “pre-existing condition”. Health insurance providers see ungodly profits while allowing their customers to suffer and die because of fine print in their policy language. That’s not acceptable. They need to profit less and provide care more. That is real reform. When people have to go to emergency rooms for care because they can’t get insurance it costs everyone more. Allowing this “pre-existing coverage” nonsense to continue is hurting all of us. If we want to really make the system better we need to stop letting these people fall through the cracks.

Tort reform also needs to be on the table if we want to reduce the cost of healthcare in America. When a person can make a million bucks for slipping on a puddle in a hallway because that hallway happens to be in a hospital, we all pay for it. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t get adequate care and compensation for any lost time at work but if they were living on welfare and slipped because they weren’t looking where they were going, they don’t deserve to be an instant millionaire. There need to be limits placed on how much people can sue for when they feel that they have been wronged or injured by another regardless of how deep the pockets of the sued party may be. Lawsuits shouldn’t be like hitting the lottery especially when the people ultimately paying for it are working folks just paying their bills.

Unions and wages need to be addressed as well. When you have uneducated people that do menial jobs making close to six figures because they happen to be in a union there is something wrong with the system. Hospitals often pay insane amounts of money to unskilled or low skilled workers because of union work rules and unthinkable amounts of overtime. Staffing models need to be part of the discussion as well. If hospitals hired more intelligently and unions had less influence over how the hospitals staffed, the cost of healthcare would be more manageable.

None of the core issues of the cost of healthcare derive from the source of payment for healthcare. Whether the government or the individual pays for it, if we don’t address the things making it too expensive we will all lose in the end. We need to reshape the debate from one about who pays to one about how much we pay. Let’s fix the things driving up the costs and then worry about who pays for the coverage. Chances are, if we fix the “how much” first the “who pays” won’t matter nearly as much.

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

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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

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