This blog features information about the political campaign nationally and in the state of Pennsylvania. it will discuss congressional races western PA, but it won't restrict comments to those jurisdictions. On many occasions, it will feature humor, but its main purpose is to "cut the legs off" political jihad. This is a site for political grown-ups of all ages.

Location: Ambridge, Pennsylvania, United States

I have a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester (English and American Literature). I taught for 10 years at various educational institutions (Univ. of Rochester, my alma mater, College of William and Mary, and University of Georgia, where I was also Asst. Ed. of the Georgia Review. Later, I worked as a speechwriter and "thinker" at various large companies, including Phillips Petroleum, Gulf Oil, Aetna, Merck (consultant), and Eli Lilly (consultant), among many others. I'm a full-time writer and political commentator/analyst. Favorite company: AudioTech Business Books. Favorite female: my wife, Patricia Ann Maloney. Favorite politcal candidate: Diana Lynn Irey (PA's 12th congressional district)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Rendell's Recipe for Health Care Disaster -- and the Real Solutions

"Mitt Romney has made it officially official that he's going to be an official candidate for the Republican nomination for President." (T. J. Lemon on CNN, February 6, 2007)

In Sunday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "Forum" online, Matthew Brouillette of the Commonwealth Foundation had a superb article on health care reform. Needless to say, his piece differed dramatically from the disastrous "tax-and-subsidize" plan endorsed by Gov. Ed Rendell.

You can see the Brouillette essay at:

Regarding Rendell's tax-heavy, government-dominated health proposals, Brouillette says:

". . . [T]he governor's "Prescription for Pennsylvania" will fail: He is prescribing treatment for the symptom rather than the cause of the problem. Expanding insurance coverage at taxpayers' expense without first addressing the factors that are driving up health-care costs will only exacerbate our health-care problems. Under the governor's scheme, neither the cost of health care nor the cost of insurance will ever become reasonably priced for the average Pennsylvanian. A cynic might suggest that the failure of our health-care system is precisely what Gov. Rendell hopes for in order to push for his ideal of a government-run, taxpayer-funded health-care system."

Brouillette says that truly reforming health care will require seven proposals, including:

  • Giving individuals the same tax benefits for purchasing health insurance as businesses;
  • Allowing individuals and small businesses to better pool resources to purchase private insurance;
  • Expanding Health Savings Accounts and access to high-deductible insurance plans;
  • Making health-care prices more transparent for consumers;
  • Permitting individuals and businesses to purchase insurance outside Pennsylvania;
  • Reducing insurance-coverage mandates, and,
  • Enacting reasonable limits on lawsuit awards for noneconomic damage.
Here's what I said in an e-mail to Brouillette in response to his article:

I want to salute you for your article in the Post-Gazette "Forum" section on Sunday. Rendell's "Prescription" Plan is a disaster; it will raise the cost of health care and lower its quality.

I'm sure you're familiar with David Gratzer's "The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save American Health Care." He describes his experience in Canada as a medical student who took a short-cut through a hospital emergency section. He found patients, many of them sweat- and/or urine-soaked, who'd been waiting for days on stretchers. Lucky them: they all had government sponsored health insurance.

I've written about how my experience on Medicare Plan D, a program that encourages patient choice, has saved my wife and me thousands of dollars every year -- and, if extended throughout the health care system, could save Americans tens of billions. I'm hoping that the personal approach I'm using will get through to people blinded by the "visions" of Hillary-Care or Rendell-care.

One effort I'm undertaking -- talk about Heracles cleansing the Augean stables -- is to establish an information-system online that would provide information about doctors in the Ambridge, PA. (Some of them here are wonderful.) It would contain information about costs -- and about significant matters such as how many refills doctors provide for medications taken to treat chronic conditions.

Frankly, some doctors (my old one in Carnegie) give 2-3 refills, which basically is a device to keep patients returning (at cost) to the doctor's office. My physicians in Ambridge give refills for five months, and they charge less for visits.

Sad to say, many doctors HATE to give information about treatment and service. I'm paying less in Ambridge for more service than I did in Carnegie, but for anybody to find that out now, they'd have to ask me.

In my blog, I pointed out that Wal-Mart provides me with three-months of a diabetes med (Metformin) at 10 mg. levels than CVS charges for a ONE-MONTH supply at 5 mg. How many people know such things? If they have first-dollars coverage, they wouldn't even notice the huge price disparity.

I've also pointed out that the diabetes med Avandia ($160 a month retail) doesn't work better for most people (including me) than $4 a month Metformin. Start multiplying monthly cost savings in the hundreds of dollars by millions of people and hundreds of drugs and, well, you get the idea.

There are problems with transparency and economics in health care generally. Without much better inforamtion, patients will keep making bad choices and costs will continue skyrocketing.

Overall, to solve our nation's health care problems, we need more of the following: doctors (and physician assistants), emergency rooms, information about health services and costs, more patient choices. Most of all, as Dr. David Gratzer points out in his book The Cure, we need intensified competition -- and less government control.

Note: Matthew J. Brouillette, cited above, is president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation, a public policy research and educational institute located in Harrisburg


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