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Sir Isaac Newton and Health Care Reform

Posted May 02 2010 7:05am
Whistleblower readers know of my deep skepticism that the promises of Obamacare will be realized. As time goes on, my skepticism sinks deeper. The health care reform (HCR) legislation that was passed with reconciliation guarantees more taxes, more access to care for the uninsured and more government control of health care. But it fails in its promise to bend the cost curve, or does it?. Perhaps, I’m being unfair and need to adopt a more literal approach to the president’s promise of cost control. President Obama’s program does bend the curve, but does so in the wrong direction. He wouldn’t be the first Democratic president in recent memory to engage in a public demonstration of linguistical gymnastics.

If health care costs continue to rise, can we expect to hear the president lecture us in 2012 during his reelection compaign with his finger wagging

“I kept my promise to bend the cost curve, and I did.”
This past month, a national and respected health care organization reported that under the president’s plan, health care costs would increase by $311 billion through the year 2019, despite the administration’s promise of cost reduction. Who made this scurrilous allegation? Was it the rabblerousing tea partiers again? Was it Sarah Palin firing up the bible belters? Were these rantings from a resurrected vast right wing conspiracy? Try again. The pessimistic projection was issued by Medicare’s chief actuary, an agent of the federal government, and not a fringe group of hyperventilating fringe partisans. So, to those who want to shoot the messenger here, you may be aiming at your own patron.

The American people agree with the government’s new analysis. An April 2010 Gallup poll reported that a solid majority of Americans believe that HCR will cost the government too much money and doesn’t address fundamental cost issues sufficiently. Is Gallup just another GOP tool like the Medicare actuary, or were we duped that HCR would really save us money?

I am not faulting the president because health care costs will continue to rise. I am chastising him and his minions for dismissing the rest of us who claimed that his plan would only bend the cost curve further in the same direction. Saving HCR dollars is tough because it violates natural law. Let’s consider the situation in Newtonian terms.

Here are Newton’s 3 Laws of Health Care Motion.
  • A health care system at rest tends to remain at rest.
  • For HCR to accelerate, it requires an external force which has more mass than the Federal government.
  • For every action applied to the health care system, there will be an equal and opposite reaction.
In other words, there is tremendous inertia in the system. Costs will be very challenging to rein in because every cost has a powerful constituency supporting it. Every example of an unnecessary medical test or wasteful medical spending represents someone else’s income. Proposals that include decreasing physician reimbursement, lowering insurance premiums, reducing medication prices, tort reform, medical rationing, increasing patients’ financial responsibility for their care and comparative effectiveness research will all be met with an equal, or perhaps greater, reaction against them.

What stakeholder in the system will fall on his sword to serve the greater good?

I suppose that Newton would support the notion that health care reform in motion tends to remain in motion. But, where is it taking us? We were told that our destination will be a promised land, but will it be a black hole instead?
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