Saturday, March 12, 2011

"docdano. com Live" Protesting in Wisconsin: Is Obamacare at the root of the debate?

I spoke last night to a group of young physicians at a venue across the street from the Wisconsin State Capitol at the height of the protest against the state government.

Amid the drum beats and screams of union organizers chanting how workers' rights would be eternally devastated because of the loss of collective bargaining, I lectured to a group of resident physicians on the benefits that await patients with the explosion in health care technology.

The root of the problem centers around a state, like almost all in the country, that is saddled with loss of tax revenues due to the downturn in the economy. This has resulted in massive budget deficits and hard choices.

Many states including Wisconsin have ushered in a flurry of Republicans who ran on campaigns of no new taxes, the need to cut waste and spending, and more state's rights.

So that's what the Republican Governor did from day one in office.

He first attempted to limit spending on education to trim the budget, but because of collective bargaining the negotiation of this type of decrease in the state spending was not palatable to the unions.

It didn't matter, really, because the Republicans had the votes to pass it anyway.

But instead of voting on this budgetary issue, the Democrats chose to flee to the land of Obama in Illinois to prevent the state legislature from reaching the critical number of votes to make a quorum.

For three weeks this stalled the debate and decision on the issue, until the Republicans decided to pull out the budget issues (which require the quorum) and vote instead on non-budgetary items - like collective bargaining.

So this lead to more protests.

I literally visited with hundreds of people in Wisconsin over the past week and different opinions abound from every direction.

Clearly if you are a member of the "haves" then you have no desire to give up a benefit.

That's normal.

One person told me that his daughter is a unionized teacher and she pays a whopping $23 a month for health care insurance with no deductible. Even if you factor in that there might be some requirements for her to see certain physicians in network or limitations on formulary and specialist access, this is still a bargain.

He went on tell me that the Governor's proposal would have raised this to $123 per month. I don't know if these numbers are accurate, but the change in benefit structure certainly spurred part of the protest that had national attention.

If you've read this blog before, you know that I'm not a fan of the Obamacare bill. And I think you are seeing in Wisconsin one end of the spectrum of the problems with the bill.

Let me show you why.

To pay for the extra benefits offered under the bill (like no pre-existing illness exclusion, limitations on the right of rescission of insurance if you're too sick to be in the plan, or extended coverage for children), then there will have to be either more money (read tax dollars or higher premiums) or a decline in benefits for those that are members of the "haves."

It's really that simple.

State governments who have been charged with implementing many of the provisions of the federal health care bill don't have the ability to print money or sell treasury bonds. Their only source of revenue is tax dollars.

A significant part of Obama's plan was to provide health insurance for "all Americans." And, unfortunately, a large number of the uninsured were to be covered with the under funded, limited access Medicaid system -- much of which is paid for by the states.

Finding revenue for Medicaid means that other state funded services - like education, or health benefits for teachers - have to be cut and shifted.

That is the only possible way to fund insurance for the "have nots."

I've been derided for one of my statements in the past, but I stand by it: the Obamacare health regulation was the largest transfer of wealth in American history.

So the union supported President now finds himself supporting the union backed protesters who are fighting against changes in state government that would be used to pay for the health care bill that he (and the unions) supported.

Wisconsin is only a microcosm of what is happening in every state that is now grappling with implementing the federal health legislation in a time of budget crisis.

It is an expensive bill, and now we are starting to pay the price.

I'm a big fan of expanding health care access and coverage for the "have nots." A country like the United States should be ashamed for having citizens that don't have access to quality health care. I'm just not a supporter of the big, expensive, inefficient and over-reaching federal health care bill that was passed last year.

Let's face it: the bill cost the taxpayers almost $1 trillion.

The payment for the bill is due now.

And lest you think that non-government workers will get a free ride and this is just an issue for state employees - it will filter down to every American.

As health plans shift to include the new benefits, pay the taxes and fees that are now required by the IRS, and see declining membership due to employees shifting to government subsidized insurance products there will no doubt either be an increase in your health care premiums or a reduction in your benefits.

The problem is that for many insured Americans there is no union to fight for your corporate benefits.

It will be left up to you.

One Wisconsin young man told me that maybe the Republicans should have left Congress when the health care bill was passed.

I reminded him that democracy doesn't work this way. We elect people to represent us and sometimes we win, and sometimes we lose.

I think the Obamacare bill is failure, but I believe strongly that we can keep what's good and fix what's broken. We just have to continue the debate, make compromises, and yes, probably make some sacrifices.

So it probably won't be the last protest I'll attend. Maybe next time I'll get to carry a sign...I'm not much of a drum beater.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

No comments:

Post a Comment