Jewish World Review Oct. 25, 2004 / 10 Mar-Cheshvan 5765

Drs. Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak

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Consumer Reports


Fact-checking KerryCare


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | During the last presidential candidate debate on October 13, in answering a question about health care, John Kerry announced, "I have a plan to cover all Americans."


Kerry plans to pay for part of his munificence by rolling back Bush's tax cut on "the rich;" Kerry would tax the top two percent of taxpayers to pay for some additional health care for the bottom 98 percent.


Bush said Kerry's "so-called tax on the rich, which is also a tax on many small-business owners in America" would raise $600 billion by Bush's account and $800 billion by Kerry's account.


I note that Americans for Tax Reform estimates the cost of this part of Kerry's plan at a trillion dollars. This would cost the average taxpayer an additional $1,000 tax every year for ten years.


This is OUR money they're throwing around, folks.


What can we do about health care spending? I agree with Bush when he said that health care spending is high and rising because most patients do not purchase their own medical care or insurance. Instead, third parties, such as a government agency or employer-provided insurance, cover their costs.


When patients don't pay for their medical care, as would be the case under the Kerry plan, they don't have any incentive to seek cost-effective treatment or even monitor their own medical spending since it's all "free" - an open invitation to waste.


Medicare, the huge government entitlement program promising medical services to senior citizens, presages the results of the Kerry plan.


The millions of baby boomers who've been paying into the Medicare system will soon be using Medicare, costing mega-megabucks.


Back in 1957, there were about 42 workers for each retiree on Social Security.

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In 2001, there were 3.4 workers per retiree. But by 2050 there will be only two workers per retiree. In other words, we're laying almost incomprehensible costs on our children and grandchildren's backs.


Medicare Part A - the hospital insurance part - is essentially out of money already as spending is now greater than tax collections and the government has already spent previous Medicare taxes on other things.


The so-called "interest" on previously collected taxes will have to come from future taxes. What happens if our kids and grandkids can't - or won't - pay the additional $20 to $60 trillion for all this?


Doctors are already fleeing Medicare because they find their ability to provide medical care compromised by crushing regulations and overzealous prosecutions for failing to fill out Medicare forms "correctly."


The Feds pursue these physicians with a vengeance, stripping them of all their assets and throwing them into prison for such "fraud." The result of these and other factors is increased rationing of more and more services and escalating costs everywhere.


In some areas, Medicare patients already have great difficulty finding a doctor to treat them - a living model for what we could expect for everyone from Kerry's plan.


I conclude that Kerry's plan would further reduce health care options and increase waste, inefficiency and costs.


How can we get out of this mess?


In signing Health Savings Account (HSA) legislation into law last December, President Bush revolutionized medical insurance options for most Americans.


HSAs combine a high deductible health insurance policy with an individually-owned and tax-free health savings account.


Withdrawals from the health savings account are also tax-free when used to pay for medical needs. After spending up to the deductible of $1000 or more, the health insurance kicks in and pays for larger and unexpected medical expenses. So far, previously-uninsured people have purchased about one-third of the plans offered by several companies.


Further, since an individual's or family's own money is at stake, people tend to seek cost-effective health care. In turn, doctors and hospitals will compete to meet their needs instead of trying to keep within insurance company or government limitations.


This competition causes quality to go up while controlling costs, liberating both patients and doctors.


In the land of the free and home of the brave, we're much better off without John Kerry's promise to rob the rich to provide for our health care. We'll get better care by taking more responsibility for ourselves and buying insurance covering more expensive medical care. A "free" lunch is not much of a lunch at all.

Editor's Note: Robert J. Cihak wrote this week's column




Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., is a multiple award winning writer who comments on medical-legal issues. Robert J. Cihak, M.D., is a Discovery Institute Senior Fellow and a past president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Both JWR contributors are Harvard trained diagnostic radiologists. Comment by clicking here.

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