Invoking Reagan to Fix Health Care?
In the August 9 Houston Chronicle Charles Krauthammer offered some "outside of the box" thinking on health care reform. We need some more of that, but, unfortunately he is quite off the mark with many of his statements.
He suggests that the Tax Reform Act of 1986 be a model for health care reform. What? By that he meant that inefficiencies should be eliminated first thus reducing costs before any other reform should take place. Right thinking, but the trouble with that is that Reagan's tax reform, that he calls a miracle that "helped propel a 20-year economic boom", was a dismal failure for the majority of Americans.
Republicans who have canonized Reagan as the patron saint of conservatism have so desperately tried to write history to support that view. In fact, the Tax Reform that he so fondly refers to raised taxes for many Americans. The lowest tax rate was raised from 11% to 15%; some corporate taxes increased; and the deduction for consumer interest was eliminated thus making it harder on low income people. It was Reagan who began the era of deregulation and tax cuts for the rich paid for by service cuts to the poor and middle income people. That, along with a series of legislation that benefited corporations over people, initiated the disappearance of the middle class and the creation of a class of working poor that we see today. At the same time he began the cutting of maintenance to our infrastructure that has brought us to its dangerous levels of today. But that is typical conservative selective memory.
Likewise, he seems to forget that Reagan's successor, George Bush, oversaw the country go into a deep recession from which he could not recover, thus causing him to lose to Clinton in the next election. 20 year economic boom? How about 6.
Then Mr. Krauthammer goes on to state that our existing health care system is of "...extreme high quality (but inefficient and therefore expensive)...". Really? I hope he read the very Sunday Chronicle that his article was featured in so he could read about the nearly 200,000 Americans that die each year from either medical mistakes or preventable infections that occur in hospitals. And I guess he forgot about the 15% of Americans that don't have health insurance at all. How about the millions of people who are turned down for legitimate claims even though they are paid up on their premiums?
Over-prescribing is a major cause of the inefficiency as he says, but mostly it's the 20% of revenue for administrative costs that private health insurance companies have. This, by the way, compares to roughly 2% for Medicare.
He also wants to totally eliminate the entire medical malpractice system and put medical "experts" in charge of determining malpractice payouts. I think that's called letting the fox watch the hen house.
I think there is merit in some of what he says, particularly about eliminating the deductibility of employer sponsored health insurance. Although, I think this is a disappearing employee benefit because of the skyrocketing costs of providing that benefit to employees fewer and fewer employers are offering it.
Nice try, Mr. Krauthammer, but your effort at invoking Saint Ronald to fix health care was based more upon a never ending love affair with the deceased POTUS than on any true lessons to be learned from his legislative favors to his rich buddies.