Posts tagged with: health care reform

Blue pill or red pill? No, it’s not the iconic scene from The Matrix, where Neo is given the choice of staying in his computerized dream world (blue pill) or leaving the Matrix and discovering reality (red pill). It’s President Obama boiling down the complex issue of health care reform on television last night: “If there’s a blue pill and a red pill, and the blue pill is half the price of the red pill and works just as well, why not pay half price for the thing that’s going to make you well?”

The Matrix: Blue Pill or Red Pill?

Washington Examiner columnist David Freddoso had this to say:

In last night’s press conference, President Obama seemed to be reliving that famous scene from The Matrix. The main character is offered a choice between a red pill that makes him see reality for what it is, and a blue pill that allows him to continue living in a pleasant world of illusions.

Last night, President Obama appeared to have taken the blue pill before his press conference. How else could he convince himself, the Congressional Budget Office’s numbers notwithstanding, that his health care reform bill will not increase both health care costs and the federal deficit? How else can he continue to make the argument that a massive expansion of government spending on health care will solve rather than exacerbate the current problems? How can he repeatedly express such absolute certainty that such a measure will easily pay for itself several times over in the long run? Why can he not at least acknowledge the possibility that it will become a costly and useless trillion-dollar boondoggle that follows in the footsteps of his stimulus package?

For an Acton Commentary on the problems with socialized medicine, see this piece by Dr. Donald Condit.

Also, Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, a health policy research organization, spoke at the Acton Lecture Series on the topic “Can We Repair What’s Wrong with our Health Care System through Christian Principles?” An online video of this excellent speech is available here.

We’ve said a lot already and will probably say a lot more about health care reform—its importance justifies the attention—but here are a few brief responses to President Obama’s remarks last night (based on the prepared notes posted at the White House web site).

If we do not reform health care, your premiums and out-of-pocket costs will continue to skyrocket. If we do not act, 14,000 Americans will continue to lose their health insurance every single day. These are the consequences of inaction.

I agree that reform is necessary. The potential for cost-savings by enhancing competitive incentives and bolstering individual responsibility is enormous. The proposed plans currently in congressional committees go the wrong way, and therefore, inaction is preferable.

If you already have health insurance, the reform we’re proposing will provide you with more security and more stability. It will keep government out of health care decisions, giving you the option to keep your insurance if you’re happy with it.

It is hard to believe that this claim is sincere. Obama has made a “government option” an essential element of any reform. A government option will almost certainly drive out private options, no matter how many promises concerning level playing fields are made. It seems reasonable to read this statement as, “If you’re very rich and money is no object, then you’ll be free to maintain expensive private insurance that contains all the special interest and ideology-driven mandates federal regulators will enact. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with government health care.”

I have great health insurance, and so does every Member of Congress.

He’s on to something here. Federal employees don’t participate in Social Security, for example: they have a separate retirement program that invests actively in the stock market and delivers returns far superior to the New Deal dinosaur that the rest of us are compelled to fund [This claim in the original post is erroneous; see correction in comments below]. Any health reform plan must cover federal employees, including Congress. And no escape clauses (as in public schooling, which more than 4 in 10 congresspeople opt out of by sending their children to private schools): Members of Congress must be affected by health care reform in the same way that a majority of Americans are. So if a majority ends up covered by the public option, then every member of Congress must also be so covered (and no international medical tourism permitted).

Blog author: lglinzak
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
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Ray Nothstine, Associate Editor at the Acton Institute, had his Acton Commentary, “Veterans First on Heath Care” republished by The Citizen, a newspaper in Fayetteville, Georgia.  Nothstine explains in the article that the federal government needs to prove that it can provide adequate health care for 8 million veterans before we can trust them to provide health care reform for the entire United States.  Nothstine points out flaws with medical system operated by the Veterans Administration.  It is a timely piece especially among the constant health care reform debate that is occurring in the United States.

As Congress continues to hash out what will likely be more or less bad health care reform legislation, it is worth considering what health care providers themselves can do to fix the system.

One outstanding case study is The Nun and the Bureaucrat: How They Found an Unlikely Cure for America’s Sick Hospitals. The book is a compilation of quotations, factoids, and anecdotes from employees and administrators of two hospital systems, Catholic SSM Health Care in St. Louis and Pittsburgh’s Regional Health Care Initiative. It tells the story of the implementation of “systems thinking” at these institutions. In short, the health systems’ executives perceived serious inefficiencies and dysfunctions in their hospitals (with, sometimes, life or death consequences) and determined to borrow a method successfully used in other business enterprises and apply it to the medical field.

Individual hospital outcomes reported include:
–85 percent reduction in hospital acquired infections (often fatal and each entailing costs of $30,000-90,000).
–medication error rate reduction from .16 per thousand dosages to .01 per thousand.
–reduction of acute diabetic complications from 13.5 percent to 5 percent.

Besides better patient outcomes and cost-saving, hospital staff reported higher levels of morale and satisfaction in their work.

In this particular case, conscientious and innovative CEOs initiated change. What might drive innovation and improvement more broadly in the health care sector is placing both control and responsibility squarely in the hands of “consumers” (patients), spurring competition and setting up the right framework of incentives. Any legislation that fails to recognize this connection will fail to move us toward a health care system that more effectively serves its intended purpose.

Amongst the health care debate Ray Nothstine offers a good analysis of Verterans Health Care.  Nothstine brings a good argument to light for those to consider who are in support of reforming health care.  Many supporters of reforming health care look to the health care provided by the Veterans Administration (VA); however as Nothstine is able to demonstrate, the VA health care system is far from perfect.  Nothstine also provides real life situations that demonstrate the flaws of the health care system managed by the VA.

Nothstine advises those who want to reform health care and model it after the VA health care system to proceed with caution:

Veterans’ health care has accomplished amazing feats, and many of the health officials and workers who work in that industry do so because of their desire to serve those who served their country. But the government must and should do a better job taking care of veterans, especially those wounded in America’s wars. The government needs to prove it can handle existing obligations before proposing the adoption of any universal government plan. If it cannot handle the challenge of caring for 8 million veterans, how will a government bureaucracy manage a system dealing with 300 million Americans?

Read Nothstine’s entire article by clicking here.