Agonizing charade misses mark on true health reform

March 16, 2009
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Oh, the agony. President Barack Obama sent his health care reform team to Dearborn last week to begin to collect the voluminous amount of information that should accompany reforms in health care.

But this was not about health care reform. It was instead a town meeting, affording some Michigan citizens the opportunity to vent — an opportunity to again reach out to the union stronghold of the state and empower them by listening. And Gov. Jennifer Granholm led the masquerade, even claiming a “title” on behalf of all citizens of Michigan saying, “Michigan is a poster child of why reform needs to happen.”

All Michigan citizens evidently live in the Dearborn area.

The hours-long “summit” was a sham (if its purpose was to consider all aspects of reform), and that declarative is made based on several points of order:

  • Last week the Business journal noted that the most prominent, apolitical, nonprofit, health care watchdog in the state had not been invited (though the Alliance for Health did receive an 11th hour invitation after the Business Journal was delivered to readers last week). The Alliance happens to be headquartered in Grand Rapids and has assisted cost containment initiatives and health care planning in (just) 12 entire counties in its region of influence.

  • The Business Journal has also learned that the federal agency responsible for health care quality improvement for the state of Michigan was not invited either. The Michigan Peer Review Organization (MPRO) is the very group of professionals assigned by the federal government to oversee quality initiatives. And it is headquartered just down the road from Dearborn.

  • “Business” was represented by the comments of Ford Motor Co.’s health care director, who readily admitted that Ford has to add about $1,600 to the price of every car it manufactures to pay the health care benefits it has generously provided its labor force. Such arrangements have obviously not worked well for Ford. The national Federation of Independent Business/Michigan noted during the summit that small businesses employ half of all private-sector employees, generated 60 to 80 percent of all new jobs in the past decade, and have struggled with average health insurance increases of 18 percent more than that paid by large firms.

**Some of the health care professionals pushed the agenda to “fund” wellness programs (funding sources were not identified). This, while the Kaiser Family Foundation’s national survey shows that half the nation’s households last year skipped or postponed medical treatments. That, of course, translates to greater numbers of more seriously ill individuals ending up at health care institutions in the short term. With continued unemployment, housing foreclosures and other financial crisis fallout, the statistics are not expected to change for the better. Especially if small businesses continue to be priced out of the health benefits market.

The financial crisis has changed the discussion, changed the issues and is changing the landscape of health care related facilities. But that is not a part of the discussion. In fact, reform is not part of the discussion.

Oh, the agony that continues to be promulgated …

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