December 18, 2009
The Winchester Star
Health-care ‘reform’? Try addressing existing programs
James T. Holland
I’ve served for more than 20 years on the Board of Directors of Valley Health System. I’m very much aware of the need for health-care reform, and the impact of reform on providers and patients.
My son-in-law is an orthopedic surgeon, and my daughter-in-law is a former neonatal critical care nurse. I’m concerned about cost, quality, access, and health-care innovation. However, the “reform” proposals currently being debated in Congress are frightening!
The focus is misdirected. Far too many existing Medicare policies and regulations do nothing to improve health care. They add to health-care cost! Medicaid is out of control, and we have an impending economic disaster with Medicare.
The Medicare program is financially unsustainable as currently designed. Why isn’t an unfunded Medicare liability of $36 trillion more urgent than a new entitlement? I don’t understand why Congress would even consider adding to this problem. I don’t understand why the proposed new health “reform” program is so urgent, while pretending that existing programs are not.
We need health care reform of existing programs!
A few changes to existing law could make a huge difference.
* Require Medicare rule-writters to cooperate with hospitals and physicians to eliminate bureaucratic regulations that add cost, without affecting quality of care.
* Increase competition between existing private health insurance companies. Allow them to develop innovative health insurance programs and offer products in every state. Regulate, but don’t dictate what they must offer, and what they must charge.
* Give all Americans the same tax break that employees get with their employer-provided health insurance plans. Uninsured Americans would be more likely to buy health insurance if private individuals could get the same tax treatment as that offered by employers to their employees.
* Recognize the basic economic law of supply and demand for consumers of health care. If people are offered something for nothing, they will use more of it. Government has to eventually ration care. Let the people ration their own care by requiring them to pay up-front costs every time, and for every service. Their payment need not be great, but they must bear initial cost.
* Increase age limits for Medicare eligibility. The age eligibility needs to be increased, rather than reduced as was proposed.
* Focus benefits on catastrophic coverage, and healthy lifestyles. To save Medicare, the program needs to gradually move from all-inclusive coverage to catastrophic coverage with incentives for not smoking, exercising, and maintaining a healthy diet.
I am also concerned about the negative impact of excessive taxes, costly regulations, and government mandates that add costs to all businesses. During my career at O’Sullivan, I was directly involved in making decisions that created many jobs. Management made decisions to open new businesses, close businesses, and relocate businesses.
We chose to expand and grow in Virginia because of the right-to-work law, and the business-friendly attitude of government. We closed plants in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Michigan because of high taxes, high energy costs, high workers compensations rates, and the high cost of dealing with organized labor. All of these high costs were byproducts of government polices toward business. Government attitudes toward business influenced every decision.
Government is missing an opportunity to stimulate the real job-creating engines of the economy. The current government philosophy is influenced by a passionate socialist desire to punish big business, punish “rich” owners of small business, and punish “rich” entrepreneurs who take risks with new business ventures. These are the very people and businesses that create jobs.
It is a mistake to allow the Bush tax rate to expire. It is a mistake to pass legislation that adds cost to business. It is a mistake to micromanage tax breaks, and subsidies, and limit government support to politically favored businesses.
If we are to revive the economy, create jobs, and reduce government debt, we need to change the socialist mindset. End the practice of punishing businesses and entrepreneurs. Our current crisis is so great that unprecedented tax and regulation reform is needed.
Recent stimulus programs have failed because they are short-term solutions. Tax and regulatory actions are long-term, and the crisis requires a long-term solution. If only Congress would reduce taxes on all businesses and individuals to a maximum rate of 25 percent. This would unleash the creative energy and ingenuity of all Americans.
We need to change government attitudes toward business: Work with business to reform laws that add costs to business. Regulate, but don’t suffocate.
Government is a partner in the success of every individual and business. Why not work together?
Don’t take my word for it. Check with every economic development agency in the United States. These agencies seek to attract business, and create jobs by offering tax breaks and eliminating bureaucratic red tape. They will work with entrepreneurs, big business, small business, and they are very flexible. They try to undo what government has done.
James T. Holland is a resident of Frederick County.