Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh has waded further into the nation's universal health-care policy debate by offering his own health-care reform proposal.
In an interview with FoxNews's (NWS) Greta Van Susteren, host of On The Record, Limbaugh challenged the claim that 47 million Americans are without health insurance, arguing that the figure is much lower than that, so a comprehensive social-policy revision is not needed.
Limbaugh argued the 47 million figure contains "millions of illegal aliens" who should not be covered. And he disagreed than tens of millions of uninsured Americans are going without medical care, contending that they do receive medical care when they're treated at hospital emergency rooms. Those who cannot pay are not billed, Limbaugh said, and those who can pay or have assets are subject to hospital collection-agency efforts to recover some or all of the medical care expense.
That's the system Limbaugh would like to keep in place: those who don't have health insurance must visit the emergency room, and the hospitals that treat them must determine who to seek repayment from. People who can't pay but have assets, he said, "have their car repossessed," he said.
Limbaugh said the major issue in health-care insurance concerns major medical/catastrophic coverage -- a citizen's risk of incurring an enormous medical bill from a surgery, accident, or serious illness: a $60,000 knee operation, a $100,000 cancer treatment, a $200,000 bill to remove a brain tumor.
Limbaugh said the above can be addressed by passing an insurance program targeted to catastrophic coverage, and he estimated the U.S. Congress could cover 12 million Americans for $30 billion per year. So there's no need for "a comprehensive, trillion-dollar health care reform bill," he said.
Economic Analysis: One up, one down, regarding Limbaugh's health-care reform proposal. I'm giving Limbaugh credit where credit is due: his concept for a federal major medical/catastrophic coverage policy for those currently don't have/can't afford it is consistent with measures in current House and Senate reform bills seeking the same. However, Limbaugh's estimate that only 12 million Americans would need to be covered by a federal major medical policy undoubtedly is low, so his forecast of a $30 billion annual cost also is probably low.
David H. Wang, an economic modeler, will run a major medical cost forecast using different assumptions; I'll publish his results when they're complete in a couple of weeks.
But Limbaugh's idea to have the uninsured continue show up at hospital emergency rooms for primary care and other medical services just does not represent a credible, feasible, or financially savvy policy.
To have tens of millions of citizens continue to impose $1,000 and more per visit to the emergency room costs on the U.S. taxpayer for primary care, when so many more efficient policy options exist, simply makes no sense financially and does not represent the most effective allocation of federal taxpayer dollars.
Any federal health-care reform bill must include an affordable insurance plan that covers and enables regular, sustained, preventive health care services by primary care physicians.
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