Ask the White Guy: The Value of Healthcare Reform

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on DiversityInc.com. Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.

Ask the White Guy Luke ViscontiQuestion:
The fundamental issues of cost [of healthcare] are not being addressed. The fact is that more care will result in more tests and more diagnosis. That will add cost. This was the same flawed assumption of the HMO system. Please look at the Cash for Clunkers Program if you need a recent reminder of government inefficiency. ONE-TRILLION-DOLLAR DEBT = the country is broke. This program will turn us into one of the so many insolvent countries of the world and make us irrelevant as a world power.

Answer:
This has nothing to do with cost—but it has everything to do with values. Over history, taking care of people properly has proven to be an excellent return on investment. There’s nothing in the Constitution about public schools, but I can’t imagine a better return on investment—except where they’re allowed to fail. There’s a pattern to that failure: I find it very telling that it suddenly becomes not OK to follow up eight years of record-breaking spending when the people who would benefit from resolving the healthcare crisis are disproportionately Black and Latino.

A close look at American history shows us that our greatest problems are linked to conflict with our true values; our founders struggled to integrate slavery into a Constitution that presented rights as unalienable and belonging to people, and that lack of resonance resulted in a civil war that killed more than 3 million Americans (proportionate to today’s population). The Great Depression was caused by the xenophobic Smoot-Hawley trade act—despite the fact that our Declaration of Independence and Constitution do not talk about rights belonging to those with certain documents or living in certain boundaries.

In my opinion, it is reprehensible and immoral to have healthcare and to turn around and protest other Americans’ ability to get healthcare for themselves and their families. Further, echoing the opinions of jingoistic, but non-veteran, child-men such as Limbaugh and Beck—people whose credentials and accomplishments (outside of rabble rousing) wouldn’t fill a thimble—is an abuse of our First Amendment. The First Amendment enables you to have meaningful intellectual discipline. Read up on the subject, think for yourself and present some well-thought-out solutions.

The failure of our current system of healthcare is accelerating: Year after year of double-digit premium growth has resulted in a precipitous decline of Americans being provided healthcare by their employer—which will soon be less than 50 percent. Further, a story not being told is about the millions of Americans whose work status has been degraded—full-time supermarket workers with healthcare benefits being turned into part-time workers with no benefits, for example.

That means that your little island of comfort—where YOU have healthcare but can put your foot on the head of anyone trying to get some for themselves and their family—is shrinking. You’re not safe by denying others healthcare, something I would describe as a right in the modern world. You endanger yourself and our nation.

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20 Comments

  • Anonymous

    beautifully said

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps it has nothing to do with cost to you, but to me it most certainly does! The question is not whether people should be taken care of–nobody in this world wants to see their fellow humans die or suffer needlessly–but whether we should use a system with a proven track record for inefficiency and waste (government) to provide for something as important, expensive, and unwieldy as healthcare, particularly when other systems with better track records are available.

  • Anonymous

    We are not a country of moral rights. You have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Not “free” anything – healthcare, food, lodging, clothing etc. As a country we provide for our most poor, but your “moral” arguments have no basis other than to take from one who you feel had too much and give to another.

    Your use of statistics is disengenous at best.

    Next time I better ask someone other than the horribly named “white guy” who understand what rule of law is about.

  • Anonymous

    I completely reject your notion of what America is, what our society represents and what has made us great.

    Luke Visconti, CEO of DiversityInc

  • Anonymous

    I agree, if you fail to consider costs, you fail to develop a system that will actually function in the way we desire. Successful plans are not built solely on ethical concepts or ideals, but on practical, executable and affordable solutions that actually work. Cost matters to all of us, if we ignore cost then real and important programs will fail due to poor management. After the last 8 years of mismanagement, we cannot afford to continue ignoring cost and budget when making choices. I would hope that the CEO of this magazine would recognize that.

  • Anonymous

    The president’s proposal does not ignore cost and budget. However, I guess it’s far easier for you to place a higher priority on cost and budget over a child who is sick when it’s not your child.

    Luke Visconti, CEO of DiversityInc

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for your eloquent explanation of why we must reform our health insurance system — and for refusing to be diverted into side issues. It is morally right for a country as wealthy as ours to make sure everyone has basic health care. And beyond that it is an economic good for people to be healthy — how will we be productive otherwise. And preventative and up front care is always cheaper in the long run. Yes, we might discover some diseases through systematic screening, and thus generate costs for treatment. But those diseases still would be there and usually delayed treatment at a later stage of disease costs a lot more. So the argument is specious from the beginning.

    With regard to some of the other comments:
    “We are not a country of moral rights.” What?! Why did we have a revolution in the first place? Why did we have a civil war? You talk about “rule of law” as if it is not based on morals at all. Huh?

    “[O]ther systems with better track records [than government] are available.” Um, what systems are those? What we have now?! Talk about “expensive and unwieldy.” Talk about “inefficiency and waste.”

