Friday, January 07, 2011

Health Care Debate

Health Care: Is there anyone who honestly doesn't think our country's health care system can't improve? I doubt it. But what does IMPROVE really mean? In Washington, House Republicans have chosen to make repealing "Obamacare", as they call it, their first real order of business. What do you make of this decision? The economy stinks. Again, I doubt few would question that. Should Republicans really take this up first? Should they target some other legislation, tax policy, whatever to get the economy going again? Some Republicans argue the recently passed health care reform hurts the economy. So it only makes sense to repeal. Those Republicans will have to figure out how to address a new report from the Congressional Budget Office, the non-partisan number crunchers in Washington, that shows repealing health care reform will ADD $230 billion to the federal deficit by 2021. Republicans have cast doubt on the numbers. But what if they are wrong? What if they repeal health care and more people lose insurance coverage AND the deficit gets even worse? Perhaps, this won't matter. Even the most die hard Republican optimists doubt they can really get the votes to repeal since Democrats still hold a majority in the senate and, of course, there's a Democratic president.

It's all fascinating to watch. But through all of this, wouldn't it be nice if the sides could work together to actually improve our system? Costs keep going up far faster than the rate of inflation. The Des Moines Register broke down some numbers this morning from Wellmark Insurance. The numbers show Wellmark raised average annual increases every year since 2006 from the lowest increase of 4.3% in 2007 to 18% last year (the company has asked for another 11% increase in the coming year). The Register's article shows two actuaries report the requested increase for next year is excessive but neither doubts the validity of some kind of increase. With so many people seeing cuts in their hours, pay, 401k match, how can Iowans expect to recover from the recession with health care costs rising the way they are? What will end this? Will Washington figure out something to bring down the costs? Remember, then-candidate Barack Obama told us at a campaign rally in Iowa City in 2007 his health care ideas would save families $2500 a year. Will people hold him to that? We aren't seeing our health care costs go down anywhere near that yet. Now, of course, the real guts of the health care reform, providing Congress doesn't repeal it, haven't even started yet. But wouldn't it be nice if all this "repeal and replace" talk in Washington would actually lead to "improve (service) and reduce" (costs)? That's the best medicine we could all use right now.

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