THE BATTLE LINES ARE DRAWN

These two excerpts appeared recently in the ACC News Digest:

The Los Angeles Times (4/29, Mason, Hamburger) reports, “The battle over the future of Medicare and the federal budget has been joined unusually early by independent political groups, providing an indication of the large role they are likely to play in the 2012 campaign and beyond.” Liberals and conservatives last week “spent close to $1 million on broadcast ads in three dozen swing congressional districts. All of the ads focused on the Republican proposal to reduce the federal deficit by narrowing the government’s commitment to pay for seniors’ healthcare under Medicare; the GOP plan would also reduce federal spending on Medicaid, which primarily serves the poor and needy seniors receiving long-term care.”

CMS Administrator Donald Berwick discusses the current debate over Medicare and its impact on the US deficit in a Wall Street Journal (4/29, Subscription Publication) op-ed. Berwick says that the Medicare plan passed by the House, which would increase seniors’ healthcare costs, is not the right way. Instead, he argues that improving the quality of care will help to reduce costs in the long run. He adds that the healthcare law contains the tools necessary to improve quality. For instance, the law includes a provision which would help healthcare workers reduce medical errors and keep patients safe.

Not surprisingly, the liberal contingent of the ruling class stresses the hardship of regular folks, especially the seniors and the poor, attendant to proposed funding cuts and argues for vagaries such as “improving the quality of medical care” and “reducing medical errors.” Who’s not for that? And we’re all for reducing spending, as long as they don’t take away our personal benefits or increase our out-of-pocket costs.

It’s more than disingenuous, it’s dishonest, for those in power, and the rest of us who have been paying attention, to not admit that it’s mandatory and inevitable that a paradigm shift occur that will lead to more personal health care expenses and less care. Now, “less” doesn’t always have to mean “worse,” as I’ve pointed out in many a prior rant, since there’s so much needless imaging and care being provided. However, in a utopian world in which all the fat from the system is cut, right to the glistening, well-toned muscle, I predict we would still have difficult decisions to make regarding health care rationing. There are simply too many living too long due to improvements in medical management (despite less healthful lifestyles) and too many new, expensive stop-gap measures, for it to be otherwise. Unfortunately, these decisions will not be made while a “don’t take mine, take theirs” mentality exists.

Some of you may believe that the new health care law is the answer. From what I’ve seen of it, it’s more of the same “kick the can down the road” politicking. But maybe I’m wrong … Nah!

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