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Vail Valley Voices: Questions worth asking about health care reform

Ninety percent of the American public has health insurance; and according to surveys, 80 percent of us are happy with that insurance.

So why is President Obama trying to inject big government into every aspect of health care when the vast majority of us are satisfied?

There’s no question the system needs modification. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Obama’s plan isn’t about improving the cost and delivery of health care. Rather, it is little more than a vote-getting pander to specific segments of society and special interests.

If national health care is really such great deal, why hasn’t Congress opted to include themselves and the president’s family in the plan? For a president whose vision of America is based on the notion of “fairness,” what could be fairer than to enroll his own family in the plan he wants for us? Is it really fair that Barack Obama’s daughters will have 24 carat gold health care while our daughters face inevitable rationing?

And speaking of rationing, the president needs to explain exactly how putting 46 million more people into a system (not all of whom will be legal residents of the United States) without increasing the number of health-care professionals won’t cause rationing.

Of equal importance is the personal responsibility factor in this bill: There isn’t any!

Is it fair to obligate those who take care of themselves through regular medical checkups, proper diet and exercise to pay the medical expenses for those living a profligate lifestyle? Should we be obligated to pay maternity benefits for the unmarried 17-year-old having her fourth child with as many fathers, or the 350 pound crack addict from New Orleans who lives on a diet of cocaine, alcohol and Big Macs?

These are the sort of instances that will create the need for rationing and will eventually bankrupt the system.

But perhaps the most pernicious aspect of nationalized health care is the “Qualified Adjusted Years Remaining” provision. This provision is similar to the “Quality Adjusted Life Year” that’s been adopted by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in Great Britain.

The British have been praised for spending half as much per capita on medical care as we do. But how they do it and what we are on the verge of adopting should be unsettling to anyone who has advanced beyond middle age.

Qualified Adjusted Years Remaining is a simple concept. Let’s say a 70-year-old and a 30-year-old both need hip replacements. Under the provisions of the health-care bill as written, a government bureaucrat will determine the life expectancy of each individual. For illustrative purposes, let’s assume it to be 80 years. The bureaucrat would then take the cost of the hip replacement (we can use $100,000 as an example) and divide by the estimated number of years remaining in each of person’s life.

In the instance of the 70-year-old, the $100,000 would be divided by 10 (the number of years he or she is expected to live), giving us an “adjusted cost” of $10,000 per year. Meanwhile, in the case of the 30-year-old, the adjusted cost computes to be only $2,000 per year ($100,000 divided by 50 years.)

Due to rationing, the government will have no choice but to mandate protocols predicated on a cost-benefit continuum. For example, assume the government guidelines for hip replacements mandate that the procedure cannot exceed an “adjusted cost” of $5,000 per year. Guess who is going to receive a hip replacement and who is not?

This bill needs work. Step 1 should be a commitment from the president and the Congress to exchange their gold-plated health-care plans for the one they’re foisting upon us. Why? Because there’s no other way to ensure that health-care delivery will be improved without rationing.

There’s a term for politicians who are unwilling to play by the same rules they demand the rest of us play by — hypocrites!

Quote of the day: “The essence of immorality is the tendency to make an exception of ourselves” — John Adams

Butch Mazzuca is an Edwards resident.


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