Every taxpayer, Republican, Democrat, and Independent, loses because of Medicare waste and fraud. This should not be a party issue, we are all getting our pockets picked. The people we elect and send to Washington, for the most part, end up contributing to the problem instead of trying to solve it. Why isn’t every taxpayer outraged?
Consider just one aspect of waste, The Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement & Modernization Act of 2003. The bill was written by lawyers with the pharmaceutical industry, introduced by Billy Tauzin, R-La, and pushed hard by pharmaceutical lobbyists, using trickery, bribes, and threats to get it approved, and in the end passing it with just a two vote margin after days of arm twisting. Congressman Billy Tauzin got a sweetheart contract for life with the drug companies, amounting to millions per year for being the leader who pushed the bill through congress. The key provision of the law prohibits Medicare from using its purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices. We, the taxpayers, are being ripped off by about $14 billion per year on this single item alone. You can get the whole story on the internet by going to 60 minutes, Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act.
In addition to the drug waste, there is unnecessary testing and surgeries. This exists even with our local hospital. For example, my wife recently had severe pains on her left side and leg. She went to our local hospital and the nurses insisted that she have several tests before she saw the doctor, including a cat scan, a barium test and who knows what else? It took over two hours. Finally, the doctor, after she explained the symptoms to him, touched the lymph node above her left leg and diagnosed the problem immediately as a swollen lymph node. Why didn’t the doctor see her first and diagnose the problem without the hospital sticking us, the taxpayers, with all the costs for unnecessary tests? Steven Brill, a journalist with Time Magazine, did an extensive investigation and found that every medical provider organization, especially non profit hospitals, pay exorbitant salaries to the chief of staff and his/her assistants, usually at least $1 million or more per year to the chief alone, and often the hospital loses money. Don’t get me wrong. I am glad we have a local hospital and the staff is excellent. Just like clerks at stores, they don’t make the rules so I don’t blame them for the procedures.
Another costly item to taxpayers is fraud. Medicare is paying for items and services that were never authorized, or not rendered at all. What makes this fraud even worse is that it adds another cost, having police find and prosecute the thieves. It was recently reported that a business was billing Medicare for scooters which were not authorized.
Lastly, but maybe not least, is our tort system as it applies to Medicare. I have first-hand knowledge of a minor Medicare law- suit around 1998. An ENT doctor, a friend of mine, simply removed a prosthetic device, a small piston acting as an ear drum, from a patient with an infected ear. The patient sued him, even though she had no leg to stand on. At that time the cost for the defendant just to get ready for the trial was about $ 25,000. After I discussed the case with the attorney for the defendant, my doctor friend, I advised him to tell the insurance company to offer her $5,000, because she really had no case in my opinion. He offered it and she accepted. Undoubtedly many doctors charge and render services not necessary to cover the costs of malpractice insurance.
Another waste is the cost for service billing. Many thousands of billing clerks work full time just to bill Medicare. Also, a considerable amount of money is spent by Medicare just to pay the individual bills.
In summary, the problem with Medicare costing so much is not ObamaCare, and ObamaCare without some revisions will not be the answer. The costs to us as taxpayers is exorbitant, because we allow our elected representatives and certain news media to serve themselves while ignoring the truth and making false propaganda to confuse and mislead the citizens. Too many are feeding at the trough. Right now one of the bogey men is ObamaCare. If the politicians, the self-serving and certain news media can keep the anger of citizens focused on the bogey man, creating a smoke screen, they will continue to rip us off with impunity. But there is an answer.
My individual wealth came about mainly because I didn’t buy services or things that were not essential to the operation of my business. I even got rid of a postage machine that I rented. I replaced it with a little hand-held device for $23, which held 100 stamps and dispensed and glued them by manually pressing down on the device. We, the taxpayers, could save trillions over the years by overhauling our medical delivery system. Let’s propose a system that would work well right here in Pahrump.
I don’t know how much waste there is in Pahrump on medical care, but from experience, I know there is a considerable amount. Let’s assume hypothetically that Medicare spends $100 million per year for health care in Pahrump. Then, let’s assume that $30 million is spent on unnecessary procedures. Then assume $5 million in salaries for the chief and his/her assistants. Then let’s assume $5 million for overpricing of drugs, malpractice and fraud. According to this, and this is illustrative only, there is $40 million charged to Medicare, which is a total waste. Here is how we could save millions in Pahrump alone. We simply have a medical provider supply us with all necessary medical care for a flat rate of $60 million per year. The doctors and staff would be paid fixed salaries regardless of the number of surgeries, regardless of the number of tests and regardless of how long the patients stayed in the hospital. No money would be spent on billing for patient services, because that would all be covered by the flat rate. We now have three times the amount of surgeries that England has. I wonder why? There would be no financial incentive for hospitals or doctors to order unnecessary tests or surgeries. For malpractice we could eliminate the courts and replace the system with a three-person panel: an MD for the patient, an MD for the medical provider and an independent member of the panel who would have both a license for medicine and for law like maybe Ms. Lord, here in Pahrump, who I understand has two such qualifications. Of course, a decision could have an appeal to a higher level.
I have presented an overall proposal. Many details would have to be worked out. The important thing to remember is that there is by far a better, more efficient, much less expensive and fair way to give us proper medical care, but it won’t come about if we depend on our elected representatives to do the job. I came from the farm. Did you ever see a pig feeding at the trough being pushed away by a larger pig? I never heard such loud screaming in all my life. Are we up to the task? Are we willing to cross party lines, ignore the politicians, especially those who are getting campaign contributions from beneficiaries? Rick Scott, governor of Florida, recently took the 5th over 100 times when charged with cheating Medicare. That didn’t stop him from being elected as governor.
We would have to start and organize a citizens’ army for reform. We would need to get our own lawyers and prepare for a long hard battle. Do we have within us what our forefathers had? They overthrew a government with less corruption than ours. Will we continue to be misled, confused and brainwashed? I wonder.