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Robert Reno on Band-Aids vs. Real Reform

Still, Congress is rushing with Band-Aids to repair the HMO system. If we keep at it, we can somehow make the system perfect - or so covered with Band-Aids that no one will notice that it's naked. If we can just mandate treatment for warts and mental illness, reach a compromise on Viagra prescriptions, ban drive-by hysterectomies, force HMOs to let doctors converse candidly with patients, make it easier to sue HMOs and prevent some of the sneakier schemes to deny health care, the system will self-correct. This, of course, assumes HMOs won't go out and find other ways to maximize profits that aren't in the interest of patients. Fat chance. As the HMO lobby puts it, HMO "reform" and "patients' rights" will lead to higher premiums, more people who decline or can't get coverage, more employers who don't provide coverage and - you get it - more naked people.

An Eskimo living in remotest Canada could see this.

Of course, if the Canadian model is too foreign, too "socialist," too unworkable in the American medical system, we didn't have to scratch around for a domestic model. It's in front of our face and it's called Medicare. People who have it love it. Their children love it.

Yes, it's costly. But don't try telling any private employer, any self-employed privately insured person, anybody who's been to an emergency room lately and had to pay for it, anyone who's shopped for insurance coverage, anyone afraid to change jobs for fear of losing coverage, that the Balkanized private system is anything you could call cheap.

Yesterday [now quite a few yesterdays ago], Katie Couric of NBC was interviewing some experts about untreated mental illness and how it leaves society naked to homicidal maniacs who may shoot up the nation's Capitol. Katie tried to look concerned but finally cut them off with , "It's an interesting story, but unfortunately we're out of time," before switching to some commercials that just happened to include an Al D'Amato campaign spot about Al's lonely, courageous war on breast cancer.

Not to be cynical, but it was also a war on Al's gender gap, which shows him polling badly with female voters. And we wonder why the making of health-care policy in America resembles nothing so much as an untreated psychotic illness.

Robert Reno, reprinted from unknown source.