The Real Election Issues
September 21, 2004
Health Care and Social Security.
Almost twelve years have elapsed President and Mrs. Clinton stumped for national health care insurance... something that just about every other industrialized nation in the world provides. There was major concern at that time over the double-digit rates of rise in medical costs in the U. S. Of course, it didn't pass, and health costs have continued to escalate at a double-digit rate.
In the years leading up to the year 2000, there was a lot of concern about the financial crisis facing Social Security once the Baby Boomers begin to retire in 2008.
You don't hear much about either of these problems anymore, except for the fact that more than 40,000,000 U. S. citizens have no health insurance (including one of our daughters and her husband) In the meantime, cost containment measures taken by insurance companies and Medicare have changed the medical landscape in the United States. A great, great deal more paperwork is said to be required on the part of medical providers. Many doctors will no longer take Medicare patients. But were these medical and Social Security problems real or were they just media hype?
.An article in the news yesterday mentioned that medical insurance costs have jumped about 60% in the past three years, or more than 5 times the rate of inflation. Small companies are having an especially difficult time paying for medical insurance, shfting ever more of the cost to their employees.
I predict that these problems are quietly getting worse and worse, with a day of reckoning coming soon... the day when the binge is over, and the cold light of a dark, gray day dawns when it's time to sober up and face some troubling realizations.
Why are health care prices escalating so dramatically? We live across from the now-gigantic Huntsville Hospital medical complex. Forty-five years ago, when the population of Huntsville (and North Alabama) was nearly as large as it is today, Huntsville Hospital consisted of a four-story brick building perhaps 100 feet by 50 feet. Today, it is sprawling medical complex perhaps 2,500 feet on a side, loaded with five-to-ten-story buildings. The original brick hospital has been replaced by a six-story main hospital perhaps 800 feet by 400 feet in size. Another 320-foot X 200-foot five-story Women's and Children's Hospital has been added across the street. There are also numerous other high-rise buildings for various specialized areas pof medicine, together with parking garages, medical offices, and labs.
In 1959, the only dermatologist in town practiced in Huntsville two days a week, and spent the other three days working in three surrounding towns. Today, there are 10 full-time dermatologists in town. In 1959, there was one hematologist who doubled as an oncologist. Today, there are at least 15 full-time oncologists. I mentioned this to a hospital staff member, who explained that Huntsville Hospital has become a regional medical center. I learned the next day that another regional medical center has developed about 40 miles south of here, with other regional hspitals in other directions. Of course, the main medical centers continue to be at Vanderbilt 100 miles north of us, the Univeristy of Alabama in Birmingham 100 miles south of here, the major clinics in Memphis, Tennessee, 100 miles west of here, and Atlanta, 100 miles southeast of here.
Huntsville Hospital is municipally owned and operated. There is also a large private hospital complex (Crestwood Hospital) about two miles away.
I have read that a little over four trillion dollars in additional indebtedness has been added to the U. S. national debt since the Clinton administration balanced the budget. Most of this indebtedness is aimed at cutting taxes to stimulate the economy in time for this election, and at military and security functions. None of it has been earmarked for health care or Social Security. Congress is now raiding the Social Security trust fund. Who knows what's happening there? In the meantime, a lot of Baby Boomers must have lost money when the 90's stock market bubble collapsed. It takes a great deal of capital to finance a retirement. The first Baby Boomers will reach 62 in 2008. The problem when you grow older is that most employers want to hire someone younger, who, among other things, costs less. Many of these Baby Boomers may not have enough money to retire, but they may not have a job, either.Heigh, de ho!
The art of the con consists of diverting your victims' attention from the swindle you're setting up to some other attention-getting activity until the trap is set.
To Be Continued