Saturday, July 18, 2009


What would my Uncle Buster say about turning over health care to the federal government? He was no Joe the Plumber. In fact, in 1918 he was a 17 year old high school drop out who had run away from home and found work as a “pearl diver” in Providence, Rhode Island. That job title means dishwasher. The next year when returning WWI vets used their preference to take away his job, he applied to be an orderly in Butler Hospital for the insane. They needed nurses desperately, so they trained him and he was a nurse for the next 60 years.

In an unpublished memoir he expresses great admiration for the humane way Butler treated its inmates. That included giving capable inmates in-town paroles and others on-the-grounds parole, and providing others with work in the gardens and dining halls.

When my Uncle Buster died in his 80s he left a few thousand dollars to his beloved hometown of Plainfield, New Hampshire, but specified that the town could not use a dime of it for 100 years. He understood that government seldom puts aside money today to pay for tomorrow’s bills. So I think of him when I consider the present proposals for reforming American health care.

What would he think if he heard how much money we would have to put on deposit in an interest bearing account today, if we wanted to pay for Medicare benefits due over the next 75 years?

The answer, say the trustees of the Medicare system: $38 trillion.

That amounts to $103,000 for each man, woman, and child in America today. (Multiply that by the number of people in your family to see how much you would have to pay.)

That is our obligation today without adding any of the new Medicare benefits or any new costs of federal health insurance.

Consider now that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says that the present proposals before Congress to “reform” health care would increase the costs of health care to the taxpayer by hundreds of billions.

For instance, to subsidize insurance for the uninsured would cost $33 billion in 2013. That is almost $1,000 per American citizen, including babies. When today’s newborn are 10 years old, their cost (along with the cost to each parent and sibling) would be $4,300.

None of this counts on providing for the mental health care costs of the people who have proposed saddling their fellow citizens with such costs. My Uncle Buster, for all his modern views on the mentally ill, would never have proposed letting the inmates run the asylum.

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