My Questions About Healthcare Reform

I have some questions about healthcare reform. I’m not being cheeky and my questions are not rhetorical.

I think it’s obvious that some changes need to be made. Healthcare costs are outrageous. Far too many people are uninsured who would like to be insured. Malpractice lawsuits are out of control. And far too many insurance companies spend far too much time and money trying to get out of paying the very bills their customers bought insurance for! So, we need some kind of reform.

I do have some concerns about the current proposed reform. I would like to cut through rhetoric and hyperbole and get to some answers. Unfortunately, as I’m reading through the President’s speech last night, he brushes aside or dismisses some concerns without really answering the questions.

For instance, the President said, “And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up – under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.” Ok, I want to believe that. However, from what I understand, there is not specific wording in the current plans that would forbid using federal dollars to fund abortions. Some Republicans have asked for such wording to be included, but they have been denied. So, I’ll start there for question #1 —

1. If there is no specific wording which says abortions will not be covered by any public option, how can the President guarantee that no federal dollars will go toward funding abortions?

2. The President noted the problem of there not being enough competition in the insurance market in some states — “Unfortunately, in 34 states, 75% of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies. In Alabama, almost 90% is controlled by just one company.”

It would seem to me that the solution would not be to offer 1 more option (the government one) in a state where there are only 4 or 5 or 1, but to allow people to shop for insurance in other states, thus opening up every option for everyone. Why isn’t this form of deregulation considered as a solution to the “too few providers” problem? (Is there a good reason why we can’t shop interstate markets for insurance?)

3. The President has promised this about the not-for-profit public option — “Let me be clear – it would only be an option for those who don’t have insurance. No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance. ”

Will employers be allowed to choose the public option for their employees? Will employers be allowed to drop insurance plans because their employees could get the public option?

Honestly, I think adamantly saying, “It would not impact those of you who already have insurance,” is a pretty big promise to make.

4. The President said that the public option will not be subsidized by taxpayers. –“And they’d be right if taxpayers were subsidizing this public insurance option. But they won’t be.” Then he compared it to public colleges and universities. Those are subsidized by taxes.

How can a public option administrated by the government not cost taxpayers money?

Public universities cost taxpayers money; the Postal System costs taxpayers money; Amtrak costs taxpayers money. How will this public healthcare option not cost taxpayers money?

5. Next, the President promised that the healthcare plan would not add to our deficit — not one dime. Then he referred to entering office facing a trillion dollar deficit because of spending that our nation didn’t have the money to pay for. And then he said, “I will not make that same mistake with health care.”

Ok, again, I want to believe this. However, am I supposed to forget that upon entering office with a trillion dollar deficit, President Obama quickly spent $787 billion? (And, by the way, I know the last administration grew our government big-time and spent its way deeply into debt. I’m not happy about that either.)

The plan House Democrats offered up would add $220 billion to the deficit over 10 years. How is that not adding one dime to the deficit?

In his speech, the President said he would pay for most of his public plan with the savings that would be found by cutting wasteful spending. Again, I don’t have a crystal ball, so I can’t know for sure how well the government would do at finding wasteful spending in the current healthcare system and cutting it. However, I do know the government’s track record has not been to efficiently manage money.

What specific wasteful spending will be cut? And how much is “most of the funding”? And how will we pay for the part that “most of” doesn’t cover?

6. Number 6 isn’t a question. I just wanted to say — you’ve got to love a speech that includes the word “demagoguery.” 🙂

7. President Obama assured senior citizens that their Medicare coverage will not be affected, that they will receive the benefits they’ve been promised.

How do you cut a program by $500 billion without affecting the coverage?

Because Medicare is essentially required of senior citizens, Medicare Advantage is an option that allows seniors to choose healthcare programs that better meet their needs, plans with more generous benefits. Some of this $500 billion is going to come from Medicare Advantage subsidies.

How can we cut billions of dollars from Medicare Advantage without affecting the coverage of the senior citizens who use the Medicare Advantage plans?

If a public option would potentially offer people insurance that is less expensive while maintaining plenty of private options (like we have in education and shipping) and still cost nothing to taxpayers (UNlike education and shipping), and especially if a co-op or nonprofit entity could administer the plan, then I wouldn’t really be opposed to a public option. However, I don’t see how a public option would not cost tax dollars. And from what I’ve read about the current plans being considered by legislators, they would cost tax dollars and they would be administered by the government, which hasn’t proven to be efficient.


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