If you are seeking the winner of the final debate you should ask the pundits or you can tune into this week’s episode of America’s Healthcare Challenge for my take. If you polled the average American the next day at the water cooler, their response would probably have included a collection of either the Chicago Bears, San Francisco Giants or if they actually watched the debate maybe Israel.
The Presidential candidates have concluded their third and final debate of the 2012 campaign and the vice-presidential candidates have battled in an entertaining under-card, but what are the key takeaways? Did we learn anything at all?
I would argue no and the real loser in all of this is the consumer of healthcare in this country. For the record that will officially be all of us after January 1, 2014. The issue of healthcare is a broad term used to include entitlement spending, the number one driver to our national debt, the Affordable Care Act which aside from Medicare is the largest piece of public policy passed in American history, Health Insurance and other associated issues.
One would think the four and a half hours agreed upon for debates would be ample time to have an adult conversation about 1/6 of our economy.
Aside from well-rehearsed talking points from both sides, the Affordable Care Act was devoid from most of the conversation, particularly the second debate which featured weak questions and a format I felt favored politics over policy. Where was the conversation about rising healthcare costs squeezing the bottom lines of businesses?
Missing in action.
Governor Romney hammered home the idea of repeal and replace at every opportunity including the foreign policy debate, but the appropriate response should be how? At what point in a Romney administration could such an accomplishment take place as we face a fiscal cliff, enormous debt and changing tax policies beginning in 2013? I do not believe there are enough hours in the day with a Congress that only works three days a week at best.
The President danced around the issue of health reform and only highlighted some of the popular provisions of the bill which reflects his name. The problem is they make up only a small portion of the bill. Someone should ask President Obama or Governor Romney for that matter, what one thing he would change in the legislation. It is a 2,000 page monster so I am sure they can find something.
Since the candidates did not give the electorate fair treatment by answering the real questions, here are three takeaways you should know about healthcare prior to November 6th.
First, we spend way too much for healthcare in this country. Twice any industrialized nation and our outcomes are sub-par on several issues like preventable mortality. Our system encourages volume over value meaning payments are made on what is called a fee for service basis and the Affordable Care Act takes some steps in changing the ways healthcare is delivered. They are just the beginning to scratch the surface of a required national effort to reform our fragmented healthcare system.
Second, the health reform law only dabbles in cost containment. Future solutions will be desirable. Congress should be more specific in spelling out new policies due to the inefficiencies of the executive branch. Possible opportunities include new care delivery models and innovative ways for management of chronic disease. However, at some point we are also going to have to also change human behavior and take personal responsibility for our own health.
Finally, a serious conversation needs to be had about entitlement spending on programs like Medicare and Medicaid. They are threatening to bankrupt this nation and future generations will pay disproportionate amounts for benefits they may not enjoy. Politics aside, Medicare is broke and needs to be fixed.
Share your latest ideas on how to fix Medicare and other parts of our troubled healthcare system with me every Saturday morning on my weekly radio program America’s Healthcare Challenge on Omaha News Radio 1110 KFAB. For the latest podcast check out the show webpage on KFAB.com or by clicking here.
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