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Repeal Obamacare? Yes – One Way or Another

I am in my mid-fifties. My first memories of politics are black-and-white images of Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy debating on national television. I am not a politician of any stripe, and like most Americans, my enthusiasm for politics and for political issues waxes and wanes – typically around national election cycles. But nationalizing health care holds a somewhat higher level of interest for me than most national policy debates in recent memory.

For more than three decades, I have been involved in American business. I started out working in retail stores like Sears and K-Mart when I was in high school, poured molten grey iron in a foundry in college, worked in a factory making paint, worked for a couple of years as a psychiatric aid in a hospital that handled kids with special needs, and from there went into management positions at companies like John Deere, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, and Computer Sciences Corporation. So I have seen and experienced a fairly broad spectrum of business issues and the plight of American business and American employees.

The broad national health care issue first really came into focus for me while I was Director of Materials Management at McDonnell Douglas back in the early 1990s. My boss, the Vice President of Production Operations, visited my staff meeting and addressed me and my staff jointly about McDonnell Douglas’ decision to discontinue providing life-long health insurance coverage for the company’s retirees. He said that this was the right time to implement such a change, because: “Hillary is going to implement nationalized health care anyway, so McDonnell Douglas can save a ton of money here without impacting our retirees.” I immediately asked: “So if Hillary is not successful, and we don’t get nationalized health care, then the Company will reinstate their plan for retirees?” My boss just looked at me and said: “Riiiiiiiiight.” We all knew what that meant, and the rest, as they say, is history. The cost of health insurance over 60 years of age is not insignificant, and it shifted from a company burden to a burden shouldered by retirees.

As a business leader, I have worked with profit & loss for a long time. I understand how difficult it is to wring additional profit out of the revenue from products and services just to survive in an extremely competitive business environment. I have seen how ruthless executives often become in pursuit of corporate profits, not only for survival, but also simply out of greed. Perhaps it is because I spent some years at the bottom end of the ladder in big manufacturing companies doing things like pouring iron, but whatever the reason, I detest shifting additional burden to the employees who earn the least and – from a physical perspective, at least – work the hardest. I feel as though it violates the partnership between the employer and the employee in many cases. I know that it damages morale, and often hurts the quality of the company’s goods and services. So as I have watched the cost of health care benefits rise over the last 35 years, I have had to work through how those costs were addressed and mitigated (to some extent) through the introduction of Health Maintenance Organizations, Health Savings Plans, and a broad array of other similar initiatives.

Now, as the baby boomers move like the proverbial pig through a snake, the costs of programs such as health care and social security have become critical for retirees. We are into a more-people-taking-out-than-people-paying-in situation. In addition, the off-shoring and outsourcing of much of the middle class work in the US has diminished the power of labor unions to negotiate substantive health care benefits for their membership among current work force. So not only retirees are at risk here; so are our current and future work forces. One solution that continues to come forward is – broadly stated – nationalized health care.

I have a little experience with nationalized health care. I actually lived and worked in Canada for a few years, and was part of the Canadian health care system. (I genuinely enjoyed my time up north; I found Canadians to be friendly, intelligent, and industrious. I made some life-long friends in Canada.) One day while working up there, I noticed that one of my colleagues was limping in a more and more pronounced way. I didn’t say anything at first, but weeks and months went by and he only seemed to get worse. When I finally asked him about it, he said, “I have to have my knee replaced.” I asked him when that was scheduled, and he told me it wasn’t scheduled yet. He was on a waiting list. At the time I asked him, he had been on that waiting list for 18 months. This guy was in pain, and it made me wince just seeing him walking around like that. Whenever I think of nationalized health care, I think of my former colleague.

And then there are the statistics. Unfortunately, over the course of the debate, some conservatives – especially the right wing of the right wing – have made claims about Canadian and UK health care differences that are untrue. I am very impressed with an analytical piece published in the UK recently that debunks some of these claims, entitled “Is public healthcare in the UK as sick as rightwing America claims?” authored by Denis Campbell and Girish Gupta.

