Monday, March 05, 2007

In Albany, Operation May Be A Success, But Patients Will Suffer

Spitzer Budget Ax Should Fall Upon Drug Company, Insurer and Medicaid Fraud, Not Upon The Sick And Infirm

As New York Governor Eliot Spitzer travels the State, threatening to cut $1.2 billion from health care and close down hospitals to save money, invoking the ire of unions and health care providers alike, the real culprits -- namely health insurers, drug manufacturers and Medicaid itself -- continue along their merry way, the cost to John Q. Public (and, not coincidentally, the State) dwarfing that which the Governor hopes would be saved under his Draconian plan.

Drug companies monopolizing the market, driving up costs, eliminating -- with the government's blanket consent -- any competition, all to the detriment of the public, taxpayers one and all.

Health insurers and HMOs driving up premiums while limiting or excluding benefits, necessary tests and care, and the preventive medicine that would keep the tax-paying public healthy, out of the hospital, and working to support both family and State.

True, we have doctors and hospitals sending patients for tests that are unnecessary, and bilking insurers and Medicaid for far more than their costs -- or worse yet, submitting charges for tests or treatment never undertaken -- but who tells the insurers and the folks who run Medicaid to pay out on claims for a ten dollar aspirin or a hundred dollar box of tissues that the patient never sees.

Oh, we may not care when insurance or Medicaid pick up an excessive tab since we don't see those dollars streaming out of our own pockets, but in reality, this "one-hand-washes-the-other" -- but the tip of the fraud iceberg that even global warming has failed to melt -- costs every one of us most dearly in higher premiums and higher taxes.

Yes, crack down on fraud, waste, double-billing, gouging, price-fixing, and other longstanding, untoward practices by provider, insurer, Medicaid, and consumer alike, but don't cut out the heart of the patient to save his pinkie-toe.

Closing hospitals may well save money, if you look at the bottom line, and the bottom line alone.

In the long run, and even the short term, shutting the doors to local emergency rooms, operating theaters, health clinics, neonatal care units, ICUs, CCUs, and the like costs the consumer, taxpayer, and State big bucks, and, ultimately, will cost the well-being and, perhaps, lives, of countless New Yorkers.

The old saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." We either make the wise and prudent choice to keep hospitals open in New York, or, in saving those billions today, risk pouring billions more in tax dollars into the long-term care of the dead and dying -- those denied that ounce of prevention by budget cuts most unkind.

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