Government program is not paying its share

Published 7:13 am Thursday, September 24, 2009

Are we getting tired of hearing about health care? I am, but I am afraid that if we don’t remain concerned, we will have another government debacle on our hands — a debacle that our kids are going to have to pay for. It is so good to get something that is free, but is it free or is someone else going to have to pay for it?

All of us have paid into Medicare and the benefits are terrific, but what about the costs? Today it carries a $38 trillion unfunded liability. That means it is a debt of $38 trillion with no money to pay it off. All reserves will be gone by the year 2017.

So what will happen? We either have to put more money in the fund (raise taxes) or cut benefits. Some say it can be done by lowering costs, but Medicare only pays 92 percent on all charges that are billed now.

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Private insurance companies are overbilled at 129 percent to help pay the shortfall (reduced payments to Medicaid, Medicare and for the uninsured). Medicare is a government program where all the decisions are made in Washington. Do you want to entrust Washington with all the decisions about your health care?

If they don’t pay or if they cut your benefits, will you be able to sue them in court or find some other insurance company? I don’t think so.

Let’s look at the situation in Minnesota. Three of the largest providers of health insurance in Minnesota are Blue Cross, Health Partners and Medica. All three are nonprofit companies and they have some of the lowest administrative costs in the nation.

Out of every dollar in premium received by Blue Cross, 91.7 percent is paid out in health insurance claims. Only 5.9 percent is used for administrative costs. The rest is used for cost containment: 1.3 percent, taxes and assessments 1 percent, broker fees 1.2 percent and operating gain 1 percent, which is required by state law to be held in reserve to cover future expenses. The other nonprofits operate close to the same percentages. These three companies are continually competing for our business. These premiums would be lower if Medicare (a government plan) would pay the full costs billed by your doctor and hospital.

So a government run program, which is $38 trillion in debt, which is going to have to be paid for by our children, is not paying its fair share. Do you really want Congress, which has a 28 percent approval rating, to make decisions about your health care?

There are problems in our health care system that the Democrats don’t want to address. They are:

1. Tort reform. The trial lawyers make huge amounts of money suing doctors and hospitals and there are unreasonable settlements.

2. The ability for insurance companies to cross state lines.

3. The ability for insurance to underwrite prospects for risk like our car insurance. It is usually an “accept” or “reject” if a person has a medical problem. Let the government subsidize those people who are uninsurable or are high risks. That spreads the costs to all taxpayers.

4. Provide incentives for health lifestyles. Give lower premiums to people who don’t smoke, control their weight and are not substance abusers.

5. Encourage the use of technology to lower costs.

6. Provide government assistance to those people who want to enter the medical field. Today, the average debt that a doctor has after completing medical school is $140,000.

7. Encourage people to use medical savings accounts. This has a dramatic affect in lowering health cost

Yes, the Democrats who are in control could encourage the private sector to do a better job of lowering and controlling health care costs, but they have to put away their philosophy of government ownership. The United States did not become the best place to live in the world by having the government controlling everything in our lives.

Al Arends is the chairman of the Freeborn County Republican Party.