However, even in this very even-handed article, the authors have to admit things like: “Breast cancer does claim more lives, proportionally, here [in the UK] than in the US. According to the 2002 Globocan database run by the World Health Organisation’s cancer advisers, 19.2 of every 100,000 Americans die of the disease, but 24.3 per 100,000 here die. On prostate cancer, a Lancet Oncology global study last year found that 91.9% of Americans with the disease were still alive after five years compared to just 51.1% in the UK. With heart attacks, 40% of Britons who suffer one die from it compared to 38% in the States”, and “Breakthrough Breast Cancer cite two recent studies from Lancet Oncology. One says that 83.9% of women in the US diagnosed with breast cancer between 1990-94 lived for at least five years compared to 69.7% in the UK – a 14.2% difference. The second showed that, among women diagnosed with the disease in 2000-02, 90.1% in the States survived for at least five years whereas in England it was 77.8% – a 12.3% gap.” The performance of nationalized health care systems is simply not as good as private systems like the US system – and that difference translates into higher mortality rates.

America does spend a great deal on health care, which intuitively explains why the health care available in the United States is world class. Looking at expenditures for health care per capita, the NHS posted the following numbers on annual per capita Health Care spending:

  • United States – $6719
  • Canada – $3673
  • UK – $2815
  • Italy – $2631
  • Japan – $2581
  • Russia – $698
  • Cuba – $674
  • China – $216

And in the spirit of objectivity, it’s useful to note that this world-class health care has not necessarily resulted in longer average life spans in the US. Due to our rich diets, poor exercise, and general propensity for obesity, we actually lag many other countries by 2 to 5 years. However, Obamacare is very likely to make it much worse.

Nationalized health care in its current manifestation, known among the citizenry as “Obamacare”, has traveled a byzantine route to gain passage. It almost certainly would not have made it through a full vote of citizens as a referendum. I have never seen anything quite like it. Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi actually said, “We have to pass it so that we can see what’s in it.” No kidding, I actually SAW her saying those words on national television! What always fascinates me is how these people keep getting re-elected; but I digress. After watching the debate, the Corn Husker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, and the other brass knuckles shenanigans surrounding the passage of this bill, it seems to me that anyone who did not foresee an effort to repeal it at the first opportunity must be blind.

So what’s actually in the new 1,000+ page Obama Health Care bill? Among the specific items that many of us are concerned about:

  • Page 16: If you have insurance at the time of the bill becoming law and change, you will be required to take a similar plan. If that is not available, you will be required to take the government option.
  • Page 22: Mandates audits of all employers that self-insure!
  • Page 29: Admission: your health care will be rationed!
  • Page 30: A government committee will decide what treatments and benefits you get (and, unlike an insurer, there will be no appeals process)
  • Page 42: The “Health Choices Commissioner” will decide health benefits for you. You will have no choice. None.
  • Page 50: All non-US citizens, illegal or not, will be provided with free healthcare services.
  • Page 58: Every person will be issued a National ID Health card.
  • Page 59: The federal government will have direct, real-time access to all individual bank accounts for electronic funds transfer.
  • Page 65: Taxpayers will subsidize all union retiree and community organizer health plans (example: SEIU, UAW and ACORN)
  • Page 72: All private healthcare plans must conform to government rules to participate in a Healthcare Exchange.
  • Page 84: All private healthcare plans must participate in the Healthcare Exchange (i.e., total government control of private plans)
  • Page 91: Government mandates linguistic infrastructure for services; translation: illegal aliens
  • Page 95: The Government will pay ACORN and Americorps to sign up individuals for Government-run Health Care plan.
  • Page 102: Those eligible for Medicaid will be automatically enrolled: you have no choice in the matter.
  • Page 124: No company can sue the government for price-fixing. No “judicial review” is permitted against the government monopoly. Put simply, private insurers will be crushed.
  • Page 127: The AMA sold doctors out: the government will set wages.
  • Page 145: An employer MUST auto-enroll employees into the government-run public plan. No alternatives.

At this point, of course, Congress has passed it (along party lines of course, with Democrats pushing it across the top) and the new Republican-led Congress has voted to repeal it. But there are not enough votes to over-ride the presidential veto, so there will be an enormous amount of time, energy, and taxpayer money spent to modify, de-fund, or otherwise mitigate the damage done by this legislation.

The bottom line then, from my perspective is this: Should Obamacare be repealed? Yes. It should never have been passed in the first place. The fact that this legislation got passed with all the back room deals fully exposed in the press says a lot about the rotting, putrid condition of our current legislative process, and the moronic condition of the citizens who re-elect these criminals to represent them in Congress. Will it be repealed? No. I don’t think the Republicans will garner the Democrat’s support in this issue any time sooner than the next Republican presidency. In the mean time, as I said earlier, there will be an enormous amount of time, energy, and taxpayer money spent to modify, de-fund, or otherwise mitigate the damage done by this legislation. Your tax dollars at work – wasted once again.