    There’s no point in even discussing things with people who are so deluded as to believe that our current “system” is efficient, or that health care is not a moral issue, or that Obama is like Hitler for wanting people to be taken care of. Craziness!

  • We can spend billions sending men and women half way around the world to bomb and kill the people who live there…but veto SCHIP (health insurance for children) because it costs too much. That does not represent American, Christian, or any other value system I am familiar with.

  • Anonymous

    I have grave concerns with this whole process, and especially the approach. I, for one, do not envision that the majority of American “health care” providers actually provide health care. What I believe I see, instead, is often well-intentioned/educated individuals working long hours (or not) to provide instant relief versus care for the health and well-being of ailing persons. I won’t try and elaborate about who/what is responsible for this unhealth system (whether it is government/insurance companies/drug companies/medical professionals/the US citizenry)–I’m not well versed. What I do know is that I still hope to see–most of important of all–a return to a medical system/process that does not drug you today so that you feel better/relief, but you’re sick with the same problem you had before you spent too much of your resources to purchase the drugs. I hope for a system that has the flexibility to gain credibility for actually treating/remedying the ails of Americans. Unfortunately, a factor that is likely lurking in the background of this whole debate is who we consider to be Americans. It’s all so sad.

  • Anonymous

    Mr.Visconti,

    Once more thanks for your deep faith on what have make this nation great, and how we can continue to grow as better people. Your article is eloquent, and true to our coomitment to purse human rights. And yes, health care is an inalianable human right.

    Chago – Boise ID

  • Anonymous

    Cost? Can we talk about the REAL costs of not providing adequate medical care and housing and a living wage? Look at our prisons! What a horrible waste of human resources. Do you think people only go there because they’re bad? Do you think if they had their basic needs met by someone who taught them by example to care for others that they would be as they are? The wider the gap between the have & have-nots becomes the higher the crime rates and the hight the costs to house and process the prisoners we have created. Get a clue.

  • What often gets lost in the cost/benefit analysis is the reality that the current system shifts profits to the private sector and shifts costs to the public sector, while leaving millions uncovered. I don’t automatically believe govt is better at running things, but there can be no question that the private sector has had its chance — more than once, including chances to provide alternatives while ACA was being devised — and failed. In business, you don’t stick with failure. You move on. The cost of the old system is far greater than the potential cost of the new.

  • Those who oppose the Affordable Care Act have had ample time to provide an alternative. What is their alternative? What do they believe regarding the provision of healthcare in the United States? Do they believe that all people should have access to healthcare? If, yes, how would it be provided and paid for? If, no, who should have it and who should not? I’d really like to know.

  • I wish people would do a little research to find answers for themselves. Consider that, right now, $1000 of the insurance premiums those of us who are insured pays goes towards paying for healthcare for those not insured. Off the top, before it even covers our cost. Fact: Those who have insurance can keep the same insurance. No change. You can keep your current doctor – no change. What will change is that you can no longer be denied helath services because you’ve reached the lifetime allowable limit for health insurance. What will change is that you cannot be denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions. What will change is that now more people will be able to afford health insurance, which in the end will lower cost for everyone. Keep in mind, that as you age, you will require some kind of medical service.

  • First- while no one would deny that a ‘free’ public education is the right of every American, (funded through tax payer dollars), how can people deny health care is a less important right than public education? First people need to be healthy, then we can educate them to be successful. Citizens that cannot afford these necessities should be helped out by those that can. Health care is a basic human right.

    Secondly- my employer provides me with health care benefits, but the ever-increasing cost of those benefits has been a primary reason why base salary increases have been minimal over the past several years. Until we provide all citizens with health coverage and get health care costs under control, even those of us with employer-provided health care will be paying for people that just ‘show up’ in the emergency room without coverage. If you’re thinking that because you have employer coverage today, this isn’t your problem, you’re just being naive. You are paying for the uninsured through ever-increasing premiums, higher co-pays, longer waiting times in emergency rooms, lack of salary increases from your employer, etc.

  • Beautifully thought through. thanks for your courage and your williness to speak out. I think everyone who is ill or loves someone who is or might be ill should thank the Supreme Court for this decision. And thank Obam for thinking of this very importnt step in healathcare for all ouer citizens.

  • I appreciate and agree with Mr. Visconti’s moral argument, though history teaches us that moral arguments are rarely effective in persuading people to change their opinions (the great moral leader Martin Luther King, Jr. had a 63% disapproval rating among Americans in 1966–http://www.gallup.com/poll/20920/martin-luther-king-jr-revered-more-after-death-than-before.aspx)

    I’m surprised that Mr. Visconti did not answer the question posed above with simple facts: the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projects that the Affordable Care Act will actually REDUCE the federal budget deficit over the period 2012-2021 (http://cbo.gov/publication/43080).

    I fear that too many of us have simply swallowed right-wing propaganda about budget deficits, without doing our homework to find out the truth

    Moral arguments can be good. Moral arguments can lift our spirits and give us the resolve to persevere in the face of seemingly unsurmountable opposition. But knowing the facts can be helpful, too.

