Find real solution for health care

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 4, 2007

President George W. Bush opened a can of worms when he touched on healthcare reform, more specifically easing insurance costs for low-income Americans, during his State of the Union Address on Jan. 23 of this year.

Since that time politicians on both sides of the aisle have adopted the issue as their own and have put forth their postulations on how the issue could best be remedied.

Bush, clinging to an issue that may provide some public support of his administration, has bitten down on the health care conundrum like a pit bull fighting for its life.

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He has continued holding the issue, much like his previous year&8217;s alternative fuel source issue, near and dear to his heart and has held several meetings on the subject allowing for further soapbox tirades.

Less than a month after his address Bush said on the topic:

At a meeting on health savings accounts a little more than a month later Bush picked up the topic once more and went further:

Following Bush&8217;s lead, politicians who have thrown their hats in the political arena for the next presidential election have taken up the baton on the issue and ran with it.

The issue could be one of the hottest topics in the presidential primaries for the big players. But, like Bush, no politician has yet come up with a plan with any substance.

Bush, for example, wants Congress to pass a measure where families purchasing basic private health insurance plans pay no income or payroll tax on $15,000 of their incomes.

For single Americans he would allow the same tax exceptions on $7,500 of the person&8217;s taxable income.

While this may sound good for those without insurance, it doesn&8217;t make sense financially for the government to undertake such a venture.

The government is already in the red, and with no end in sight to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan it would be irresponsible to add another drain on the already loaded budget.

Not to mention the fact that a Census Bureau report in 1999 showed the government already paid close to 60 percent of the National Health Expenditure.

Though the president argues for tax relief, raising taxes would be the only way to finance any type of government assistance for those without work provided insurance.

Thus, the cost of providing such assistance would inevitably fall on those without the means to pay and those who already receive insurance through work (the same Census Bureau report in 1999 stated roughly 61 percent of Americans received work provided health insurance).

Much like the president&8217;s plan, no one else touting the healthcare issue has a theory that would be financially viable.

Nor would any such a plan adequately relieve the cost of healthcare on individuals if it were funded through the monies a person gives the government.

All the talk of fixing health care, especially ones looking to ease insurance or nationalize the healthcare industry, really boils down to a bunch of smoke and mirrors meant to detract from the real problems that have driven up the cost of healthcare.

Many people will say that the increase in population has caused the recent substantial increase in medical cost, and, while that may be true in part, it is not one of the main catalysts in rising cost.

The main influences on healthcare cost can be attributed to frivolous torts and pharmaceutical oligopolies.

Like a patient, doctors must purchase insurance to protect themselves from financial ruin that can be attributed to frivolous torts.

Though doctors should be held accountable for irresponsible mistakes, they cannot prevent or remedy all situations presented to them, and the cost of insurance they purchase is at least partially passed on to patients seeking health care services.

Pharmaceutical companies in the United States are one of the few highly protected facets of the healthcare industry.

Unfortunately the protect meant to fund further research and development of new drugs allows them to corner the market on new drugs with a 20 year patent. This means individuals must pay the price asked for a drug until the patent expires and generic brands can be marketed.

Instead of taking the socialist route and directly placing itself in the health care/insurance field, the government would do better, and arguably save money, by pushing tort reform through Congress and repealing the long period patent protection of pharmaceutical companies in lieu of large government grants for breakthroughs in the industry.

Brandon Glover is a staff writer for The Times. He can be reached by e-mail to