By Matthew Hennessey
In his health care speech before Congress earlier this month, President Obama promised quite a bit: universal insurance coverage, a new focus on preventive care, an end to the practice of denying coverage due to preexisting conditions, and better health outcomes for all.
All of this sounds fine to me, as I think it does to many Americans, subject to one condition: Can we pay for it?
On that question, Obama made what was perhaps his most ambitious promise of all. “[W]e’ve estimated that most of this plan can be paid for by finding savings within the existing health care system – a system that is currently full of waste and abuse,” he said.
Okay. I’m willing to believe this as well. There is some amount of waste, fraud, and abuse in just about every company or organization. It shouldn’t be surprising that in an industry as big as health care that there would in fact be a great deal of waste.
Here’s my question: If there is indeed waste, fraud, and abuse in quantities so great that merely by finding and eliminating it we can finance a brandy-new, government-funded, public health-care option, then why aren’t we realizing these cost savings now?
I don’t have an accountant, but if I did, and he or she said to me, “Mr. Hennessey, you are wasting an awful lot of money living the way you are. If you simply found ways to save on some of your unnecessary purchases and patched up those holes in your pockets, why, you could afford to live a much richer lifestyle,” I don’t believe I would wait a year, a month, or even a day to start cutting back and stitching up. I think I would get right to it.
Wouldn’t it also be logical for the president and the congress to begin shaking out these savings immediately?
So, here’s an idea that just might solve all of the partisan battling going on over this issue. Why don’t the Republicans make a “put up or shut up” deal with the president? Target that waste, fraud, and abuse right now. Find those cost savings and stash the recovered monies in a trust fund. If in one year the amount of money in the trust fund appears on track to meet the Congressional Budget Office’s estimates for the annual cost of the Obama plan, then it’s on. We do the health care bill exactly as the president wants it. We just do it a year from now.
There isn’t any downside here. Say we find all that missing cash and stash it in the trust fund only to realize that it’s not nearly enough to pay for the Obama plan. Well, then all we’ve done is clean up our current system and create a nice little rainy day fund that could be used for stimulus projects, education, infrastructure, tax rebates, or any number of other items on Obama’s wish list. Everybody goes home happy.
The Democrats in congress should love this. The way things stand right now, many of them are going to lose their jobs in November 2010. Cut the deal I’m proposing and they just might be able to deliver health care reform before those “midterm” elections.
That is — if they can actually “put up.” If not, well, then there’s only one other option.