COLUMNS

Health care hurried

Michael Tortorich
Michael Tortorich is a reporter for The Gonzales Weekly Citizen. He can be reached at reporter1 @ weeklycitizen.com.

While everyone is talking about curbing the skyrocketing costs of health care, there are those who recognize that it is a much more complex issue than simply signing off on carte blanche authority to the federal government.

Congressman Bill Cassidy, a physician who represents the greater Baton Rouge area, certainly understands this. He took time out of his schedule to meet for an interview at the Citizen office this week.

One of the finer points he made was: If everyone had high-paying jobs, they wouldn’t have to worry about paying for health care as much.

Cassidy promotes empowering individuals with control over health care spending.

He has been a supporter of health savings accounts, which are owned by the individual. The patient owns the account and keeps the unspent money from year to year, which provides an incentive to control costs. People always care more when its their own, and they tend to care less when it’s someone else’s.

Cassidy is no stranger to the issue of health care. He has worked as a specialist at LSU Earl K. Long Medical Center in Baton Rouge for more than 20 years caring for the uninsured.

Cassidy and other Louisiana representatives in the House, with the exception of New Orleans-based Congressman Joseph Cao, voted against the health care bill that narrowly passed, 220-215, Saturday. Cao was also the lone Republican to vote for the bill.

The bill goes next to the Senate, but it may be “dead on arrival,” as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has said.

Moderate Democrats like Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu don’t want a bill passed simply on a political whim.

The Senate could start debate as early as next week on the legislation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has been waiting for the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to return a cost estimate for the bill.

While President Barack Obama wants health care reform by the end of this year, Congress looks as if it will miss the deadline.

The Senate faces an uphill battle in getting even the required 60 votes necessary to start the debate.

Furthermore, any legislation from the Senate would have to be reconciled with the House bill.

Landrieu and others have said they want the bill and final CBO figures available online at least 72 hours before beginning any debate. All of this will take some time.

Former President Bill Clinton said this week that a health care bill doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be passed.

“The worst thing to do is nothing,” Clinton said to a throng of reporters in a Capitol hallway.

Clinton’s administration in the early 1990s failed to enact sweeping healthcare legislation, but Democrats hope Obama’s administration can.

Passing a bill just for the sake of passing a bill will not improve the situation. Congress should take a close look at this situation because Clinton may be wrong about doing nothing.

Government intervention always runs the risk of bringing negative consequences to any market.

While Congress may mean well, its actions can end up doing more harm than good.