The BIG Picture: The healthcare reform debate makes you want to yell

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John O'Connor, Editorial Director
John O'Connor, Editorial Director
The dog days of summer have a nasty bite this year.

The natives appear to be more than restless. Quite a few are flat-out angry. The healthcare system they've come to know and distrust is about to be changed. And they don't like it.

Look, I'm not saying the Democratic plan to reform the system is perfect. Far from it. And it must be noted that it's not being sold honestly. First we heard that the proposal would pay for itself. Then the Congressional Budget Office countered that the claim was off by about $1 trillion over 10 years. We've also heard the president say that AARP supports the plan. Well, actually, it doesn't.

Perhaps most problematic from the White House has been the repeated assertion that Medicare benefits will not be compromised. This is from the same people claiming that billions and billions of dollars will be painlessly removed from SNF payments over 10 years by finding inefficiencies?

The last time Congress passed a law intended to trim wasteful Medicare spending was in 1997. In the wake of that fiasco, payments for rehab therapy essentially disappeared. In less than five years, more than 1,000 nursing homes were seeking protection from creditors. This begs the question: How can services not be cut if there's no place to get them?

Yet we're being told that the planned savings will all be the result of eliminating inefficient practices? Hmm.

But if the Democrats have blood on their hands, so too do many Republicans. Especially the assorted nut jobs who are not going to let the facts get in the way of a chance to make some political hay. The initial anti-healthcare sentiment could at least be justified on ideological grounds. Many within the GOP legitimately felt that our nation was moving dangerously close to socialized medicine. But now that this argument has failed to produce the desired effect, stronger medicine is being used to rally the hate mongers.

It's pretty frightening to hear a person who was nearly elected vice president of the United States make up outright lies. Yet we recently were treated to a Facebook entry from Sarah Palin promising “death panels” if reform is enacted.

While such twisted rhetoric has a high entertainment value, it tends to mask a deeper problem.

Simply put, our healthcare system is on an unsustainable path. We can take steps now to fix things, or deal later with the inevitable train wreck that's coming our way.
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