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Republican Town Hall on health care reform in Houston

This is a guest post by Taha Raja, who recently attended a “town hall” meeting on July 30th, 2009 about health care reform hosted by Republican Senators John Cornyn of Texas, Senator John McCain of Arizona, and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. You can hear his audio recording of the meeting at Talk Islam.

I was invited to the Town Hall held by Senator Cornyn of Texas. Senator McCain and Senator Mitch McConnell were in attendance. It was held July 30 2009 at 10AM CDT on the 8th Floor Conference Room at the main MD Anderson Campus building in Houston.

My thoughts and views:


1. The republican party seemed very opposed to the Democratic plan primarily based on the fact that government will run healthcare resulting in a decline in what we have today – “the worlds best healthcare”. I do not believe we have the world’s best healthcare simply because we are the only industrialized nation that does not provide full access to every citizen. In fact we leave over 10 percent of our population without any healthcare. So how can our healthcare be the world’s best when we have 45 million Americans without coverage. It is a false notion to think that because we have the best technology that it somehow translates to the worlds best healthcare. There is a thought that maybe we are one of the worst – especially in primary care and preventive healthcare considering that we have the worst obesity and other industrialized nation diseases.


2. Many Doctors expressed their disgust over insurance companies. There was consensus that the Insurance Companies are colluding in the pricing of insurance and that regulations are causing unnecessary burdens. Plus insurance companies take over 25% of the premiums as profit – which sounds very high!

3. Senator McCain claimed that his proposal of widening the insurance pool by providing connectors for small businesses and tearing down state barriers where insurance companies have to operate within a state and that they cannot cross sell is one way to help reduce cost. I tend to agree that by nationalizing healthcare insurance rules (removing each states own insurance regulation industries) you can have a private carrier be one national company that can underwrite a group like small business association across multiple state lines and widening the risk pool. This would also allow for Federal regulations preventing insurance companies from creating biased smaller risk pools which creates sharp increases in premiums unnecessarily. As a small business owner for the past 20 years, I have spent most of my professional life getting healthcare by paying cash. Insurance has been prohibitive because as an individual I am unable to pool together using connectors to help diversify my risk across many others like me. This defeats the very meaning of insurance. Part of the culprit here is greed on the insurance companies side and partly it is caused by each state having its own regulation body.


4. Universal single payer Vs Multiple providers – I am unsure about this. Part of me wants healthcare to be like national defense. We only have one military so why not one healthcare provider. We all need to bite the bullet and say that healthcare is not an industry but rather a government service. But then part of looks at all the good things our medical system provides (and yes there are good things) and I do not see a reason to completely dismantle the machine. I believe a hybrid approach is necessary. I tend to think that allowing the government to be one of the providers where you can have a way to pool in or to drop barriers for pooling is one way.

I think that there is no one way to solve the issue. A comprehensive reform is what I think is necessary. Here is my wish list for what I feel would significantly change the way healthcare is delivered in our country. Only if all or most of the below is done, then I believe we will be on our way to controlling this spiraling beast.


  1. Drop the red tape and tangling of state by state regulations and create a national Federal Healthcare regulatory body. This will allow insurance companies to reduce their overhead. Aetna will not have to create 49 subsidiaries to serve each state, instead they will have one underwriter for the country – like the government.
  2. Significantly reform our liability and tort process around healthcare. Healthcare is not an exact science – it is an art form. Hence the practice itself is not perfect. Remove as much as possible the defensive medical aspect. Create a more cognitive consultative environment and allow doctors to practice medicine rather than order a battery of tests every time you complain of a headache. Are doctors test orderer or are they medical doctors?
  3. Provide the ability to pool into a large group via a government plan or other connectors for small business owners and individuals without insurers. Require everyone to get insurance one way or the other.
  4. Empower the consumer by bringing a level of responsbility and education and information to the consumer. Too many times consumers have absolutely no idea of what they are getting from the doctor. Part of it is because Doctors do not take the time to explain what they are doing, part of it is because insurance pays and consumer does not care as long as they pay $10 co-pay, and part of it is because the system wants to hide this information to bring the God Complex of medicine to themselves. Yes not all can use this information but just because some do not use it does not mean more should not be empowered to make this decisions. This country was built on personal responsibility and self empowerment, why is medicine not practicing this?
  5. Incentivize the consumer to practice preventive care and empower them to “shop around” to make this happen. Tax credits for preventive wellness care that is not tied to insurance but rather some kind of health savings would create a win win situation. Insurance should kick in after a certain amount every year to take care of catastrophic and major issues. But for the sniffles, for the annual checkup, for the child visits – I would love the ability to shop around to get the best care and value and I would love to see Medical Doctors offer packages that gives me the best care and advise. We should examine why the CVS, Wal-Mart and corner small clinics that only accept cash do well. I have visited them and I feel the care and advise they provide is perfect for primary care. More of that! They advertise on $45 visits, no lines and a doctor who actually takes the time to examine you and see what is going on. – Plus I get to shop for the best care. You combine this with portable electronic medical records and now you remove the dependecy into one doctor and truly create a competitive environment.
  6. Which brings me to the final point – national electronic medical records standard. The consumer needs it, the doctors need it and all stakeholders need it. Liek your credit report, your healthcare records need to be standardized. This can be done – I do not know how, but my brother who lives and breathes this stuff (he is in this business), tells me it is a travesty how heathcare is light years behind here. Again part of it is because Doctors can’t let go! They feel that these records is their power….let go people, stop holding on to this garbage.

