Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Health Care Issue

As most know I grew up in the WNY area and the only remaining paper is The Buffalo News and it is very similar in many ways to the Cleveland Plain Dealer with its very strong lean to left.

Its a paper that I read every day, more so than the Plain Dealer.

As to the Health Care Issue, The News has been steady in its support of it, until this morning.

This editorial is summing up the fact that Obama has lost this round and needs to go back and rethink or redraft the legislation.

Here it is in its entirety:

Before he took office, one piece of advice President Obama took seriously was that "you can't succeed with your agenda without the cooperation of the Congress."

Perhaps he took that too seriously, because in at least two instances he has directed Congress to draft the actual legislation for what are perhaps his two most critical domestic problems. He should have proposed his own bills.

In the first case, he allowed Congress to draft the stimulus bill. It did, coming up with a hugely expensive plan -- an estimated $1.2 trillion when interest payments are factored in -- that minority Republicans quickly criticized as laden with pork. And then, the next day, it passed a $410 billion omnibus spending bill that included 8,575 spending "earmarks" from congressmen. The slow trickle of actual financial stimulus into the economy is good evidence that never would have passed a panel most concerned with need and effectiveness. Economic recovery might be a lot further along had the president drafted a bill that met those goals he was promoting.

Now, in the second instance, he is faced with multiple thousand-page proposals, in several House and Senate committees, and a Congressional Budget Office estimate that the two leading plans -- the House leadership's HR 3200 bill and Sen. Ted Kennedy's still-unnamed plan -- will drive up costs until 2019, when savings supposedly would take over. Be wary of any politician who wants to tap your wallet more deeply based on savings that might appear in 10 years.

Also, be wary of efforts to ram through such sweeping, financially freighted and dramatic reforms -- changes that would affect a sixth of the American economy -- on a political deadline.

The president is a gifted communicator, but even he cannot overcome the confusion the multiple, changing bills have created. And now he has a public uprising on his hands. Most people in the country don't trust the government to maintain the health care they now have, and while people realize costs have spiralled out of control, they don't believe the health bills will produce a solution. In fact, many worry that their health costs could accelerate more quickly with what has been proposed. They are right on both scores.

The bills have sought to add new programs that are staggering in their costs and potentially reduce existing health care, particularly for the elderly. There are calls for mandates that would escalate business costs, with potential stimulus-killing effects on the economy.

All deserve careful, not rushed, consideration and reasoned, not misinformed, debate.

Most immediately, the president also must address true reductions in costs -- the costs of care that are in large part driving up the price of insurance and driving down the number of people able to afford insurance -- before he simply adds on new benefits or expands the ranks of the insured. Cutting just 1 percent from the escalating cost of health care would save the nation $1.3 trillion.

What is needed is genuine reform. Various agency watchdogs say there is plenty of room for that. Bad practices and policies have been identified; let the government's energies be spent there.

Two relatively easy but gigantic savers are conspicuous. Introducing universal use of electronic medical records not only should save billions, it also can prevent errors that can cost lives. Tort reform -- changing medical malpractice litigation -- also could save hundreds of billions by eliminating "cover your backside" testing and allowing doctors to practice and prescribe according to their own training and judgment, not to mention curtailing the costs of physician insurance that in turn also escalates health costs.

The president does not have a lot of time. He rightly should fear that the Democrat-controlled Congress will pass a hodgepodge of compromises that will be costly and accomplish little. His signals that he may be willing to drop the "public option" that would offer a choice of a government-run program alongside existing private health plans may be evidence of his awareness of his limited opportunity, and his willingness to compromise to win some health care reforms.

In any case, it is time for reform proponents to regroup. What has happened so far has been soundly rejected. Confusion still reigns.

Draft a simple, clear bill that makes some headway. The cost of health care is a complex problem of major proportions, and it will not be easy to solve. Rather than take a chance on risky proposals that are certain to be costly, do something in which the people can have confidence.

Obama indeed may need the cooperation of Congress to get his agenda passed, but he can do nothing lasting if the people of America have lost confidence in the current proposals. It's time to restore that confidence, and move forward with clear, significant reforms.

I agree the White House needs to go back and start over. The American people are demanding it now and deserve something that is workable and won't bankrupt the nation in 50 years.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Just in Time for the September Primaries - Check your Registration

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections has redrawn the precincts for the County. I noticed it when I received my absentee ballot.

Do yourself a favor and check your registration. Here is the link for the polling locations

Here is the new map for Lakewood.