Senator Tom Coburn on Healthcare Reform

At the Northeast Conservative Conference of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies held this past weekend at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick, I asked Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma what the Federal government’s first step towards reforming health insurance in America should be�
Senator Tom Coburn: You can’t tinker around the edges anymore. We have X-amount of resources to give to healthcare. The more of our total national income we put in healthcare, the less competitive we will be in the world. So how do we deliver healthcare best? We create a consumer driven, transparent healthcare market. The first thing we should do is pass John Shadegg and Jim DeMint’s bill so you can buy your insurance anywhere you want.
I’ll give you an example. In Oklahoma you can buy a family policy with a 500 dollar deductible for a year for 1200 bucks. That same policy costs 5900 dollars in New Jersey. Why should it cost 4 to 5 times as much? It’s because they have 155 mandates that must be covered in New Jersey. What if I don’t want to buy that?
We haven’t allowed market forces to allocate resources. That requires some changes. That doesn’t mean you give up state lines. The health industry is going to still have to report to the states, they will still have to pay into uncompensated funds in the states, but freedom should be given back to individual Americans. That will create innovation. That will get a lot of people insured who can’t afford to buy insurance in New Jersey today — they will have catastrophic coverage.
We’re going to be introducing something in October and November that totally reforms healthcare across the country.
What you don’t do is allow the Federal Government to try to design interoperable standards for healthcare IT, which they’ve been doing for two years to the tune of 160 million dollars and don’t have anything yet. What you do is put 3 or 4 great software companies in the country in a room and say here’s the money, go fix it and get it back to us. What they tell me is they could have something in 4 months, if we gave them 10 to 15 million dollars to do it, yet the government has already spent 2 years and 160 million dollars. Health IT is one of the places where we would save lives, cut costs, and increase innovation even further, but we’ve decided that government must design the system. Why?

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15 years ago

You guys should read BusinessWeek once in a while. You know, that commie-pinko-left-wing rag, BusinessWeek? Those corporate-types that read it are all commies, you know.
If you did, you would know that the best-run medical establishment in the USofA is the Veterans’ Administration. And the best part?
It’s pure socialized medicine.
Like, the real deal, beyond what Canada or England has.
Let me repeat that: the BEST, most efficient, most effective medical system in the whole country is SOCIALIZED medicine. The doctors, nurse, & everyone else are employees of the government.
The problem with our health care non-system is that the market has screwed it up. The corporations that run health insurance have the market cornered, and they’ve proceeded to dictate how medicine is dispensed, and, largely, to whom. No doubt NJ has more mandated coverage than OK; however, the OK insurers are telling the public what medicine is, and what it isn’t.
Out of curiousity, I wonder what the average out-of-pocket cost is to an OK resident (after the “insurance” has paid its share) vs the OOP in NJ. Want to bet the OK resident pays a whole bunch more?
Market forces? Sorry. Socialized medicined beats it hands down.
BTW, the article on the VA is in either the 7/17 or 7/24 issue of BusinessWeek. That is called “evidence,” or “proof.”

15 years ago

The answer isn’t more socialism … it’s less government interference, and more free market. For every country to cite as a heathcare utopia, I can name many reasons why their systems are generally inferior to ours. They may be good on the small stuff, but it you need major work done, no one beats the USA. Right now, we have a system that stifles innovation, drives up prices, and doesn’t really work well for anyone (except of course, shareholders).

15 years ago

Did you read the article? The VA is the best, most efficient, most cost-effective medical system in the country.
It’s the “free market” “systems” that don’t work.
And there is no health care utopia. Get real. However, the US spends more money than anyone else, and gets mediocre (that’s being generous) results. The British spend much less, but lower-class Britons are generally healthier than upper-class Americans. And the correlation between class/income level is well established. That is, the higher your income, the better your health–within the same health-care system.
So, Tom, basically you are flat wrong. Our system is the bad example. You cite urban legends, not facts. The myth of waiting lines (tried to get an appointment with a dermatoligist lately?) and inferior care are, to be blunt, not true.
The truth, as shown by many, many studies is that universal health care works better and costs less than the mess we’ve created. There may be bad aspects to the various systems, but, overall, they perform way, way better at half or a quarter the cost.

15 years ago

Tom, look. You make assertions based on orthodox theory. You have no facts to back up your contention. The only thing that market-based health care would accomplish is the complete destruction of American health care. So few people would be able to pay that doctors would drop out of the market in droves, driving the price up, not down. What do you think would happen if you had to pay full-freight for care? If you want to answer that, look at the bankruptcy stats. Prior to the change in the law, over half of all declared bankruptcies involved medical expenses. Because people can’t afford to pay for coverage. If they can’t pay for it now, how will that change? Is the cost of an MRI, or a blood test, or rent on the building suddenly going to drop because of “market forces”? No. What will happen is that doctors don’t get paid, providing a huge disincentive for people to enter the profession. It’s already happening with thoracic surgeons (Per a report on Nightly Business Report, 7/6/06) because the Medicare reimbursement payments have been SLASHED so drastically. I’ll repeat: the gov’t has CUT reimbursement. Kind of undercuts your contention about prices rising because of gov’t interference, doesn’t it? And remember, median wages are stagnating, so it’s not like people are moving up the social scale, either. And, the universal coverage schemes in various countries all cost way, way less than our system. How do you square that with your ‘free market’ mantra? The gov’t in other countries has interfered much more than it has here and the prices for their services has gone DOWN. Again, how to square that with your ‘free market’ orthodoxy? All this stuff about the market is nothing more than a belief, completely unsupported by facts. Again,… Read more »

15 years ago

If I’m wrong, why is our infant mortality rate somewhere below that of Cuba? Why do we spend so much more than the British and get much worse results? Why do we spend so much more on health care than every other county, including those with with universal coverage and rank something like 50th in life expectancy? Can you answer those questions? Can you address those questions? They are very simple. I am providing data to support my point. Refute it with data. Until you can provide something like evidence, then my points stand. All you do is tell me I’m wrong, without citing anything but market theory. And what does Tim Leary have to do with this? Stick to the point, and present some data, please. Prove to me that Canadians have longer waiting lines, etc. That’s the Rush Limbaugh talking point. Problem is, it ain’t true. We have rationing. We have waiting lines. Rationing: people with good jobs get all the coverage they want. People without go to the emergency room when a something that could have been treated with $3 worth of antibiotics is now life-threatening. Waiting Lines: try getting an appointment with a specialist in anything less than three months. Shortages: remember the flu vaccine fiasco in Canada two years ago? Oh, wait, that was here in the US. What exactly are we better at, other than spending more and getting less. Wow, what a bargain. And you mentioned how cheap medicine was prior to the Medicare in the 1960s.. Um, let’s see…the increase in prices couldn’t have anything to do with the increase in technology, could it? No, of course not. MRIs don’t cost more than X-rays, do they? Arthoscopic surgical equipment is just as cheap as a regular scalpel, isn’t it? I demonstrated that… Read more »

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