Rest of the Story

So, what’s the deal with repealing Obamacare? Liberals are already shrieking it’s just not that simple. NPR says, “To get a true repeal and replace through, (Donald Trump) needs 60 votes in the Senate. That’s the minimum number of votes needed to overcome a filibuster.” Trump, most likely, is nine votes short.

Pat Merriman

Likely, “repeal” is not the correct verb anyway since he can “modify” this pile of poo by executive order. Since Obama “used his pen and his phone” for this original project, that’s certainly tempting for Mr. Trump who’s already provided a laundry list of changes that would help.

So, what’s the real problem? Unfortunately, Obama committed one of the cardinal sins of politics — you can’t “give” ‘em something and, then, take it away. Nature abhors a vacuum. And, as of today, about 20 million people signed onto this train wreck to avoid paying penalties and, now, according to the CDC, only 8.9 percent DON’T have, at least, major medical coverage. That means 91 percent of us are hanging in the wind!

Tweaking Obamacare aside, the root problem of the health care cost crisis in America is even more profound — supply versus demand. Health care is a commodity which, until 1972, was, by and large, private doctors with private offices and privileges at charity hospitals. The emphasis was on patient care.

Then, an unholy alliance between President Richard Nixon and Sen. Ted Kennedy culminated with the amendment of the Public Health Services Act of 1944 creating, for the first time, health maintenance organizations (HMOs) on Dec. 29, 1973. The result? Health Care became a for-profit business. Corporations which have contributed millions to political candidates to achieve their monopoly.

Of course, health care costs exploded. As reported by Consumer Reports, today “health care in the U.S. costs about twice as much as it does in the rest of the developed world.” Three TRILLION dollars. And, since insurance companies are also “for profit,” even if you have good insurance, somebody has to eat those premium increases too when the carrier spreads the risk (cost) across the insured pool.

“Since 2000, incomes have barely kept up with inflation and insurance premiums have more than doubled. The average employer family health plan that cost companies $6,438 per staffer in 2000 shot up to $16,351 by 2013. That’s money that could have gone into your paycheck but didn’t because your employer had to spend it on your health insurance instead.”

It really stinks in rural states like North Dakota — no private practitioners and, the patient is forced, like cattle through the chute, into clinics where “newer and more expensive treatments, even when there’s no evidence they’re any better … the medical industrial complex continues going for as much gold as it can … Why do just one test when you can bill for three?” There’s no real competition and most patients lack the sophistication to be their own advocate.

As consumers, we pay for health care by the piece and, “up to 30 percent of the care provided in this country is unnecessary, according to the Congressional Budget Office.” Coupled with the absolute rape of the American public by big drug companies in their exorbitant pricing, costs have no incentive to come down.

But, before you grab the torches/pitchforks, the odds are that you either own stock, or your retirement account is invested in, HMOs or one of these other arms of the health care industry. Comic strip character Pogo may have said it best, “We have met the enemy and, he is us.” Good luck, Mr. Trump!

Pat Merriman is the Dunn County State Attorney. He is a photographer and also officiates high school and college athletics events in the area.

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