Cartoon: Cox and Forkum.
This is an extract from an article by Steve Maloney, on some of the real competition that is entering the US healthcare system. Unfortunately this is happening just as the Obama administration is preparing to bring the whole system under the cold grey umbrella of the state. A bright, vibrant, competitive, and innovative industry will end up as a universal drab sameness, with the state doing to medicine what Barney Frank did to finance.
Obama has "set aside" $684 billion for his health care plan. How he arrived at that number -- why not $685 billion? -- We aren't told. We also haven't been informed what it will be used for. In other words, it sounds a whole lot like the original "TARP," with its $700 billion urgently needed for . . . something or other.Steve Maloney is a political activist and writer, who taught English and American literature (and writing) at Wm. & Mary and the University of Georgia. He worked as a speechwriter for many huge companies -- Phillips Petroleum, Gulf Oil, USX (U.S. Steel), Aetna, Merck, Lilly, and many others. He has written two books and is engaged in writing two others.
On health care, I used to make a tongue-in-cheek comment: "If we put Wal-Mart in charge of American health care, costs would go down . . . and service would go up." Well, Wal-Mart has been in the health care business for a while. It now offers some 400 generic (prescription) drugs for $4 each.
A number of other drug providers, including Target and Giant Eagle, a food and pharmacy concern in my area, have followed suit. In fact, Giant Eagle was giving away certain anti-infection drugs (generic penicillin) for . . . free.
In fact, mail order houses, like the one my wife and I use, have followed suit by making ALL generics available for zero co-payment. That saves my wife and me approximately $900 a year -- and strikes a major blow for keeping the nation's health costs down.
When it comes to health care -- and pharmaceuticals are a big part of it -- you really can't do much better than free. Of course, Wal-Mart also offers vision care and glasses at super-competitive prices. Thus, right after you're buying groceries at the best prices in town, you can stop by conveniently and pick out a new pair of spectacles.
Wal-Mart has also come up with a new cost-cutting, service-enhancing program. At a growing number of locations, it offers "virtual care" (using web cams). A man or woman comes in and is greeted by a Para-medic, who excels at things like popping thermometers in their mouths and taking their blood pressure.
The patient and paramedic are on video, seen by a doctor who's also visible. The physician monitors the actions of the paramedic, asks relevant questions, makes diagnoses, and prescribes medications. The doc could do it from home in his shorts if he so desired.
The "virtual physician" visits cost $59. That's $16 or more less than in my relatively low-cost area (western Pennsylvania). My friend in Staten Island tells me that regular doctor's office visits there can exceed $150. That's $91-plus more than Wal-Mart is charging. Do I hear the words, "Wal-Mart, go nationwide?"
What's going on . . . and not just at Wal-Mart? What we're seeing (with generic drugs and "virtual" physician care) is . . . innovation . . . and competition. The latter is something, which has been largely lacking in the health care business for a long time.
What are Obama's plans for competition, which is so essential to driving down costs and increasing the quality of care? Surely you jest. Obama has plans to spend a huge amount of money on something or other -- after which we fear "the health problem" will be no closer to a solution.
Under the Obama Plan, in fact, the main issue confronting sick people will be which happens first: either they get to see the doctor . . . or the line is too long, and they die.
Thus, my Republican friends, my solution remains: to put Wal-Mart (or at least its business model) in charge of health care. And this time I'm not saying that tongue-in-cheek. If we go in that direction, Obama may just be able to return the $684 billion to grateful taxpayers, who will then go spend it on houses, cars, and vacations, thus ending the recession.
On Monday? I put back on my Superman cape . . . and solve the education problem . . . again, in a low-cost, high-impact, pain-free way. I hope everyone in Washington, DC, is paying attention for a change.