What do you think?

7 Responses to “Repeal Obamacare? Yes – One Way or Another”

  1. Marie Luft says:

    1) My jobs did not offer health care insurance or life insurance to retirees. At retirement all benefits ended. Period. So, I am still a little startled when JD/IH workers complain that their benefits are being cut back.

    2) I left $70,000 life insurance and purchased $10,000 on my own (enough to bury me, I think). For medical, I purchased Iowa BC/BS Plan F which was adequate. Then along came the plan D for drugs, so I (and Les) switched to Medicare Advantage because it is all inclusive (medical and drugs) and our premium is deducted by the SS Admin — we don’t miss it and don’t have to worry about another bill to pay. (I understand that Medicare Advantage is subsidized). The Medicare Advantage certainly has been good to us. We pay a $25.00 co-pay for a doctor visit or $35.00 for a specialist. There is a nominal charge for things like colonoscopy and other tests, but I think mammograms will be free beginning this year, and the hospital bills for both Les and I in the last couple of years were paid in full.

    So, ……. I am inclined to think that old fashioned Medicare should be ended and all of those people switched over to a Medicare Advantage of one type or another. I don’t have any figures to support my position; just experience. I understand that this is one option under discussion now. I have heard that Medicare Advantage is very similar to the insurance that members of congress have so that is certainly a good selling point.

    3) I guess I have always thought that it is unfair for employers to have to carry the burden of all these benefits to get people to work for them, and once they started doing that, of course, people just wanted more and more … I don’t have any input on how to fix that. Maybe as time goes on, they will keep the good parts of the new health care plan and get rid of the bad, and the employers might even be able to get out of the health insurance benefit business entirely … wouldn’t that be something ?

    • Marie: Thanks for your post!
      I believe understand where you are coming from. It would indeed be possible to move the responsibility from employers to the Government for health care; some countries (such as England and Canada) have adopted that approach, and having experienced it myself, I don’t recommend it.
      I don’t think it’s accurate to say that employers are unfairly “forced” to provide health care. Many employers including most fast food chains and retail department stores keep almost their entire work force as part-timers just to avoid that expense. I think the quality of service we receive at places like these probably indicates that it saves money for the business but both the employee and the customer often suffer as a result.
      It occurs to me, reading your comments about life insurance, that you would probably very much enjoy a book I picked up a few years ago entitled “Die Broke”. The premise of the book is that the truly successful and happy people in life are the ones who spend every cent they have and die broke, leaving nothing for their family or their debtors. It’s an interesting read!

  2. Carl Burney says:

    Interesting read Bill. I agree that ObamaCare is a bad idea. It has more to do with cementing political and socialist-style power over others than it has anything to do with any politicians concern for the health of the citizenry. It’s ripe with the empty undeliverable promises of Socialism, a system with a long history of failure (accept for the elites at the top who enrich themselves as they pillage the very people they claim to care about as those people end up living in mandated squaller while the elites live like kings, exempt from the very laws they impose on “the little people”).
    I believe America has the best health care delivery system in the world. Even the elites in the Socialized societies come here for their medical care whenever they can (kinda goes along with their elitist “mediocre care for thee but not me” philosophy). The problem with our system is not the delivery of health care or availability but the out of control costs. Nothing in Obamacare addresses that in spite of the fact Obama and his loyal minions claim otherwise. The fact is my health insurance costs (the part we pay) went up 40% last year and up again some more this year. My wife is a nurse who is losing her mind these days trying to do all of the government-mandated redundant and often useless paperwork to document everything she does so the hospital can get paid the pittance the government allows. There are patients that they can care for for weeks or months. If one thing isn’t documented the government will use it as an excuse to deny the whole medicare claim. She spends so much time documenting things on the computer she barely has time to actually care for the patient some nights. It’s just a ridiculous nightmare that drives up healthcare costs for everyone else.
    Obamacare will ultimately be ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Obama does not care though as he forges ahead spending billions of dollars disguised as Obomacare funding to reward political cronies.
    I can appreciate that he is trying to get people to buy healthcare coverage. I just believe that it’s unconstitutional to mandate that they buy insurance. A major problem our healthcare system has is the number of people who seek treatment and have no insurance to pay for the services nor do they have any intentions of paying for it themselves. What’s with THAT???? Talk about theft of services! I believe the solution is not in mandating insurance coverage. The solution is to NOT mandate that a service provider is obligated to care for you unless you can pay.
    I would support a government clinic (like the one that has been down in the watertown area of East Moline for years) where the indigent can go for basic care. If someone thinks this is harsh and disagrees with me then I would suggest that THEY go to medical school and then serve people at no cost and stop telling everyone else that is what they must do!
    So what would healthcare look like if Carl B. was king of the world? There would be healthcare co-opts or “clubs” that people would buy memberships to. These providers would take care of all of your health needs for a set membership fee that you pay each year. If you don’t belong to the club you can’t come in, just like at Sam’s Club. Go to the government clinic if you aren’t a member. Also, as a condition of membership you will agree to a limit on any rights to malpractice claims and litigation. As an enticement to attract desirable employees, companies could offer to pay the membership fees for their employees. Laws that prevent “duplication of services” would be done away with to foster competition among healthcare providers (or clubs). Competition is what keeps costs low. Medicare would become a voucher system that provides the elderly help in purchasing their membership at the “healthcare club” of their choice. So my solution to the high costs is competition, litigation reform, getting rid of government over-regulation and sending the free-loaders packing.

