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California mulling its own single payer health care plan

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POSTED January 23, 2010 2:12 a.m.
Would you entrust the folks who can’t balance a budget, won’t make the hard decisions to cut expenses by whittling down bloated bureaucracies, and steal from cities and counties to cover up their own fiscal irresponsibility to take over your health insurance?

Don’t laugh but a California Senate committee voted to do just that.

The third incarnation of the California single payer health plan made it out of the Senate Appropriations Committee this past week. Two other versions were passed previously by the legislature only to have them vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

It’s an ingenious plan. You wipeout everything that is working for people who have health insurance and replace it with a 16 percent tax rate to fund what is expected to be an annual $200 billion state-run health insurance agency.
Proponents like to say it will only cost the general fund $1 million in the first year to set up the administration.

There is a need to improve the delivery of health care in this state and country but having the government control it without any oversight isn’t the answer. Remember, this is the same state government that once deemed Kaiser had to provide Viagra to their insured.

That illustrates perfectly why you don’t want the government running health care. If the real issue is affordability of insurance and making sure all people have access to basic health care, there needs to be some hard decisions made on what services are – and aren’t – provided.

Sarah Palin and others got tons of grief for referring to “death panels” when they tried to draw attention to review boards that are part of the national health care proposal. It was effective marketing the issue as it got everyone to notice but unfortunately the debate then deteriorated around whether there was a death panel per se proposed.

Like it or not, there are review boards right now at insurance companies, at hospitals, and in the government administrated medical programs that we already have.

The only way to cap costs which in turn makes health care affordable is to have reasonable restraints on services. Should an 85-year-old man get a kidney transplant? Should all extremely premature babies be saved? Should a 99-year-old have hip replacement surgery?

These all can be emotional issues. It is why countries like Canada take age, physical condition and other factors into consideration to set up a priority list for more elaborate and expensive procedures.

You can’t disconnect the expenses connected with services provided from the price we pay.

It was frightening at one point during the national health care debate to hear educated men and women in leadership roles rip into insurance companies for having billions in reserves. How else do they cover major losses and procedures? They need to build reserves and invest money as well to make the system work.

Open heart surgery isn’t cheap.  Health insurance premiums reflect that. But under the state’s plan, it simply will have a 16 percent tax rate to cover costs which means as Californians age and have more medical problems the tax rate would have to go up even higher than 16 percent for state-run health coverage.

There needs to be a buy in to health care from people. They’ve got to do their part as well and stop pursuing lifestyles whether it is being strung out on drugs or consuming high fat foods. No one is saying people have to lose weight or turn into Jack LaLanne. You can be overweight and reduce your susceptibility to major health problems by the type of food you consume and by being ambulatory through a simple daily commitment to walk 20 minutes non-stop.

Government doesn’t provide any magic pills. In the worst case scenario government will keep tabs on government in a state-run one-payer health hare system that jettisons all private overage. It is akin to the wolf guarding the hen house.

If government really is good at what they claim they want to do, they should be able to regulate health insurance carriers better today.

And if lack of health care for people is the issue, the state could well require anyone who goes to University of California medical schools to become doctors do so free of charge in exchange for three years of working at state operated health care clinics that could be put in communities up and down the state.

The state doctors could also be provided a stipend for that time period. Then after that, they are free to go about on their own free of any debt. You could even sweeten the package by giving them a $25,000 a year tax credit against earnings for the rest of the life of their medical practice (as long as it is in California) in exchange for the three years of working for the state.

If the issues are the cost of health care and coverage then those need to be addressed. Simply changing the marketplace that does have price competition for one provider as in the Great State of Cali-foreclosure won’t accomplish anything.

If the majority of people believe some hybrid form of socialist medical care is needed then let’s at least put something in place that has a chance of working better without breaking everyone’s back so we can enjoy both physical and fiscal health.
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