Opinion

Wonder why healthcare costs so much?

Did you know Washington is one of only two states that require health insurance coverage of port wine stain birthmark elimination, denturists and prescription drugs?

One of only three states requiring coverage of naturopaths and chiropodists, and one of five states requiring coverage of massage therapists?

These are a few of the state-mandated benefits that contribute to the escalating cost of healthcare, which consumed 22 percent of the state budget in 2000 and now accounts for 28 percent.

Washington is among the six highest in the nation in insurance mandates, with 50, and lawmakers have been trying to get a handle on the situation for years.

A 14-member healthcare commission was created during the 2006 session and told to come up with a five-year health reform plan by Dec. 1, improving access and lowering costs. Co-chairs are Gov. Chris Gregoire and Sen. Pat Thibaudeau (D-Seattle).

House Republicans also have begun a series of community forums open to all to offer ideas, although the one just held in my area didn’t seem to be a high priority to the locals. Only 11 people attended, besides chair Rep. Beverly Woods (R-Kingston) and media.

Woods was a good sport, though. She didn’t cut it short to fit the few. Eleven votes are 11 votes. The goal, she said, was to put the consumer back into the decision making. In the 1960s, the consumer paid the bulk of the cost of his/her own healthcare. The remainder divided about evenly between government and employers.

The picture is upside down now, with government paying the bulk of costs, then employers, with the consumer the least contributor. It was suggested that the reason for this is that it was in 1965 that Medicare and Medicaid kicked in.

You also may remember that a state audit of the Department of Social and Health Service spending on Medicaid, which is jointly financed by the state and feds, turned up the fact in April that DSHS spent nearly $1 billion for unauthorized services for illegal aliens and payments to persons using dead people’s IDs. And that was just in the fiscal year ending in 2005.

It’s unresolved at this point whether we will have to pay back the feds the $75 million of their misspent money. Also, a new federal rule requires Medicaid recipients prove they are U.S. citizens. They can no longer just sign and say they are.

The loophole, however, is that existing applicants can stay on the rolls if they convince DSHS they are making a good faith effort to get the proof. Good old bleeding heart DSHS will, I’m sure, give these folks all the time needed to produce proof. Years, if need be.

Personal responsibility is the last thing the in-control Democrats push for the needy, who are presumed to be in their pocket at election time because of their generosity with our money.

Their recruiting key is the dole.

There are other costs hard to whittle, such as the fact that the courts have ruled no one can be denied emergency room care, so many deadbeats go there to bypass a doctor’s office where they would be asked how they will pay.

Anyway, if you have any ideas how to lower costs, attend one of the meetings, or send them to the governor or your legislator or me.

Woods believes our Cadillac plan should be changed to a cafeteria-style plan where consumers can select coverage for what they need, not what the state mandates. Elderly ladies don’t need coverage for maternity care. People who’ll go to the grave with their own teeth shouldn’t be paying for denturist coverage.

What do we do about those who rip us off by using the emergency room to avoid paying at all, or an overgenerous DSHS?

Think about it.

Adele Ferguson can be reached at PO Box 69, Hansville, WA, 98340.

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