    • A truly extraordinary post, Carl; Thank you so much! I really like the Health Care Club idea – reminds me of credit unions, in some ways. I hope the politicians on both sides of the aisle who seem to be unable to come up with really new approaches like this are paying attention!

  3. Karyn's Son in Law of the Year says:

    nice research / post, bill.

    two simple points / reminders that I make to my 12th grade gov’t students:

    1) the gov’t has proven that whatever they touch turns to “whatever is the opposite of gold.” that being agreed upon — what on God’s green earth makes them (politicians) think that they are comepetent to handle healthcare?! I could care less if its the dems, gop, or a corp of avon sales ladies (inside humor – i apologize) – they should have little, if anything, to do with private health care.

    2) don’t blame obama – he can only suggest legislation, he can’t write it…at the end of the day those goof-balls in the 111th congress are to blame (and a significant portion of them paid the political price for their decision to pass “obamacare.”

  4. Abby says:

    Chris left this up on the screen and it caught my eye. Here I am giving my two cents. I think that a lot of the health care problem has been brought about by doctors and pharmaceutical companies along with insurance set up in a way that many have no idea or care about what the services cost.

    I had homebirths for all three of my children. Studies have shown over and over that a low risk mom being attended by an experienced midwife is just as safe to give birth at home as in a hospital statistically speaking. Combine that with us being in homes close to hospitals anyway, in case of transfer, those births were safe. They were also much cheaper than hospital births which often include unneeded interventions. Our insurance never covered any of our births, but they are fine with hospitals having c-section rates over 40% and paying for all those c-sections, even the unneeded ones.

    When Amber was little and was at a well baby visit she had a little bit of a yeast rash. It wasn’t awful but it probably wouldn’t have cleared up by itself. The doctor wrote me a prescription. Living on a seminary family income with insurance that didn’t cover prescriptions (and having just paid out of pocket for her birth) I asked if they had any samples. The doctor checked then came back and said, “No, but this is a kind of expensive prescription let me write you one for something cheaper that will work too, just not quite as fast.” For a mild yeast rash that wasn’t even bothering my little girl she was going to send me off with the most expensive cream she could.

    I can’t tell you how many times I hear of parents taking their kids to urgent care for a virus when a simple call to the nurse line on the back of their healthcare card could help them treat it at home completely or until they could make a cheaper appt. with the family pediatrician during open hours. The cost isn’t much different for the parent so they pick the more expensive choice and we all pay for it. We pay for it with higher premiums if they are on the same private insurance as us or we pay for it with higher taxes if they are on medicaid.

    I am glad some of the most expensive and effective treatments are available to so many Americans and that we can get treatment quickly. I am not happy about how American’s will just use their insurance to snatch up any treatment offered to them because they don’t pay the cost directly. As a result the cost of healthcare has risen crazy high.

    I don’t like Obamacare at all but I also am very unhappy with the lack of responsibility people on really good insurance plans take for their health. If they had to pay a small percentage of each bill maybe they would work harder to lose weight or stop smoking or whatever other bad choices are causing them to have high medical bills. Maybe mom’s would think twice about booking a c-section for convenience reasons of them and their doctor.

    I think John Mackey of Whole Foods had excellent health care reform ideas (he presented an editorial to Wall Street Journal I think) but no one seemed to listen to him in Washington.

    Thanks for letting me rant!

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