Monday, June 2, 2008

Best Wishes, Ted Kennedy

I begin this with a sincere wish that Senator Kennedy recovers from the surgery to remove his brain tumor. I disagree with him politically on nearly everything we could discuss, but that doesn't mean I want him to go through such a horrible medical condition. May his recovery be speedy, and may the surgery prove totally successful. In the real world, cancer is a bigger enemy to me than any liberal politician, even the most liberal.

I'm glad he was able to get the excellent medical treatment that he got. I wish you, the reader, could get it too. Unfortunately, there is a great gap between you and Mr. Kennedy. He will not see even a small dent in his rather substantial bank account, because, you see, he has an excellent health care policy. Only the best hospitals for him. The health insurance policy that covers his medical expenses was paid for by you and me. He's over ten years past medicare eligibility, but he won't need it. He's got you paying his health care costs.

Supposedly, he and Hillary both want to give you the same excellent coverage. Let me warn you that, even with good intentions, neither of them can deliver. If Hillary's health care is made a reality (and Obama will probably let her have a free hand if he is elected), we won't get anything like Ted Kennedy's coverage.

We won't get to select the finest hospital, first. Our place of medical care will be limited to whatever the government has decided it will be. Secondly, we should not expect the speed and efficiency that Mr. Kennedy has been blessed with. Under Hillary's health care, your tumor in your head might get attention in three or four months, and then, at some local center that Uncle Sam has chosen for you.

One reason that our elected officials are so far removed from anything realistic regarding health care is because they have been shielded all their congressional lives from the daily horror of medical costs and red tape. If 535 men and women in our capitol building were suddenly given the same options that we have, they might be drawing up totally different bills from the ones they are suggesting now.

I'll venture that Mr. Kennedy would not have gotten nearly as good treatment with nearly as good a prognosis as he got this morning, if he were blessed with the health care proposals on the table by Mr. Obama and Ms. Rodham/Clinton. Mr. Kennedy might be in a bind right now.

But what they're proposing will be good enough for you. The waiting, the paperwork, the underfunding, the substandard treatments, all of that is okay for you.

I am amazed that I cannot find a congress-person, on either side of the aisle, who knows that Health Care and Insurance are two different worlds. Mr. McCain has the same problem. I live in the real world, and realize that the reason insurance rates are so high and cover so little is because hospitalization and medical costs are astronomical and unrealistic.

The only answer to reforming health care is not using public money and higher taxes to pay for insurance for everyone. That will only drive medical costs higher, and close more small hospitals, and crowd more emergency rooms, delay time for medical treatment, and bankrupt more families, who must exchange financial security for a couple more years of life.

What we need is a congressional group who is willing -- and courageous -- enough to find out why:
  • Why does it cost more per day to stay in a rural hospital room than it does to get an exterior cabin on a luxury cruise ship?
  • Why does a box of kleenexes in a hospital room cost 75 dollars?
  • Why does any type of surgery cost more than the average American makes in six months, and crucial surgeries cost more than the average American makes in three years?
  • Why are over 80% of all medical bills in error, almost always in favor of the medical institution?
  • Why is it common policy for medical institutions to bill both the patient and the insurance company, and if they collect from both, not have the obligation to notify either of the double billing?
  • Why are hospitals constantly losing money, yet we usually have to walk around new construction to get to the wings where we visit our loved ones?

I could name others, but that's a start. I think one reason is, most of the 535 elected officials in the Capitol building do not even know that these things are happening. They have a cover-all comprehensive medical policy -- funded by you -- that takes care of itself. It is a bottomless, limitless source of money that can easily pay for a 12 dollar tylenol tablet or a six dollar bar of dial soap.

When you multiply a policy like that by 535, and look at the base of say, 100 million taxpayers, it works. But when you multiply that coverage by 300 million Americans, and keep the same base of people who actually pay taxes, the math breaks down. There is no way it can work.

I'm glad Senator Kennedy received the best of medical treatment. I am equally glad that his outlook is good. He may outlive me; one, because the press says he is a 'real fighter,' and also, because if I get a brain tumor I won't be able to afford what he got for free that I helped pay for.

I have a crazy idea that I know will never happen, but it would work. If every American would cancel all health insurance tomorrow, hospital and medical prices would grudgingly have to settle back into fair market competitive levels, and appendicitis would not be a cause of bankruptcy. We might even see some communities of less than 5,000 that could have their own hospitals again, like they used to be able to do when everyone paid his own medical expenses.

Best wishes, Senator Kennedy. May you live to be a hundred. And in your remaining 20+ years, may you get out a little bit and realize what real people have to face every day. We're not asking for the luxurious health care that you have due to your hard work and years of service to your district. We just want something we can afford.

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