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June 17, 2009

The fall'll probably kill ya!

Kevin E. Dayhoff

On Monday, the ever-perpetual campaigner in chief, President Barack Obama, took his health care reform road show to Chicago for a 55-minute speech before the American Medical Association’s annual convention.


And just last week, he campaigned for his health care reform initiative in a town-hall meeting in Green Bay, WI.


Writing in The Washington Post last Thursday, Ceci Connolly reported that the Green Bay “event, coupled with a speech to the American Medical Association on Monday, represents a fresh push by the White House to sell the public on legislation that could dramatically alter how care is given and paid for in this country.”


In an article, “The Cost Conundrum,” in The New Yorker; Atul Gawande said what has become abundantly clear to most everyone who has read anything about the subject – but is nevertheless, worth re-stating:


“Our country’s health care is by far the most expensive in the world. In Washington, the aim of health-care reform is not just to extend medical coverage to everybody but also to bring costs under control.


”Spending on doctors, hospitals, drugs, and the like now consumes more than one of every six dollars we earn. The financial burden has damaged the global competitiveness of American businesses and bankrupted millions of families, even those with insurance.”


To be certain, the business of health care is now considered by many American families to be the chief predator at the door, which threatens the security, health, and welfare of the very family for which it is supposed to care.


Recently The Los Angles Times ran a front-page story that noted: “Medical bills play a role in 62% of bankruptcies, study says… Findings by Harvard researchers show that medical-related bankruptcies have increased from 55% in 2001…


“Medical insurance isn't much help, either. About 78% of bankruptcy filers burdened by healthcare expenses were insured, according to the survey, to be published in the August issue of The American Journal of Medicine.”


And here’s the real kicker: “Most people who filed medical-related bankruptcies ‘were solidly middle class before financial disaster hit,’ the study says. Two-thirds were homeowners, and most had gone to college.”


However, what really worries many is that no one seems to be able to explain why it has become such a hopeless predicament and all the suggestions to fix it appear to be overkill.


An even greater enigma is the fact that in 1993, the administration of President Bill Clinton sent a resounding warning shot across the bow of the business of health care, and yet 16 years later, not only has nothing been solved, but the problems with health care delivery are worse than ever.


On Monday, the president said: “Our largest companies are suffering, as well. A big part of what led General Motors and Chrysler into trouble in recent decades were the huge costs they racked up providing health care for their workers – costs that made them less profitable and less competitive with automakers around the world.


“If we do not fix our health care system, America may go the way of GM – paying more, getting less, and going broke.”


What an unfortunate analogy on the part of the president.


If the fix for health care in the United States is anything like President Obama’s overhaul of G(overnment) Motors we are all destined for the junk-yard of humanity.


Is it possible that the president’s health care plan is anywhere near as horrific in terms of cost, government overkill, intrusion into the private sector, or of such a radical departure from past domestic public policy as the government solution for the auto industry?


Even The New York Times – a newspaper that has developed a reputation for blindly supporting anything President Obama wants – questioned in yesterday’s article:


“But as the president spoke at the annual conference of the American Medical Association in Chicago, it became clear that one of the major health plans on the table would cost at least $1 trillion over 10 years yet leave tens of millions of people uninsured.”




And then there is the matter of where in the world is yet another trillion dollars to be found?


Well, gee, let’s think about that for a moment shall we? Oh, that’s right, let’s raise taxes even more. The Times wrote: “Congress is wrestling with how to pay for Mr. Obama’s vision to extend health care to all Americans, and some lawmakers are considering tax increases and spending cuts different from the ones he has proposed.”


Ay, caramba.


No matter how you look at it, it all reminds me of two of the famous scenes in the 1969 movie classic “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”


The first scene that comes to mind is when Butch and Sundance are robbing a train and the guard refuses to open the railcar with the safe and the money.


To solve the problem, Butch decides to blow it open with dynamite. However, he uses too much and his overkill blows the railcar and the safe to smithereens.


To which Butch notes, “Well that ought to do it.” And Sundance asks, “Think ya used enough dynamite there, Butch?”


Meanwhile, as if the dynamite solution to healthcare weren’t enough to worry about, everyone is concerned with what lies at the bottom of the great cliff from which our country is about to leap in an effort to provide everyone with access to quality health care.


In the movie, Butch and Sundance find themselves in a hopeless predicament and are about to attempt to avoid their fate by making a long jump into the river far below.


At the fateful moment, Sundance hesitates and explains that he can’t swim. To which Butch laughs, “Why, you crazy – the fall'll probably kill ya!”


Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at


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