In honor of the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, I’m re-posting one of my favorite health care columns. I haven’t written about the issue for awhile, turning my attention more toward Silicon Valley, but maybe I should revisit the subject.
Publication: San Jose Mercury News Headline: A HEALTHY DOSE OF BOMBAST FROM D.C.
Subhead: MCCONNELL’S VIEWS ON HEALTH CARE LEAVE MY HEAD SPINNING Web Headline: Cassidy: Bring on the government health care bureaucrats
Reporter: By Mike Cassidy, Mercury News Day: Sunday Print Run Date: 6/28/2009
I was on the treadmill at the gym recently (doing my part to keep America’s health care costs down) when who should appear on C-SPAN but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Keeping health care costs down was on his mind, too. And by the way, he thinks the Democrats’ ideas on health care reform are all wrong, which should come as little surprise to anyone who has a pulse.
(If you don’t have a pulse, get to your doctor immediately. Unless, of course, you’re among the 46 million in the United States without health insurance, in which case you’re better off taking your chances.)
Anyway, McConnell was making the point that Americans are scared out of their skins about what they’re hearing out of Washington (which was precisely where he was standing as he made this point).
McConnell wasn’t saying that Americans like their health care coverage just the way it is. No one in his or her right mind would argue that.
(If you’re not in your right mind, get to your mental health professional immediately. Unless, of course, your cheesy employer-provided insurance doesn’t cover mental health services. In that case, you’re on your own.)
What he was saying was that Americans want the freedom to choose their own doctors and decide on their own care. Which would be really fantastic. The very idea is enough to make my heart skip for joy.
(If your heart is skipping for joy, see a cardiologist immediately. Wait. Not immediately. Be sure to call your health insurer first. Chances are you’ll need pre-approval to visit to a specialist.)
Of course, no insured person in the United States gets to choose whatever doctor they want or whatever treatment they like. Well, maybe senators do. I’m not sure.
Anyway, Sen. McConnell was explaining that public plans (such as the universal plans in New Zealand and Britain) are just plain crummy. I’m guessing we’d use old Yankee ingenuity to take what’s good from those programs for our public plan and avoid what’s bad, but McConnell didn’t get into that. He didn’t emphasize that the Obama administration has actually been quite timid, backing a public plan that would compete with private insurance — not replace it.
But I digress. McConnell said adopting the systems from those other countries would subject patients to “bureaucratic hassles, hours spent on hold, and politicians in Washington telling them how much care and what kind of care they can have.”
Ack. Hours on hold. It’s enough to make your blood boil.
(Should you experience boiling blood, contact your physician immediately. Well, actually contact the advice nurse, who will contact your physician. And should you get an appointment, don’t be surprised if your doctor orders a bunch of expensive tests with high co-pays to get to the bottom of things. Oh, and should you lose your job and need to find insurance on your own, don’t count on coverage. Boiling blood? Major pre-existing condition.)
Anyway, I thought for a minute there that McConnell was describing my health plan, for which my company and I pay nearly $18,000 a year in premiums to insure me and my family. Bureaucratic hassles? Check. Hours on hold? Check. Politicians in Washington? Well, no. I deal with insurance bureaucrats in god-knows-where. They’re the ones who tell me how much care and what kind of care I can have.
(Did you know my plan won’t pay for a dermatologist to use liquid nitrogen to remove pre-cancerous blemishes? It takes about a split second. Instead, he treats me with a cream that must be applied twice daily for weeks. I can’t tell you why. After long stretches on hold, followed by unsatisfactory explanations, I got wise. I gave up.)
Anyway, McConnell went on to say there were plenty of ways to bring down health care costs without increasing competition with a public plan. (Hey, wait a minute. I thought Republicans were all for competition.)
“We could start with illness prevention programs that encourage people to quit smoking and control their weight.” Sounds like a nanny state to me. But McConnell went on.
“We should allow employers to create incentives for workers to adopt healthier lifestyles.” And these incentives would be what, exactly? In case you hadn’t noticed, employers aren’t all that loose with their spending when it comes to employees these days. It’s enough to make your head spin.
(Should you actually experience head-spinning, dial 911 right away. No, not right away. First confirm that your first responders will take you to an emergency room that accepts your health plan. Otherwise you’re setting yourself up for bureaucratic hassles and hours on hold.)
The main thing, McConnell said, is that we have to stop a government takeover of health care.
Funny. The more I hear, the more I think that if somebody really wants to take this mess over, let them have it.