Jewish World Review Oct. 25, 2004 / 10 Mar-Cheshvan 5765
Drs. Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak
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
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
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.
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