Tuesday, August 18, 2009


--Ellen Sauerbrey

During the recent health care Town Hall meeting in Towson, Senator Cardin presented attendees a false choice by suggesting that there was the big government solution or nothing. He repeatedly responded to a variety of different questioners with, “If nothing is done ……. it will be worse”. President Obama presents the same options. We must pass “his plan”, which by the way does not exist, or sink under the weight of an existing system which leaves some people without affordable health insurance.

Nationwide, elected officials are very adverse to being charged with doing nothing and too often in trying to ”do something”, do the wrong thing. If a bad decision to raise taxes has adverse consequences, a future Congress can repeal them. If a massive government health system is imposed and destroys the infrastructure of the private health insurance system there will be no turning back,.

In reality most opponents of Obamacare want to do something. But they want to do the right thing. The states have always been the laboratories of democracy. Incremental changes tried at the state level would allow the opportunity to experiment with things that make insurance more affordable and accessible. If states get it wrong, people have the option of moving to another state. If the U.S. gets it wrong, there is no place left to go.

The attendees at the town hall meeting gave Senator Cardin a lot of things they think should be done, starting with tort reform. Citizens understand that doctors prescribe unnecessary tests to avoid the consequences of a law suit and these tests are very expensive to the system. Neither the Senator or the President have addressed why this obvious remedy is ignored

A really big step would be to provide individuals who are not covered by employer based health insurance the same tax break to buy their own insurance as General Motors currently gets for covering its employees. Is it fair that the waitress in the local diner whose owner can’t afford to insure her, has to buy her own health insurance with no tax break, while the insurance provided to the CEO of GM is a tax write off?

Proponents of Obamacare want a public option to provide “competition”. Well if we really want competition, allow a Maryland citizen to buy an insurance policy in other states. Why? Because the Maryland General Assembly in its wisdom has passed so many mandated benefits that it is impossible in Maryland to purchase an affordable “stripped down Model T” insurance policy. Instead, under Maryland law individuals, as well as businesses that offer insurance to their employees, are forced to buy the “Cadillac” version with many coverages that they neither want nor can afford. If consumers prefer a less expensive plan, limited to those coverages they need, offered in Texas or South Carolina why should they not have that right? If reformers are really serious about competition, that is a good place to start.

When my husband and I were first married we did not need insurance that covered every trip to the doctor for a cold or a sprained ankle. We were however worried about being wiped out by a major illness. And so, we purchased a major medical plan whereby we paid the doctor out of pocket when we showed up with the sniffles but were protected against the big things. If we apply today’s health insurance rules to auto insurance, we would be forced to buy auto insurance that covers oil changes and flat tires. Obviously, people take care of their minor auto maintenance and repair out of pocket. Why can’t we chose to do that with health insurance? .

Medicare and Medicaid are both ripe with inefficiencies and fraud. They are major drivers of the escalation in health care costs. Before applying a government run or regulated system to the entire population, why not start by fixing the problems in the existing programs.

Finally, it should be noted that if the government (or our employers) paid for our food, our housing or our new car, we would not have to make wise spending choices. We would not have to look at prices and decide on the best buy. And before long the cost of all of those things would skyrocket. That is the state of health care in America. Medical costs were not escalating out of control when Mom took me to the doctor for my vaccination or my scraped shin and she paid him the old fashioned way – out of pocket. And think of the money saved when the doctor did not have to file all those insurance claims!

The American people have already impacted the debate, but it is no time to let up. There continues to be a huge push to do the wrong thing but maybe to do it in disguise. Remember, when you put lipstick on a pig, it is still a pig.


  1. Hello, Ellen. I saw you as I entered the auditorium for Cardin's Town Hall meeting. Glad to see you still out and about.
    I also heard you on Ron Smith's show Friday.
    As a result of your interview with Ron, I wish to point out another problem that I have yet to hear anyone discuss as it relates to reform of the healthcare issue.

    Prosthetic providers. 10 years ago I needed to replace my left artificial eye. I found out the hard way there is only one person in this entire region (short of traveling to Philadelphia) that does this work.

    He doesn't participate with the Blue Cross Blue Shield network. This means I have to shell out his full price and hope to get back some percentage from my employer based insurance program. A program, by the way, that does not spell out its coverage, if any, on any prosthetic device.

    10 years ago this little piece of coral (thaat's what he said this is made from) cost $1,000. Goodness knows what it costs now.

    So how many folks could afford this now? Without insurance, going to a truly unique provider that does NOT participate in insurance plans?

    I am not griping for myself, but I feel this topic isn't even being addressed. By anyone.

    And it needs to be included.


Meeting with Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer

Visiting Iraqi refugees at Jordanian girls' school.