12-12-12

Most of us will never see this date again.  With all the miracles of health care science we read about, maybe I am a little pessimistic.  In any case, to be safe, it is better to savor this day and not worry about the next 12-12-12 which would be either 1000 years from now or 100 if you count 2112 as 12.

And, there is much to savor.

Our political parties are disintegrating before our eyes.  What do they stand for?  In today’s political discourse on Medicare and Medicaid, the GOP wants to cut both.  In practical terms this means fixed income Americans (Medicare recipients) will either have to pay more or go without medical treatments.  For those in poverty (Medicaid recipients), they simply will have to go without medical treatment.

Democrats are not much better.   While they argue for no cuts (or very small ones if necessary), they do not present any comprehensive plans on how to make Medicare and Medicaid sustainable.  In the Democrat universe, everyone on Medicare and Medicaid will be fully covered until the ship sails over the waterfall.

With respect to labor laws, the GOP is working hard to create jobs.  Giving tax breaks to the top 2% of earners was their campaign pitch.  Hmmm.  The GOP has also worked to eliminate collective bargaining for public sector workers.  The GOP now seeks to make each State a “right to work” State.  The GOP justification is this will create more jobs because the State will be more competitive on labor costs.  This is completely bogus.  As long as there exists the right of labor to organize, unions will represent the workers regardless of whether they pay dues or not.  And unions will bargain for at least the prevailing wage whatever that may be.  Company can choose to locate where they expect the best combination of wage level and worker capability.  The prevailing wage level will be a key factor in these decisions but not the only one.

Democrats are crying out that the GOP is taking the country backwards.  Maybe, but there is scant evidence, if any, that public sector collective bargaining or being a right to work State, is producing employment growth or hurting growth.  With globalization, the factors supporting new manufacturing job creation are fairly simple.  Where is it cheaper to produce the goods.  Right to work doesn’t enter the equation.

But what should be glaringly obvious is that Congress members have needs too, and they are intent on satisfying those needs.  A Congress member today requires gobs of money to finance a reelection campaign.  Good work and meritorious service are nice but do not cut it.  Congress members are also very close to about $3 trillion in government spending.  The temptation to steer some of that money in a way that doesn’t land the Congress person in jail but yet puts a bulge in their pocket is rampant.   How can a Congress member find time to think about health care or growing jobs?

As a nation, how can we accept the idea that basic health care should not be available to everyone?  When workers retire, they are usually no longer covered by employer provided health insurance.  (This cost is burying companies that still provide it for retirees.)  So, since older people consume more health care services, how can we expect them to keep covering unlimited cost increases?

Even more obvious are those on Medicaid.  These Americans are on Medicaid because they can’t afford health care in the first place.  Is it enough to say “tough break”?

The debate over the fiscal cliff ought to be about how to reduce the need for government spending over and above what is collected already.  The biggest single cost is health care.

Common sense drives on to collecting more taxes during working years, means testing during recipient years (those who can pay more should), and attacking the real problem,  reducing the actual cost of health care.  With Medicaid, the most obvious steps would be aimed at reducing the number of Americans who are poor.

The rest of the industrialized world has solved this problem.  They have clearly defined their priorities and basic health care for everyone is a right.  Containing health care costs just like eliminating poverty is a continuing effort for all nations.  I just wonder when the US will wake up to what are the real issues?

 

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