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This Is Sick

They aren’t doctors, they don’t even play them on TV, yet our esteemed leaders in Washington have taken out their prescription pads to fix what they think ails us. What it really sounds like is Herbert Hoover’s old campaign chestnut, “a chicken in every pot” – in other words, quality healthcare for everyone that won’t cost us a penny.

To be sure, some of what is proposed will help some of the uninsured as well as some of the underinsured who face chronic health problems. But is the cure worse than the disease? Based on what is currently proposed, we get very little real-time reform at the cost of both our economic future and as the leading country in innovative and life-saving medical technology and pharmaceutical breakthroughs.

If the purpose is to lower costs and increase competitiveness in the health insurance market, a provision should be included to allow for the purchase of health insurance over state lines. And no cost reform can be obtained without significant tort reform. A federal health care plan should limit frivolous lawsuits against health care providers to prevent fraud and free up our legal system. Shouldn’t we start with some of the basics before we launch into a massive new bureaucracy with 110 new federal panels and commissions?

Instead, what we get is a tax on Botox, heart valves and hip replacements.

In the current version of the Senate health care bill, a new fee would be levied on the sale of medical devices and diagnostics. As currently structured, the fee would be apportioned based on market share. However, the sliding exemption for companies with less than $25 million in annual revenue will concentrate the tax on the remaining companies and devices. This will be a crushing economic blow to many companies here in Orange County, home to the largest conglomeration of medical device manufacturers in the county.

A better way to reduce costs and make procedures and drugs more available and affordable would be to streamline the regulatory and market entry process. Enabling products and technology to reach the market faster through a simpler, yet no less stringent review process, would help drive down costs of bringing a product to market. Forcing bio-medical, pharmaceutical, and medical device manufacturing companies to conform to a mandated reduction in price, without any corresponding reporting or regulatory relief will likely mean less spending on innovation and fewer choices for the consumer. How exactly are we improving health care when the action proposed would cripple the very industries that advance health care through new treatments and products?

What does this mean for the future quality of health care in this country? Well, maybe we should take that “chicken” they are promising and make a healthy soup out of it.


Posted on December 4, 2009


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