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AS I SEE IT

Posted 7/08/09 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

The United States Congress seems to be on the “fast track” to get President Obama legislation that will create a new national healthcare system by this next fall.
And if Congress trying to race to get President Obama something as important as revamping our nation’s healthcare system doesn’t send shivers up and down your spine, then you haven’t been paying much attention to Congress’s success rate lately when it comes to making snap decisions. Remember the billions of dollars thrown at financial and insurance companies with no one knowing where the money was actually going? Or how about the billions of dollars that were spent supposedly in an attempt to stimulate the economy by creating new jobs? The money has been spent and guess what, there haven’t been many new jobs created. Or at least the government doesn’t know where the new jobs have been created.
So what can the average American expect when Congress creates a new healthcare system simply because President Obama wants one by fall? My guess is that we will see the creation of a new government program that will cost billions of dollars a year to sustain and will possess all of the corruption and mismanagement associated with most government-run programs.
That said, I’m not opposed to healthcare reform. I think that everyone in the country recognizes that we are spending far too much of our disposable income on healthcare and that the number of Americans who live their lives without any form of health insurance is growing.
But this troubling trend in healthcare has been occurring for years. It didn’t just happen the day that President Obama took office. And to expect Congress and the president to solve this nation’s healthcare problem in five months is not only ridiculous but borders on insane.
If Congress and the Obama administration are going to provide healthcare to everyone not currently insured, one can expect to see the creation of a new, huge government agency that will have all of the problems, regulations and bureaucracy that we have come to see and expect in Medicare and Medicaid and other federal programs that cannot and do not operate as efficiently as do private businesses.
The looming question with any restructuring of healthcare is how will the new system adequately compensate the hospitals, doctors and other medical providers. The Obama administration’s answer to the spiraling cost of healthcare is to cut back on current health spending and then use those funds to pay for the additional cost of the government providing expanded insurance coverage and care.
Restraining (or cutting) the cost of healthcare may sound good politically, but in reality for states like North Dakota, cutting the amount of money that doctors and hospitals receive for the services they provide simply means that more and more of the hospitals that we rely on will go broke. While many people complain about the cost of healthcare, what most people in the state do not realize is that there are very few hospitals in North Dakota that are making money. And without profits, these hospitals cannot continue to make improvements in their facilities, purchase needed diagnostic equipment or hire more physicians and staff.
Congress and the Obama administration need to recognize from their earlier mistakes that looking for the quick fix and throwing millions of dollars at a problem doesn’t mean that the problem is going to be fixed properly. While doing nothing is unacceptable, so is blindly rushing forward to do something merely for the sake of saying that you are doing something and then being able to claim that you are fixing the problem of healthcare.
Congress needs to put the brakes on the rush to throw together a quick fix to the healthcare problem in this country. They need to have an open and honest dialogue with the providers of healthcare, the health insurance companies, and more importantly with the American public. We all need to know what is being talked about and how any changes will affect us, either individually or as businesses that provide health insurance coverage for their employees.