Whiting column: Potential solutions to big problems
We continue to move on with potential solutions that fall between the extremes for problems highlighted by the election.
• Health Insurance: Obviously Obamacare, in its present form, needs to go. It has proven not financially sustainable either from a governmental or individual standpoint. Humanitarian and political factors make it difficult to end coverage for those who have it now and didn’t before. Rather than go back to the prior system, which was also unsustainable, we must develop a way to have both freedom of choice and meet people’s needs.
The solution: Our main fear is the large medical bill devastating our budget or predicating bankruptcy. Insurance companies aren’t any different. Their fear of the liability associated with a megaexpenditure is one of the reasons premiums are high. Why not a governmental system that covers the catastrophe in excess of $100,000, for example, with the individual purchasing a policy from a private company to cover up to $100,000? The catastrophic coverage should take care of some of the concerns about people with pre-existing conditions, who cannot be turned down under Obamacare but could be before.
Companies would compete for the $0-100K business offering policies with varying copays and deductibles. Each person or family could choose the policy which best meets their needs. With a limit to loss, premiums should be quite low; probably less than $100 per month; within the budget of most.
To be sustainable, whether by policy or governmental regulation, people must be required to possess this insurance. Without such many would go to hospital emergency or clinics and never pay, as commonly occurs now. If medical costs are to decrease, bad debt must be eliminated. Any business must recover that cost through price. In 2014, total medical bad debt was $120 billion, according to author and Forbes contributor Dan Munro.
A process could be set up for people to prove their ability to handle the $0-$100K bill and choose to opt out. The medical industry then must play hardball and refuse treatment if the person does not have insurance. Without that provision, some would still choose to not be personally responsible and blow off medical expenses.
Insurance would be off the plate of employers, unless they chose to make it part of their employee compensation. For those unemployed for an extended period of time, a process within unemployment compensation could be developed. The governmental portion covering the catastrophe could be financed through a set percentage of income collected with regular taxes.
A governmental mandate and tax may not be ideal, but neither Obamacare nor the prior system are sustainable. We can’t continue to do as we have in the past and expect anything to change.
• Two political parties: This election showcased the public’s frustration with our two political parties, their positions at the extremes and inability to find a candidate of character. However, it is difficult for a potential candidate to become viable outside of our two parties.
The solution: Have a labeled independent primary at the same time as the Republican/Democratic primary. The winner would be on the final election ballot, providing the independent candidate exposure and access to funding necessary to be a true alternative.
• Supreme Court: This election re-emphasized the important function of the Supreme Court and its composition. Originally, the position of justice was designed to be nonpartisan. Political affiliation and policy position were irrelevant because their job was simple: Interpret an unclear issue of law according to the Constitution, not popular opinion. The court was a check and balance for the executive and legislative branches, not an originator of law.
Historically, their appointment was a function of knowledge of law, not specific political or social advocacy. Today, the appointment and confirmation process seldom includes knowledge of law, but is focused on their demographic characteristics, partisan leanings and previous rulings regarding social and political issues.
Time and medical advances have led to another issue. The average age of our justices is 74 and one is 83. The average term of those in office is 18 years. In 1780, life expectancy was 36. As recently as 1900 it was in the 40s. The first nine justices lived to an average age of 58 and served seven years. Potential lessening of mental acuity and focus was not a potential problem.
Several careers from airline pilot to federal law enforcement have a mandatory retirement age; we should follow the lead of several states and set the age for justices at 70.
Returning to a nonpartisan focus will be difficult, take time and public emphasis. Hopefully our president, legislators and media can see the merit of such and confine their questions to legal knowledge and qualifications.
• Elected officials campaigning for others: This election, as early as two years ago, found our elected officials taking time to campaign and raise money for candidates. This was common at all levels, including President Obama and Gov. Hickenlooper. We hire politicians to run the country, the state or whatever their area of responsibility, not to spend time campaigning for an individual.
The solution: Make such actions illegal so they can focus on doing their “temp” job.
Legislative agreement is difficult, especially in our current political climate. It is our personal responsibility to overtly assure our elected officials that we aren’t interested in business as usual. There are workable solutions between the parameters set by the extremes to the benefit of all.
Bryan Whiting believes most of our issues are best solved by personal responsibility and an understanding of nonpartisan economics rather than by government intervention. He is retired after 40 years of teaching marketing, entrepreneurship and economics. His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month.
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