Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Congress cannot rush health care reform

Lawmakers will be traveling back to Capitol Hill in the coming days to get back to work on the pressing issues facing them; namely health care and carbon emissions. The month of August has proved interesting as the dialogue – on both sides of the issue – has run the gambit from crazy assertions to the real crux of the issue. Everyone agrees that health care costs are spiraling out of control but how to curb the costs is the question of the day. The President Obama has asked for reform that includes a public option that some have demonized as a Trojan horse single payer system and developing death panels. The rhetoric ratcheted up on the death panel debate – real or imagined – was so strong that the Senate has already stripped provisions from their five bills that were perceived as creating death panels.

Today I received in my email box, as I do on a daily basis, a message from The Heritage Foundation called "Mandates are the opposite of choice". In the email it is stated that "August has been a brutal month for advocates of government-run health care." The email went on to discuss a CNN poll showing a "majority of independents (53%) now disapprove of how President Barack Obama is handling his job. And a majority of all Americans (53%) also disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling health care." Politico is reporting that the public option may not be the line in the sand anymore for the Obama Administration. "We have been saying all along that the most important part of this debate is not the public option, but rather ensuring choice and competition. There are lots of different ways to get there" (Politico). Interesting since President Obama has been pushing the public option while saying that it will not affect your health care "if you like it".

It is entertaining to see the amount of money – public and private – being spent on this issue. In my daily email for Organizing for America the Director Mitch Stewart writes "These same well-financed forces have killed reform in the past, and they're aiming to do it again. But here's why this time can be different. There are folks like you, all around the country, who are ready to go toe-to-toe with the special interests, even when they're not fighting fair. And we'll keep at it, because we know that the work we're doing together right now can make the lives of hundreds of millions better for decades to come." Mitch Stewart closes with the plea for a $5 donation or more if one likes.

The kicker to all the debate thus far, that many of the left feel is fabricated by special interest groups, the insurance companies have been relatively quiet. My guess is their silence is due to no coherent bill established as of yet. Once the House and Senate pass their respective health care reforms and a joint group meets to hash out the final details of the bill, we will not see much from the bigger insurance companies or other interest groups involved in the process. One of the special interest groups that are wielding power without much publicity is the trail lawyers.

One of the biggest expenses a hospital, clinic or doctor has is malpractice insurance. While no one argues that if a mistake takes place that the victim needs to be compensated, a sensible look at how these suits are brought is required. Why does the Democrat health care bill not provide provisions in it to curb the malpractice insurance and court payments? In short, it would be political suicide to do so. Howard Dean said it best, "the reason tort reform is not in the bill is because the people who wrote it did not want to take on the trial lawyers in addition to everybody else they were taking on. And that's the plain and simple truth."

There are many elements to driving cost down. All I hope is that our elected representatives do the wise thing and take their time crafting legislation that works for all Americans. To really hammer that point home, Congress must include provisions in the bill that has tort reform, provide more choices, and doesn't penalize small business.