Straight talk needed about health bill

As the debate over health care legislation takes place on a national stage, it is easy to forget that the issue under discussion concerns some intensely local problems. Yet there is a paucity of voices willing to provide helpful and humane solutions.

The U.S. Senate recessed without passing a bill. There are now questions about whether the Senate can pass something before its August recess.

We question at this point the need for a rush.

President Donald Trump has made clear that he wants to see something passed and has not said much about details. Following that line of thinking is not going to help keep people in Lafourche and Terrebonne healthy. It is not going to solve the problems of small businesses torn between making quality, affordable insurance available to their employees, and removing the anxiety for health care providers in terms of what must be done to keep them from being overwhelmed by uncompensated care costs in the future.

Uncompensated care is the hospital industry buzzword for people who must be treated for serious illness or injury but are uninsured or underinsured. Perhaps some combination of government dollars will help pay, but perhaps not. If not, the hospital is stuck with the tab.

But the local hospitals have been silent for the most part on the question of how Congress should proceed. Hospital administrators have deflected questions from our reporters to hospital associations. A direct request for comment from one hospital administrator received a polite question of when the questions needed to be answered by, but never received a response.

What continues to generate the greatest curiosity about preparations for amendment, gutting or elimination of the Affordable Care Act is that the voices supporting any of the various plans are not those of the doctors who care for us, the hospitals in which they work, or the patients who receive the help.

Large businesses and insurance companies make up a bulk of the commentary we have seen and they’re biased.

A plan more likely to help than others, authored by U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy – a physician – which we believe should be a good model because of Cassidy’s occupation, also has drawbacks. Every examination we have seen of the Cassidy-Sessions plan indicates that lower income people would receive less assistance … but higher-income people could receive more.

We have difficulty understanding in what context this could ever be acceptable.

Those of us with higher incomes have options for health care. Those of us with lower incomes have fewer options. And it is important to remember that those with higher incomes today can easily float down into another definition once cancer or some other chronic and debilitating disease has its way.

So getting back to the rush for a health-care bill from the senate, we are forced to ask that if the best available plans demonstrate economic inequity, what are we rushing toward?

The best comment any public official has had to date on the crafting of a health-care plan for the nation was from Sen. Mitch McConnell R-Kentucky, when he said last week that Democrats and Republicans may have to come together to work on a solution.

Imagine that.

Members of both parties working toward a common goal, not as enemies but problem solvers, charting a future course for a compromise in philosophies, producing in the long run a healthcare course for the nation that most Americans can live with, and which can help provide security toward the best possible treatment for all.

For Democrats and Republicans to work together, however, has been painted as a poor solution by partisans, which is a shame.

Only our local doctors and hospitals can help elected officials truly understand what is at stake, and frankly we don’t know why they are not demanding a bi-partisan, helping response. It may be the pressure of politics in these partisan times. But whatever the reason they need to start speaking up. The hospitals and the doctors cannot play a silent waiting game, waiting to see who win and then complaining later. They must speak up now. Our pages are open to them whenever they are willing to do so.