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Some call me crazy (and some have called me worse… like “a Republican”), but I watch Fox News Sunday every week as part of my Sunday routine of watching all the political talkshows every Sunday morning. I subject myself to this torture each week to catch moments like the one below from a week ago:
 


 

During yesterdays’ torture-test on the subject of Healthcare reform, host Chris Wallace asked about “the wisdom of pursuing a massive Trillion dollar entitlement program while the country is still reeling from the bailouts of Wall Street and the Auto Manufacturers.” It is a natural assumption on the Right that healthcare reform will cost us “a Trillion dollars” and “explode the national debt”. The first first video I ever posted on YouTube was regarding the Exploding National Debt under George Bush over three years ago. Since that time, I’ve blogged on the subject of our skyrocketing national debt at least four times since 2004. Trust me, if I thought healthcare reform would “explode the National Debt”, I wouldn’t support it.

But in fact, quite the opposite is true. Comprehensive health insurance reform (more on the change in wording in a minute) is positioned to save Americans hundreds of billions of dollars and could go a long way to pulling us out of this economic crisis AND reinvigorating the American economy. That may seem like a tall order, but the facts are there. And if President Obama successfully passes health insurance reform AND simultaneously saves the depressed economy, Republicans could find themselves stumbling about in the political wildreness for the next two generations… which is why they are fighting this tooth & nail.

On that changed wording… from “health CARE” reform to “health INSURANCE” reform. That’s because the reforms being proposed don’t affect decisions made by doctors or hospitals, only how that care is paid for… no matter what Sarah Palin would have you think. And I’m only talking about insurance here.

The cost of healthcare is bankrupting our country. More people declare bankruptcy over medical bills than all other causes COMBINED (62% in 2007). Others without insurance put off care until it reaches a crisis, at which point it may cost 2… 3… ten times as much to resolve. Still others find themselves going to emergency rooms and leaving the State to pick-up the (huge) tab. Add to that the people who didn’t get a raise last year because their employer paid increased insurance premiums instead, and you quickly see how skyrocketing healthcare costs are depriving our economy hundreds of billions of dollars. If that money were instead pumped back into the economy, just imagine the resulting economic stimulus.

Last June, I wrote about “Overlooked Savings from Single-Payer healthcare“. And although “Single Payer” is pretty much dead, the effect of full guaranteed coverage for 100% of Americans is the same (the list is too long to repost here, so I encourage you to go back for a good read.)

But there’s a fly in the ointment. The Obama Administration is “promising” that any insurance reform won’t take effect until after the start of the NEXT administration in 2013 (a bone to Republican opponents praying for a Republican president to repeal it). And some want to wait even longer by adding a “trigger”… a grace period… that gives insurance companies time to “clean up their act” before a Public Option kicks in. But as Howard Dean so eloquently pointed out, “they’ll just wait until the trigger runs out and then go back to their old ways.”

Healthcare reform CAN’T WAIT four more years till 2013. Prices are rising out of control. PEOPLE WILL DIE waiting for the new system to kick in. Republicans only want to delay it because THEY KNOW exactly as I stated above, that reform will mean a huge economic boost that leaves the Republican Party in disarray for the next 40 years. Not only will delaying reform delay our economic recovery, but Republicans have vowed to “repeal any healthcare reform that includes a Public Option.” if they manage to retake the White House or one of (or both) Houses of Congress. And YOU KNOW they will cite “the failure of healthcare reform” in their 2012 Presidential Campaign even though it hasn’t even started yet, because (as Tom Brokaw, Tom Friedman and John Harwood all pointed out on Sunday, “There are a lot of stupid people in this country” that will be asking “why their healthcare isn’t any cheaper” after passing reform “years ago”?

Delaying the Public Option til 2013 would play out this way… call it “the squirrel mentality”:

In the four years (or more if there’s a “trigger”) before any Public Option kicks in, insurance companies will start hoarding money like a squirrel hoards nuts for Winter. They’ll raise rates, deny even more claims, and rake in as much cash as they can before the gravy train ends. The impact on our economy would be staggering (not to mention what would happen to healthcare itself.) President Obama becomes a one-term President and any “reform” is repealed before it even starts. No one will touch the issue for another 15 years (last tackled by Clinton in 1993.)

I can already hear Republican readers saying, “they won’t do that if there’s a trigger for fear they’d trip it”. Nope, sorry. They will argue that “the increase in their rates reflects the rise in healthcare costs” (which are a result of them raising their rates). Good luck proving otherwise. Proving that the “trigger” conditions haven’t been met would be like trying to prove Santa Claus doesn’t exist. You can’t “prove” a negative. So the insurance companies can do anything they want and then challenge whether or not the “trigger” conditions have been met.

As I pointed out in a previous column last July, the “Public Option” isn’t new. Japan has been using it successfully for over 40 years. They live longer, are 3rd best in infant mortality (we’re #33), all at 1/3rd the cost. And the goods they sell to the rest of the world are cheaper as they pass that healthcare savings on to the consumer.

But Republicans would have us all believe “Obama-Care will cost taxpayers a Trillion dollars a year” instead of (maybe) “$80 Billion a year”… less than 1/10th the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan each year (as I reported last week). As Crooks & Liars contributor Susie Madrak so deftly pointed out Sunday, “Why Does The Administration (And The Media) Only Choke at Cost When It Comes To Health Care?” You need $120 billion to continue two wars that cost hundreds of lives? No problem! You want $80 billion to provide every American with basic healthcare, thus saving thousands of American lives each year? COMMUNIST!

UPDATE: Research by the non-profit “Citizens for Tax Justice” concluded on Tuesday (9/8/09) that “The Bush Tax cuts cost more than TWICE as much as Democrats proposed healthcare reform.

Even if (worst case scenario as proposed by President Obama) the cost of healthcare is “revenue neutral”, meaning that the government spends as much on healthcare tomorrow as it does today… spending every dime in savings from the elimination of waste & inefficiency, to ensure the currently 46 million uninsured, you now have (duh) 46 million people insured that weren’t insured before. Add to that the savings I noted above (refering to a previous column), the economic boost from less money spent on emergency care, lower monthly insurance rates due to competition, and fewer bankruptcies, and you STILL end up with an economic stimulus… adding jobs, which means adding taxpayers to help defray the costs even more.

So the next logical question to ask is “Why do Republicans think government funded healthcare would cost $1Trillion dollars (over ten years)?” Because they are calculating how much the government would have to spend if healthcare costs (drugs, treatment, hospitalization, etc) DON’T come down from where they are now (and continue to rise at the same rate). But healthcare costs aren’t skyrocketing because doctors and hospitals are charging more for their services. The price is rising out of control because INSURANCE RATES are rising out of control. Once they have to compete with a Public Option, those costs will go down, thus bringing down healthcare cost across the board.

So, to summarize, we need the Public Option and we need it NOW. Not 2013. No “triggers”, no piecemeal bills that only tackle part of the problem at a time, giving Republicans ample opportunity to fight each stage anew, resulting in reform with more holes in it than Swiss Cheese. Republicans have a vested political interest in seeing healthcare reform go down in flames. Supporting President Obama’s plan would be political suicide for any Republican, so stop trying to win their support. You’d have better luck convincing them to commit Hara Kiri on the steps of Congress.
 


 

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