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March 15, 2006

Gross Congressional Negligence


When corporate executives commit fraud and negligence against their customers and employees, they get fired or go to jail. Every year that members of Congress delay in restructuring the Medicare and Medicaid programs to avoid facing a coming economic disaster, they are committing gross negligence against the citizens of the United States. Unfortunately, many of them get re-elected. In 2004, 99 percent of House incumbents were reelected, as were 96 percent of their colleagues in the Senate.


For over 40 years Congress has attempted to socialize health care delivery through excessive and inefficient spending on entitlement programs, and by imposing costly regulations on health care providers. Now state legislatures want to get into the act, by requiring private employers to pay a percentage of their employees’ health care costs.


The effects of the government-imposed drift toward socialized medicine are well documented.


First, government has failed to control the costs of the Medicare and Medicaid entitlement programs, causing the programs to consume a higher percentage of required federal spending each year. Incredibly, our government is adding new costs to the programs, such as the poorly structured prescription drug plan. The plan’s original projected cost was $395 billion over the first 10 years. In less than a year, the new projected cost of the drug plan now approaches $1 trillion over the first ten years.


The Heritage Foundation projects that if Congress does not change these programs structurally, the current 2.9 percent payroll Medicare tax will have to be as high as 13.4 percent to pay promised benefits. That’s more than four times what we’re paying today! The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services project that total health care spending will reach an unsustainable 20 percent of the economy by 2015.


The second negative effect of government intervention in health care delivery is that many consumers have little or no incentive to practice preventive health care. Until they are sick, too many people neglect their health. There is less motivation to eat healthy foods, exercise regularly and avoid drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse when the government promises to pay to cure self-induced afflictions. Couple the lessened incentive to live healthy lifestyles with the ease of filing baseless medical malpractice and product liability lawsuits, and there should be little surprise why our health care system is abused every day.


Though the job description of a member of Congress is to represent the best interests of the country and his or her constituents, the public is partly to blame for the dysfunction and escalating costs in our health care systems. Too many people fall for the political rhetoric from politicians of all ideological stripes that promises a long-term benefit for seemingly little individual cost. Too many of us continue to elect candidates who claim to be fiscal conservatives but lack the backbone to fix the problems once they arrive in Washington, D.C. Congress does not merely think we are stupid. Collectively, they know we are stupid enough to tolerate their gross negligence for so long.


The solutions to stemming the runaway costs, burdensome regulations and lack of individual choice in our health care system are also well documented.


First, we must convert from a system designed in the 1960s based on that era’s economy and demographics to a consumer driven health care, Medicare and Medicaid system that recognizes the rapidly changing dynamics and demographics of the 21st century economy.


Second, we must establish competition in the health care delivery systems, which will provide more efficient and inexpensive services for all consumers. We can achieve greater competition by removing the government and insurance companies as middlemen in health care decisions, allowing doctors and patients to make the choices best suited for the individual.


Finally, we must change from a system of defined benefits to a system of defined contributions. Corporations can no longer afford the costs associated with defined-benefit health-care plans, and the nation can no longer afford the never-ending costs associated with defined benefit entitlement programs.


The best solution is to put control of health care costs back in the hands of individual consumers and remove the barriers to greater competition. Consumers will have more incentive to control their health and health care dollars, and health care providers will have to deal with less bureaucratic paperwork.

Although I strongly believe we should scrap the entire income tax code and replace it with a national consumption tax, until that time, individuals should be allowed the same insurance premium deductions employers enjoy. Allowing individuals to deduct the cost of their insurance premiums, and contribute to their health savings account with pre-tax dollars, will expand consumer choice and stimulate competition. The result will be lower health care costs for everyone.

The health care and Social Security entitlement programs that comprise the majority of government spending are antiquated and broken, just like the static assumptions on which they were based. Worse yet, our government has created entitlement-demand in far too many citizens, and far too many politicians are willing to meet their demands in exchange for reelection.


Our nation’s economic infrastructure is being destroyed by congressional negligence. The public must not continue to be negligent in demanding change.


© 2006 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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