Reform debate focus missing the mark |

Reform debate focus missing the mark

I’ve spent 22 years as a broker/agent/consultant working with people on their health insurance planning. For the past few months I have been following the health care debate and reform draft legislation. I’ve also periodically dipped into the inane media stream of misinformation.

If healthcare can be reworked properly and it costs me my career and livelihood I would accept that and find another profession. It is broken and no one knows that better than those of us who struggle to help clients find solutions within the wreckage.

Unfortunately, the reform debate is focused entirely on the wrong issues. It should be about fixing healthcare by finding ways to control costs. Instead it is about coverage rules and playing “who writes the check” for a bigger tab when the size of the bill is too big already.

Politicians tout Medicare as the model for a government option or single payer system because it “controls costs” and is liked by those who use it. Of course the people who use it like it, the out of pocket costs are virtually nil and the cost is low because it is subsidized by tax dollars. As for “controlling costs”, that is just the government mandating provider reimbursement rates. Medicare was supposed to negotiate with providers (just like the proposed government option) but that was tossed aside quickly when they couldn’t make it work. In actuality, Medicare is shifting costs to the private insurance sector because providers are forced to increase their charges to patients with private insurance to offset subpar Medicare payments. Medicare is failing financially even though it is being propped up by the private insurance industry. And its cost shifting is one of the major reasons for the spiraling costs of private health insurance.

If we install this failure as the government option it will drive further shrinkage of the physician population as it becomes less and less attractive to be a doctor in a system ultimately dominated by government mandates. And, private plans will become extinct as they don’t get to operate indefinitely at a loss supported by tax dollars as a government plan can and will. So, when the private insurance sector collapses where will that cost shift end up? Who will prop up the government plan then? Take a guess.

In closing, as you assess this very charged issue please look at the entire picture, use neutral sources for your facts and do your homework to be informed about how any reform will affect all of us. Too much of what I see in the media and read in letters to the editor are people parroting what they’ve read or been told by others who are poorly informed or have an agenda. There are plenty of shills leveraging personal fears to gain support. Think for yourself and look beyond just what it means to your situation. We are in this together and we need a better solution than this.

Marc G. Riddick lives in New Castle

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