Friday, January 09, 2009

No Revolution for the Health Czar

As Tom Daschle was explaining his goals as the new "health czar" at a Senate confirmation hearing, one metaphor for the failed system was looking down at him from the dais.

If Ted Kennedy had been an average citizen with a brain tumor last July, he would most likely not be alive now to take part in what seems a serious attempt to confront the health-care mess that has been decades in the making.

Last summer, some medical ethicists were suggesting that Kennedy decline expensive end-of-life treatment in a system where health insurers consume one out of every three dollars for their overhead and profit. But Kennedy had the personal wealth and motivation to fight for his life, and in the coming months, will be a strong ally for the Obama Administration with Daschle leading its efforts to overhaul American health care.

In the Obama bipartisan mode, Daschle had Bob Dole at his side for the confirmation hearing and, despite his sound analysis of what’s wrong, will be trying to patch up the current system rather than scrap it and start fresh.

Unlike banks and auto makers, health insurers have not been not asking for taxpayer bailouts because they already have them. A report from the Government Accountability Office on Medicare Advantage plans shows, according to the radicals at the Wall Street Journal, that "privately administered plans are merely taxpayer-subsidized profit centers for insurers," raking in $3.36 billion in 2006.

Throughout the health care system, inefficiency and fraud are pervasive, and evidence keeps piling up not only about the uninsured but the underinsured who are going untreated in what is still the most prosperous nation in the world.

With all the upheaval over government intervention in hitherto sacredly private areas of the economy, it's well past time to take another long look at the only sane solution to health care, a single payer system that will direct dollars to doctors, hospitals and other providers rather than pencil-pushing profit centers devoted to denying treatment.

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