Common Sense is Winning!

January 19, 2010

As I have watched the legislative process play out during the health care reform debates, I have always tried to keep RetireSafe's views, comments, and analysis simple and focused on the common sense aspects of the proposed legislation. We have always said that there is a need for health care reform, but as we have listened to older Americans through our surveys, at seminars, and at senior expos, as well as through the comments you have sent to me directly, you have continually said that there were approaches and aspects of this legislation that just didn't make sense. I think that finally common sense is winning.

The great luxury liner of health care reform … that Medicare cutting, government interfering, debt raising piece of legislation, has been cruising forward on seemingly still waters but I think the tip of a great iceberg of common sense has risen up in its path. The design of the huge ship won't allow it to weather a collision with this common sense iceberg and the imminent collision will sink this Titanic of an ill-conceived bill.

Whether or not Republican State Senator Scott Brown wins today in Massachusetts, I think the American people, especially seniors, are finally being heard and the politicians in Washington are finally starting to pay attention. As you've talked with me about this legislation you've asked some common sense questions, and you have made some very astute observations.

You've said that the sheer volume of the legislation and the breadth of its impact have made you doubt that even your trusted sources, those that you usually rely on to explain complex issues, have the capacity to truly understand it. You've told me that you have been deafened by the rhetoric and your senses deadened by the dizzying amounts of tax dollars poised to be spent. Your simple but pure questions and comments have cut right to the core of the discussion and offered a surprisingly unencumbered window into this complicated legislation. I have taken these questions and comments and molded them into what I call common sense observations on the current health care reform bill. I think they reveal the makeup and size of this common sense iceberg that the health care reform "captains" are just now beginning to see.

•   Assume that Medicare was a private company that you had held stock in since 1966, and then in 2009 the CEO of that company came to you and said, "We just found $500 billion dollars of waste and inefficiencies in the company. "Wouldn't you wonder why it took them 43 years to find this waste? And then, if this same CEO said, "We're going to find ways to get rid of the waste and inefficiency and take the money we saved from your company and, using the same people who developed and ran your company, we're going to start another company that you have no stock in." Wouldn't you fire the CEO and then sell all of your stock in Medicare knowing that the value and quality was going to drop?

•   If the health care reform legislation isn't a takeover of our health care system by the government, then why does the basic legislation need to be so big (over 2,000 pages with almost 2,000 direct references to action by government institutions)? The constitution is only 12 pages long and it has done pretty good for over 200 years.

•   What historical reassurance do we have that the government can effectively run 1/6 of our economy? What government organization has ever shown to be more efficient than free enterprise when running anything of any size? The government couldn't even estimate the demand within a factor of 10 on a relatively small program like "cash for clunkers," how can they hope to rum something 100 times bigger?

•   One of the problems with health care today is that the buyer is disconnected from the costs of health care; the buyer is separated from the seller. The buyer only cares about the deductible or the co-pay rather than whether the MRI costs $100 or a $1,000. Often the full cost of the health insurance premium is hidden because our employer pays all or a portion of it. We may have some small choice in the type of plan we buy, but not a choice among insurers. Is there anything in any of the tenets of the current health care reform legislation that puts the buyer closer to the seller so that they’re motivated to spend their money wisely?

•   How can we keep printing money to spend on stimulus bills and bailouts and then propose to spend almost a trillion dollars on health care reform and then say it's good for us and good for the economy? Won’t inflation catch up with us? How can we burden our kids and grandkids with this debt?

•   Why haven't we done something to keep the cost of malpractice insurance for doctors and hospitals from skyrocketing? Isn't there a huge cost to the health care system when the doctors feel they must order additional tests to protect themselves in case they are sued for millions of dollars? Is that seemingly simple fix in any version of the pending health care reform legislation?

•   There have been times in the recent past when health care costs did not rise faster than inflation, 1984 to 1987 and 1993 to 1999, has any one looked at these two periods of time and determined why that happened? It might offer some answers that could be useful as we search for solutions today.

•   If Members of Congress have to be "bribed" with your tax dollars to vote for a piece of legislation, doesn’t that speak volumes about the legislation itself, and about the Members of Congress that will accept a "bribe" in exchange for their vote?

•   When the important process of combining the Senate and the House bills, called assigning the respective bills to a conference committee (normally made up of Members from both parties from both the House and Senate), is ignored and the conference process is done by just a few select members of one party in late night meetings at the White House, and this small group makes special deals that go far outside the boundaries of either bill, doesn't that discredit the preceding legislative work and in fact make a mockery of the whole legislative process as outlined in the Constitution? Is this approach even more absurd when it is used on legislation that will likely have a bigger impact on taxes and government control than any bill in the history of the United States?

Common sense is a powerful and telling approach to complicated issues. Older Americans know when something feels right and when it feels wrong. You are making your voices heard in Massachusetts and I'm convinced that you will continue to make your voices heard all over America. You need to continue to tell your Senators and Representative that you want simple efficient solutions, not ill conceived, politically expedient, Titanic legislation that can't stand the test of common sense. It is important that you keep up the pressure, contact your Members of Congress and tell them to ask themselves some of these basic questions. Tell them that you want real solutions; tell them that what they are seeing in Massachusetts is just the tip of a very big iceberg of common sense that will wreck every ship of state that tries to challenge it.

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