Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Stark Raving

In this interview the Wall Street Journal provided California Congressman Fortney Stark an opportunity to blither about "health overhaul" and repeat that his overhaul idea is "a Medicare-like program” anyone could buy.

In other words, there are problems in health care so let's do something about insurance.

Real logical, Congressman.

Health care? Health insurance? The same things, right? No, they are not and unfortunately Stark is not the only one who ignores
the difference between health care and health insurance.

Besides, what exactly is Stark's idea for insurance reform? Enroll more people in something “like” Medicare! How . . . creative! But practical?

Medicare’s financial problems are exceedingly well-documented. Its yearly expenditures are projected to exceed its income within the next few years. Medicare is financed on the notorious pay-as-you-go basis, and its unfunded liability is estimated to be $60 trillion (20X's the current U.S. annual budget). I understand that there are some like Stark who apparently believe that any program so hopelessly in debt as Medicare is a successful program because it is a government program. I differ.

What evidence is there that this Medicare financial train wreck will miraculously jump back on the rails if only EVERYONE were enrolled in it? The answer is, none.

And there ain’t gonna be such evidence unless something is done to improve the effectiveness and reduce the cost of the health care delivery system we have now. And that won’t happen until the cost of insurance is understood as a symptom of the underlying cost of health care delivery, not misunderstood as a disease itself. That is, not until the health care system becomes the primary emphasis for reform. Until then, expanding Medicare will just throw more of our tax money into a system that has shown neither the ability nor the inclination to control its costs.
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