John Kerry’s Weak Health Care Plan Could Use A New Perspective

As rising costs of care and coverage threaten doctors and patients, the time for reform of American healthcare is drawing near. Like most liberal thought, John Kerry’s health care plan is grandiose on paper but impractical in reality. Additionally, Kerry misses the mark by focusing on insurance coverage for all Americans instead of attacking the real problem of rising care and insurance costs. First, Kerry’s plan promises to be absurdly expensive – in the neighborhood of $900 billion funded through tax dollars. Although Kerry plans to raise this by rolling back President Bush’s tax breaks for the richest two percent of Americans, analysts say this is not enough. Plus, this figure is only a starting point. Big programs have a tendency to balloon from their sticker price over time (think Social Security or Medicare). Another problem with Kerry’s plan to subsidize various health care costs is removing bargaining power from patients and handing it to the government. This move towards socialized medicine will reduce the quality of care as it has in other countries with such a system. Prices will continue to rise because both insurer and hospital are guaranteed payment in full. To boot, a wide range of new regulations will be introduced to standardize the necessity of care (think HMOs) – creating a greater burden for everybody involved.In truth, Kerry misleads the populace by raving about the 44 million Americans without health insurance. Included within that number are those who are eligible for government or company sponsored coverage but don’t even bother to take it and those who have the necessary fiscal means but choose not to buy coverage. After accounting for these groups, the number of Americans without access to health coverage is closer to 10 million (about 3.5 percent). This takes the punch out of Kerry’s notion that coverage is a dire problem. Outside of Kerryland, the problem with American health care is not coverage but cost. As malpractice suits have grown in volume and cost, they now threaten doctors’ ability to practice – while lining the pockets of attorneys (think John Edwards). However, action can be taken to discourage frivolous suits. For example, after California limited attorney fees by a scaled percentage and capped “pain and suffering” awards, it experienced a drop in malpractice awards by 30 percent from 1995-1999.Insurance companies’ ability to dictate the price of services to hospitals is another problem. Over time, they pinch hospitals until they can barely operate (around one-third are actually losing money) and are forced to continually raise their prices. This solution is more complex, but buying power needs to shift back towards the patient – which will increase competition for services and naturally lower prices. The Bush administration has already begun acting on these ideas by giving Americans the option of buying and controlling their own health insurance, saving tax-free income towards health care and by pooling small companies together to obtain more affordable coverage rates.There is little doubt that health care is headed down a perilous road. John Kerry’s plan will not solve health care’s real problem of cost and only promises to increase inefficiency and red tape in an already complex system. True improvement will likely be rendered through a series of specific small changes, not sweeping subsidies that jeopardize quality of care and the rights of patients and doctors.