Friday, August 14, 2009

Mythtakes in Healthcare Debate

There's a lot of confusion surrounding the various health care reforms currently wending their way through the congress-how could there not be when legislation reaches an accumulated 1,600 pages. But amidst all of the confusion, one thing clearly emerges: increasingly the folks don't trust the government to craft a total health care system makeover-Congressman Weiner discovered this for himself yesterday: "Rep. Anthony Weiner got an earful from a room full of rowdy - and hungry - Brooklyn seniors on Thursday demanding answers about health care reform...What he found was about 60 senior citizens fed up with the confusion surrounding the details of the President's plan to provide affordable health care for all Americans - and eager to eat lunch."

So, in spite of all the "clarifications" coming from reform supporters, approval for the direction that reform is taking is itself taking a nosedive. And the responsibility for all of this lies right on the president's door step. The folks can't get a straight answer out of the smooth talking Obama, who more and more is beginning to resemble Chico Marx who, when caught in flagrant delicto, asked the outraged husband, "Who're gonna believe, me or your own lying eyes?"

Trust has evaporated-along with the death panel as well, it appears. The problem is, that when trust erodes, even cash for clunkers would flop-and there's enough ominous stuff embedded in the various bills to lend credence to all of the naysayers. But the primary concern across the board, and the one thing uniting all of the critics is cost.

No one believes Obama's claim that adding folks to the insurance rolls and creating a public option will lead to less expense-and they, along with the CBO, are right. As Charles Krauthammer observes: "In the 48 hours of June 15-16, President Obama lost the health care debate. First, a letter from the Congressional Budget Office to Sen. Edward Kennedy reported that his health committee's reform bill would add $1 trillion in debt over the next decade. Then the CBO reported that the other Senate bill, being written by the Finance Committee, would add $1.6 trillion. The central contradiction of Obamacare was fatally exposed: From his first address to Congress, Obama insisted on the dire need for restructuring the health care system because out-of-control costs were bankrupting the Treasury and wrecking the U.S. economy - yet the Democrats' plans would make the problem worse."

Once the linchpin of the concept was exposed as fraudulent, the floodgates to escalating skepticism were opened wide-like the proverbial barn door, to mix metaphors; and nothing that the president does can reverse this-especially not with his new argument about prevention. As Krauthammer points out: "Desperation time. What do you do? Sprinkle fairy dust on every health care plan, and present your deus ex machina: prevention. Free mammograms and diabetes tests and checkups for all, promise Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, writing in USA Today. Prevention, they assure us, will not just make us healthier, it also "will save money." Obama followed suit in his Tuesday New Hampshire town hall, touting prevention as amazingly dual-purpose: "It saves lives. It also saves money."

Except it really does the opposite: "This inconvenient truth comes, once again, from the CBO. In an Aug. 7 letter to Rep. Nathan Deal, CBO Director Doug Elmendorf writes: "Researchers who have examined the effects of preventive care generally find that the added costs of widespread use of preventive services tend to exceed the savings from averted illness."

So, all of the clarifications and exposés are really for naught-and the only question left is whether the president and the congress will try to muscle an unpalatable plan through; a, "Make my day moment" for Republicans, in our view. If that happens, the tea parties and town halls will seem like garden parties once the public anger mushrooms. Leading to disruption and chaos, one of our favorite things about politics.