The time has come….the gravy train for those suckling on this cash cow has crippled this nation. 25 percent of our GDP!!! That is ridiculous. No wonder Starbucks spends more on healthcare than coffee – think about it! Let’s end this crisis before it becomes another tsunami like the financial crisis.

Taha Raja is an entrepreneur and small business owner in Houston.

  • jacksmith

    It’s official. America and the World are now in a GLOBAL PANDEMIC. A World EPIDEMIC with potential catastrophic consequences for ALL of the American people. The first PANDEMIC in 41 years. And WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES will have to face this PANDEMIC with the 37th worst quality of healthcare in the developed World.
    We spend over twice as much of our GDP on healthcare as any other country in the World. And Individual American spend about ten times as much out of pocket on healthcare as any other people in the World. All because of GREED! And the PRIVATE FOR PROFIT healthcare system in America.
    And while all this is going on, some members of congress seem mostly concern about how to protect the corporate PROFITS! of our GREED DRIVEN, PRIVATE FOR PROFIT NATIONAL DISGRACE. A PRIVATE FOR PROFIT DISGRACE that is in fact, totally valueless to the public health. And a detriment to national security, public safety, and the public health.
    Progressive democrats the Tri-Caucus and others should stand firm in their demand for a robust public option for all Americans, with all of the minimum requirements progressive democrats demanded. If congress can not pass a robust public option with at least 51 votes and all robust minimum requirements, congress should immediately move to scrap healthcare reform and request that President Obama declare a state of NATIONAL HEALTHCARE EMERGENCY! Seizing and replacing all PRIVATE FOR PROFIT health insurance plans with the immediate implementation of National Healthcare for all Americans under the provisions of HR676 (A Single-payer National Healthcare Plan For All).
    Coverage can begin immediately through our current medicare system. With immediate expansion through recruitment of displaced workers from the canceled private sector insurance industry. Funding can also begin immediately by substitution of payroll deductions for private insurance plans with payroll deductions for the national healthcare plan. This is what the vast majority of the American people want. And this is what all objective experts unanimously agree would be the best, and most cost effective for the American people and our economy.
    In Mexico on average people who received medical care for A-H1N1 (Swine Flu) with in 3 days survived. People who did not receive medical care until 7 days or more died. This has been the same results in the US. But 50 million Americans don’t even have any healthcare coverage. And at least 200 million of you with insurance could not get in to see your private insurance plans doctors in 2 or 3 days, even if your life depended on it. WHICH IT DOES!
    If President Obama has to declare a NATIONAL STATE OF EMERGENCY to rescue the American people from our healthcare crisis, he will need all the sustained support you can give him. STICK WITH HIM! He’s doing a brilliant job.
    Join the fight.
    Contact congress and your representatives NOW! AND SPREAD THE WORD!
    God Bless You
    Jacksmith – WORKING CLASS

  • Richard Clark

    Single-Payer Health Care (HR 676) is the only way to go! Publicly funded but privately delivered.

  • Medical insurance

    Healthcare reform proposed by the Federal Government may actually eliminate affordable medical insurance from the private sector entirely. While publicly funded healthcare may seem to create affordable medical insurance for more Americans, it may actually create a bigger problem.
    Private medical insurance is not the enemy of affordable healthcare in the US. In fact, if the federal government creates another public healthcare program, it will ultimately raise the costs of private medical insurance to exorbitant levels. While the idea of expanded public healthcare may seem to be the answer to affordable medical insurance, it could be the end of private insurance altogether. Medicare and Medicaid, the two public health programs currently in effect, cost private insurance companies – and by extension, Americans paying premiums for private insurance- $88 billion in 2007, according to the consulting group Milliman, Inc. In fact, the average family of four with private medical insurance saw their premiums increase $1500 because of public programs. In California alone, that represents nearly 10% of every premium dollar paid.
    The problem comes because Medicare and Medicaid pay as much as 15% to 30% less than private insurance companies on every doctor and hospital bill. Because the doctors and hospitals aren’t willing or able to accept this much loss, they push those losses onto private insurance companies, who, in turn, shift the loss to the consumer through higher premiums.
    Private insurance companies must not only cover their costs and earn a profit; they also need to maintain a reserve of cash to pay out claims. If a new public health care program is developed and then pays medical costs at a reduced rate like the current systems do, it means there will be an increase in expense shifted onto private insurance to make up the difference. This increased cost will need to be offset through higher premiums for the people covered under private medical insurance plans. As those who have private insurance become forced to pay increasingly higher premiums, the number of Americans who no longer find private insurance an affordable health coverage option will increase. Those people will then need to turn to the newly formed public healthcare program and will then become part of the increased costs passed on to private insurance by underpaid doctors and hospitals.
    As more unpaid costs from private health insurance continue to be pushed into premium prices and more people become unable to pay those premiums, eventually private health insurance will be completely unable to compete with public programs and will face the inability to stay in business. Affordable healthcare in the private sector will become impossible to find.

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