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Health Care Reform & Inertia in America


“If you don’t set deadlines in this town, things don’t happen,” Mr. Obama said. “The default position is inertia.”

The above quote was delivered by President Obama several nights ago at a prime-time press conference in which Mr Obama, like every Democratic president for the past forty years, tried to stimulate action on reform of the way health care is done in America.

In those forty years the default position has been inertia. The United States spends between sixteen and eighteen percent of its annual gross income on health care. The amount of money involved is staggering. The array of special interests, headed by the insurance companies, is mighty indeed. The chances for intelligent, effective reform are not good. A good bet on this issue is to place your money on inertia because inertia has won for forty years.

The Republicans will lend no assistance because their clients are the very insurance companies that profit so mightily from the current system.

The American Medical Association, the place you would expect the nation’s doctors to weigh in, will not do anything either because, even though doctors in America have ceded control of their profession to accountants and actuaries, what doctors fear-change-in far more powerful that what they want, their old respected place in our society as caregivers valued for their expertise and respected for their skills.

Doctors in America are sheep, docilely doing the bidding of their masters, the HMO’s. They accept their demotion to mere “mechanics” in exchange for above average salaries and nicely constructed pension plans. Their motto is “Don’t rock the boat.”

If you are looking for losers in all this try these two groups: Citizens and Democrats.

Citizens (that’s you and me) are already footing the bill for an inefficient health care system that rewards activity, instead of something really interesting like effectiveness. A doctor needs to “see” about four patients an hour to meet his “quota” and earn his keep. If a consultation should take twenty minutes in the case of complex illness or complicated surgery, for example, those “extra” five minutes must be made up at the expense of some other patient.

This is the system we have. No one sat down and designed it. It evolved as the big insurance companies figured out how to do “health care” in a profitable way.

It’s amusing to see ads run by conservative political organizations extolling us to not allow “faceless bureaucrats” to make our health care choices for us, while that is exactly what is happening in real life and in real time. The difference, of coarse, is the placement of the bureaucrats. Today they work for the HMO’s. Under the “public option” they would work for the government.

Which brings us to the Democrats. Right now, at this moment in history, they have a clear mandate to reform many things in America. Heath care is the first big item on the agenda. If they fail, if inertia continues to win, we will see the return of the do-nothing, know nothing Republicans that thrive off inertia as practiced by the Democratic party.

And in forty years we’ll have another reformer talking about inertia.


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2:06 PM
Fri Jul 24 2009
You can only blame the Dems for this one

Michael, you are right about one thing – it’s the Democrats’ inertia that is blocking health care “reform.” They don’t need any Republican votes to push their program through. But they can’t agree among themselves. That’s because the current proposal is another idiotic budget-burner that will not provide universal coverage, save money or improve quality. So Democrats up for re-election have to choose between defying their party or risking the wrath of their constituents – most of whom are perfectly happy with their current healthcare coverage. And with the president’s approval on this issue nose-diving, the option of actually responding to the will of the people is looking more attractive to them. Yes, our system is far from perfect. But until someone comes up with a solution other than more big government, deeper deficits, higher taxes and intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship, expect continuing inertia. And rightly so.