Health care bill needs more time

The last time we were here, when we just had to do something, immediately, we passed a $787 billion spending bill that promised to stimulate the economy.

We know better now. It hasn’t come close to living up to its billing and won’t anytime soon.

Now, we are being told we need to overhaul 16 percent of our economy at a cost of a trillion dollars and that it must be done now – or else.

Few, even in Washington, know the full details of this mammoth bill.

We need more time for knowledgeable analysis.

The more we’ve learned in the last few days, the worse it looks.

Like it will add more to our debt, rather than save money. That’s no little difference.

We need health care reform, but reform that will work and not bankrupt us.

We need to come up with a way to cover those uninsured who can’t afford or can’t get care.

But not all uninsured are the same. And not all need the same coverage.

Some, some may argue, don’t need or deserve assistance. The best numbers I’ve seen put the total at 47 million, with 36 million of those uninsured for a year or more.

Of those, 10 million are non-citizens and half of those are illegals. As many as 2 million earn $75,000 a year. Most are 19-24 years of age.

We’re talking 15 to 17 percent of the population at most.

For the other 85 percent, we need to address the ever-increasing costs for the insured.

To reduce costs, we need to induce competition into the system, one I hesitate to call a marketplace, as it is so dominated by government spending and regulation and tax exemptions and loopholes.

Government already accounts for 50 cents of every dollar spent on health care, mainly through Medicaid and Medicare.

We are now led to believe that more government involvement will produce price-cutting competition. We are so desperate for relief that we want to believe that, evidence to the contrary.

The 800-pound gorilla known as Medicare has been paying doctors and hospitals substantially less than the private insurers for years, but that hasn’t induced competition or reduced costs. Just the opposite.

The public option of the administration’s health care proposal is modeled on Medicare. That should be enough to end the discussion, given that program’s more than $85 trillion in unfunded liabilities.

Just like that other government Ponzi scheme, Social Security.

If successful, the public option would eliminate competition, as more individuals and employers chose it and its taxpayer subsidized, cheaper premiums.

Except it won’t be cheaper, anymore than Medicare is cheaper for the people who pay taxes in this country.

We are in the midst of the worst economic dislocation in our lifetimes. It isn’t over. It could be made worse. Much worse.

Now is not the time to be burdening our struggling business with more costs, taxes and uncertainty.

We need reform. But we also need more time for more analysis of real marketplace options.

Thomas Oliver is a business columnist. He can be reached at