We hadn’t met in two months, but probably received enough information to make up for the difference in Monday night’s meeting.
After the usual preliminaries, we stopped for a special presentation. Two deserving students outshined a solid pool of applicants and were honored with the Wicomico County Republican Club scholarship. Both Joseph Pitsenbarger and Emma Miller hail from Parkside High School.
Once we presented the scholarships, the meeting was opened up to featured speaker Dr. Mark Edney. The local urologist and member of the American Urological Association’s Health Policy Council and Legislative Affairs Committee knows his stuff about Obamacare, and his nearly hour-long presentation was jammed full of facts to back up his thought that “Obamacare is a liberal-made disaster.”
His activism on the subject started with an op-ed on the Ryan/Romney plan prior to the 2012 election. But as more people questioned that plan with the talking points of Obamacare, Edney looked a little deeper to find, as one example, that half of all health care dollars are spent by the federal government, and spending on health care comprises 24 percent of the federal budget as well as 25 percent of Maryland’s state budget.
But that’s not really why we have the most expensive health care in the world, Edney continued. Much of that expense comes because we have the most technologically advanced system. Still, about 85 percent of Americans are covered under the existing system and the Democrats “have upset the apple cart” for them, said Mark.
Yet what Obamacare tries to do is make sure that all Americans have health insurance; meanwhile, it also creates a subsidy that affects even those in the middle class, up to 4 times the federal poverty level. Unfortunately, the CBO figures that Obamacare will only address about half – 25 million – of the 49 million uninsured in the country, down from 33 million estimated just two years ago. And the real challenge, said Edney, will be getting 2.7 million 18-to-35 year olds, predominantly male, to willingly pay a lot more for insurance to subsidize the aging population which uses most of the services rather than pay a tax penalty which is a fraction of the cost. The Affordable Care Act, Edney predicted, will be “the slow death of private insurance as we know it.”
Another problem on the horizon, added Mark, will be a shortage of suppliers. While the state is trying to expand the role of nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, and pharmacists into those roles normally reserved for doctors, they’re not a substitute.
Instead of Obamacare, which diagnoses the problem correctly but fails to cure it, the better solution lies in free market reforms to the system, in particular introducing the aspect of competition. Edney pointed to the Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D prescription drug programs as “excellent examples of competition.” He also suggested raising the Medicare age to 67, noting that most of those who would fall into that 65-67 age bracket continue to work anyway or would be eligible for Medicaid based on income.
Edney also discussed how this could affect us on a local level. While consolidation of providers has occurred up the Eastern Shore with the merger of Chester River Health and Shore Health, at this time our area still has cutthroat competition between several players: the Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury, Atlantic General in Berlin, McCready Memorial Hospital in Crisfield, and perhaps even Nanticoke Health Services in Sussex County, Delaware may need to combine their efforts or be swallowed up by even larger entities. He predicted some movement on this front within five to seven years.
After that extremely informative presentation, of which I barely scratched the surface, we still had to go through our business.
In her President’s Report, Jackie Wellfonder mentioned a number of upcoming events, noting the 2014 primary was exactly one year away. But on a closer timeframe, the Tawes Crab and Clam Bake will be July 17, the Pathfinders event in Worcester County will be July 20, and the rescheduled Agenda 21 meeting with the Republican Women of Wicomico will now be August 1.
She stole the thunder from Dave Parker’s Central Committee report, as he mentioned many of the same events in passing – adding that we will have our usual joint Tawes presence with Worcester and Somerset counties – but Parker came up with the quote of the night regarding this administration: “Everything Obama touches turns to mush…if it ain’t broke, don’t Barack it,”
Joe Ollinger has steadily been working on the upcoming WCRC Crab Feast September 7, assembling a small roster of volunteers and getting the tickets printed and available. They will be $1 more than last year, but $26 for all-you-care-to-eat crabs is still a good deal.
That seemed to be the extent of what people wanted to discuss insofar as business was concerned. But July’s meeting may be more productive in that regard. Meanwhile, it appears that our August meeting may feature another candidate for governor as Charles Lollar is penciled in as our speaker that night, so July may be a sweet spot for finalizing some loose ends before we start going wall-to-wall with campaigning candidates.