Washington’s Trillion Dollar Health Fix

In My Opinion
by Tony Cirillo, MD
Emergency Physicians Monthly

Healthcare Reform: What’s really going to happen when Capitol Hill runs emergency medicine

By now most people believe that some kind of comprehensive healthcare reform is going to happen this year. Although I’m sure that there are some real idealists in Washington who believe in the concept of some “nirvana-like” healthcare system, keep in mind that everything that happens in DC is ultimately about money, power, and votes for re-election. While the final version of comprehensive healthcare reform is still taking shape, what is clear is that there are few key players in Congress who are going to drive the healthcare reform ship…and that there are clearly going to be winners and losers when the dust finally settles. What is also clear is that unless Congress or the White House somehow develops some intestinal fortitude, no one is going to fix the ultimate problem with healthcare spending. There are going to be more Americans, older Americans, who all will want everything when it comes to their own healthcare…and we are going to get stuck with the bill.

Given that the Democrats control the White House and both houses of Congress, they are clearly going to be “in charge” of healthcare reform. There is no doubt that the Democrats, especially the President, have learned from the mistakes of the Clinton administration, and are making every effort to at least give the appearance of being more inclusive with input from providers, insurers, and the business community as the future of healthcare, and your career, is defined. However, will Senator Kennedy (who sponsored a single payer, government run, universal healthcare plan in the early 70’s) and the rest of the Dems play nice and allow real Republican input or will they take their majorities and do what they will?

So how will this promised legislation play out? After the many healthcare bills and amendments are sponsored by various members of Congress, it is likely that a single bill, supported by the Senate leadership, will be introduced in the Senate sometime in June. A companion bill will follow closely in the House. These bills will be “debated” with each body passing a bill before the August recess. During the recess and the fall, there will be a conference committee established between the House and Senate to work out differences in their respective bills and a “compromise” bill will be sent to the President’s desk before the end of 2009.

Sounds easy, right? Sure, except for one small detail. The President and Congress have no way to pay for this more than $1 trillion (that’s right, trillion with a “t”) ten-year healthcare plan. In the upcoming budget year (2009), the United States of America will actually have to borrow more than 50% of the money needed to fund the federal budget. That’s right, pretty soon China may just end up owning a majority stake in our little piece of the world.

The doctor’s editorial continues here.

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