A Few Questions…

It’s interesting how those who oppose the current government plans are being dismissed as “anti-reform”, when that accusation is really the furthest thing from the truth.

I don’t know anyone who is claiming something doesn’t need to be done about healthcare.  Where we truly differ is in the details–whom should be the primary engine of that reform, and how it should be conducted.

Some well-meaning (though ignorant) people believe government is the only organization that can “fix” the problem.  Others believe you will NEVER fix healthcare if government is the sole or primary hope for a solution.  Only by engaging the issues at multiple levels, and most especially at the most basic (that of the individual), will a true solution present itself.

For those who put their faith and hope in an impersonal government system, I have a few simple questions.   Answer them, and you should begin to realize why the informed among us have so little confidence in government-driven “healthcare reform”.

1.  Of the 535 members of Congress, how many actually have a medical degree?

2.  Of the members of Congress, how many have degrees in economics?

3.  How many doctors–trained in different fields of medicine–do you see in a single year?

4.  Do you know how much you’re going to spend on healthcare-related expenses for the next year?   Is there a possibility you could have expenses beyond your “budget”?

Answer #1: There are 14 members of Congress with MDs;  10 Republicans, 4 Democrats.  In other words, only 2.6% of our “saviors”  have real experience or training concerning the system they’re trying to fix.

Answer #2: According to the Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Literacy, prior to the last election, just 6.7% of Congress specifically had an (undergraduate) economics degree.  Furthermore, according to a Wall Street Journal article from October 1st, 2008, “Such a rubric leaves off Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd and ranking member Richard Shelby, as well as House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank and ranking member Spencer Bachus. They all have law degrees, but don’t have formal education in other economics-related fields.”

When we talk about medical expenses, we’re discussing a system that accounts for 1/6th of the entire U.S. economy.  It might be good to have some very good economists assisting doctors in making decisions.

Answer #3: Individually, every year I see my general practitioner, my dentist, rheumatologist, and a physical therapist.  Every other year I see an opthamologist (contact prescription), and podiatrist (orthotics for my fallen arches).  Human health is awfully complex, even when we’re just talking about a single person in pretty good health.

Even if all 535 Congressmen and women were doctors, they’d never be able to attend to the medical needs of the “36-48 million who are currently uninsured”.  Why do we think these non-specialists can “fix” this problem?  Who is naive here?

Answer #4: I don’t know how much I’m going to spend on healthcare in a given year.  Neither do you.  That’s the whole reason we have insurance, “health savings accounts”, and tax deductions if medical expenses exceed 7% of income.  That’s why Medicare is projected to go bankrupt.  Medical costs are that volatile, which is the real reason insurance premiums increase so rapidly (not because insurers are evil or greedy).  Stuff happens, especially when many aren’t taking proper care of themselves.

Yet government healthcare partisans actually believe Obama and the Congressional Budget Office when they claim this plan will only cost “$1 trillion over the next ten years”, or will be “budget neutral”.   What’s that I smell?  Seems like a steaming pile of BS to me.

So how do we fix this mess?

For one, we emphasize the role of the INDIVIDUAL, not the government.  Healthcare reform must BEGIN at the level of the individual, not the federal government.

Proper diet, exercise, and sleep are the foundation for health, and many of the expensive medical conditions of our society begin with the individual.  According to the CDC, lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer, and the most lethal. Although 80-90% of all cases of lung cancer are attributable to smoking, millions of individuals continue this irresponsible practice.

Most cases of obesity, Type II Diabetes, and heart disease can be directly linked to the avoidable habits and addictions of individuals.  These are the conditions that account for the lion’s share of American healthcare costs. We will never succeed in curbing healthcare expenses or delivering true health while we fail to address the matter at the level of individual responsibility.

The number of people who allegedly die from lack of insurance every year (45,000), and the number of people driven into bankruptcy by medical costs (700,000) appear to be the two main “reasons” Mr. Obama and others are using as “justification” for government-driven reform.    In a nation of 300 million people, together these groups represent a mere 0.2% of the population.   Why such fear-mongering over such a minuscule segment of the population?  Why constantly raise the specters of bankruptcy and death to every citizen?

Still, those 745,000 are someone’s loved ones, and fortunately represent such a small group, relatively tiny civic organizations can pool charity to deliver medical care and remediate medical expenses.  I know such efforts are feasible because I’ve been part of them.  My graduate school pooled tiny cash contributions to pay for the emergency medical care of two people without insurance.  One recovered from her cancer, and the other retired debt from an expensive and invasive surgery.

As Socrates believed, if you ask the right questions, the complex becomes manageable, and solutions present themselves.  We do not require the crutch of government dependence or inefficiency.

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