  • Whenever you look at healthcare, lets see what we are really talking about. Obamacare isn’t healthcare reform. It is just expansion to “universal care” and a lot of government involvement and direction in the healthcare system.

    There were really two main issues that guaranteed that this country would eventually address the “healthcare crisis.” The first was the continuing double digit premium increases that employers were trying to pay as a cost of doing business and providing benefits for their employees. The second issue was the outcry for “universal coverage” from the social watchdogs. I use that term respectfully without any judgement.

    During the very early years of this debate – I would compare the possible options. One of those options was to expand government’s role in the healthcare arena which is exactly what Obamacare has done. I would always say that we needed to look at the current government insurance plan (funding) – Medicare which was begun in 1965. By 1995, Medicare had a terrible 30 year cost containment record. And now we are going to expand that.

    What is broke about the current system is that it is “FEE FOR SERVICE,” meaning that the healthcare provider is paid for each service provided. Anyone can see the problem here. The more services the healthcare provider provides then more income is produced. And this system does not increase the healthlyness of Americans. Look at our costs compared to other first world nations. Our costs are excessive and the outcomes are less.

    You will always get the results based on where the financial incentives are placed. When you are paying a healthcare provider more for you to get sick and stay sick and get sicker, then that is what you will get. The healthcare providers need to be paid a flat amount (someone else can decide what is a reasonable liveable wage for doctors) for their group of patients they are responsible for. They will then want you to stay healthy and their goal will be for you to return to health as soon as possible when you get sick. They will not want you coming back for three or four unnecessary followup visits because there will be no additional revenue to be gained.

    Medicare has tried to contain costs by reducing the “allowable fee” for the healthcare providers and it hasn’t worked. Here is an example that I hope is simple enough for those reading this – Let’s say that the healthcare provider wants $75.00 per visit to take care of “grandma” and one 15 min visit per month will provide adequate management of her healthcare needs. Well Medicare comes along and tells the healthcare provider that they are only going to pay $50.00 per visit. So the healthcare provider starts seeing “grandma” for two 7.5 min visits at $50.00 per visit and the revenue has increased to $100 per month. When Medicare budget cuts come around again and it is decided that healthcare providers will only be paid $40 per visit, the provider starts seeing “grandma” for three 5 min visits each month for a total revenue of $120.

    Not only has this increased Medicare’s costs, it has reduced productivity in the nation because the son/daughter or grandson/granddaughter have to take “grandma” to the doctors office three times a month now instead of just once.

    In recent years, I have come up with an idea that would benefit us all – it would help truly “REFORM the healthcare system” and insure that we would have a very efficient and beneficial system to provide the needed care for all Americans. The answer is to force WAL-MART to provide healthcare (notice I didn’t say insure) for all their employees (regardless of number of hours worked). I won’t venture out to say what it might look like in this short comment – but WAL-MART would get it done in an efficient and at the least costs.

  • I think we need to realize that “healthcare” isn’t an inalienable human right. The rights in our constitution of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are given to us by our Creator – not the government.

    Education isn’t an inalienable human right either. I do agree that equality and fairness should apply to both education and healthcare which means that everyone get a basic amount of it.

    Everyone doesn’t get as much education as they might want, and likewise with healthcare.

    Healthcare decisions should be made on “probable outcome” not racial, economic or other discriminatory means.

    In economics we know that there are limited resources so as a country, we can’t spend an unlimited amount on healthcare or anything else.

    Always in the healthcare debate the issue of rationing comes up. And everyone acts like that is a four-lettered word. First, we need to recognize that we already have rationing of healthcare in this country. The rationing has been done based on your ability to pay. If you have insurance or money in the bank to pay for every last chemo treatment, then you will get it, regardless that your probability of a cure is only .5% Someone else who has cancer but a different set of circumstances that would give them a probability of 75% complete cure, won’t get the treatment because they are uninsured and no other financial means to pay. If you don’t believe that is reality today, then you need to get out of this debate until you have accepted reality.

  • Anyone who is serious about the healthcare debate should watch Sicko by Michael Moore. Regardless of what you think about him or his documentaries, it will start you thinking about healthcare and benefits in other parts of the world.

    “When Michael Moore’s Sicko movie, which attacked the health insurance industry, came out, the trillion dollar health insurance industry assigned one man to delegitimize the movie’s message– Wendell Potter.

    Potter was head of communications for CIGNA, one of the largest health care corporations. It was his job to be the hit-man, destroying the reputation of Sicko.”

    Well, Potter was converted from defender of the “sicker care industry” aka commercial and government healthcare financing, to whistleblower. The movie started his conversion but his own company assisted by their denial of a life-saving surgery. The young lady died and then later he witnessed thousands lined up for free health care in a community close to where he grew up and his parents lived. They couldn’t afford care through the “healthcare industry.”

    The movie came out five years ago and I’m of the opinion that we are even sicker today.

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