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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Consumer-driven health care apparently now includes a plane ticket

by folkbum

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel regularly delivers John Torinus to my doorstep. He's the chairman of Serigraph, Inc., a Milwaukee-area printing company, and one of the JS's regular business columnists. A frequent topic of his is health care (one recent column is here); he constantly lashes out at attempts to cover more individuals or reduce the costs of care when those attempts are made by liberals or Democrats.

Torinus railed against Wisconsin Democrats' Healthy Wisconsin plan, for example, though the Brew City Brawler and Seth Zlotocha (still much missed in the Cheddarspehere) shredded his arguments like cheese. Torinus complains in that recent column about my employer--the Milwaukee Public Schools--and our health care costs, us being run, presumably, by a bunch of liberal scoundrels who could not care less what we soak from the taxpayer. His complaints come despite the fact that MPS's health plan beat inflation and costs for retirees, about which Torinus complains specifically, fell in real dollars last year.

Torinus believes in consumer-driven health care reform, i.e., the notion that most people have too much insurance and, as such, spend too much of our bosses' money on things like doctor visits, prescription drugs, open-heart surgeries, and whatnot because we don't realize how much it really costs to keep us healthy. He's a big fan of ideas such as health savings accounts and high-deductible health plans (HSAs and HDHPs), which encourage the ill among us to decide which ailments to treat and which to let slide until the next fiscal year when we have a new pot of cash granted to us (or deducted from our paychecks) for our use.

All this is prelude, of course, to this morning's jaw-dropping headline: "Anthem, Serigraph unveil 'medical tourism' health plan." Yes, that's right, John Torinus (through the actions of his company) is now not merely advocating scaling back the insurance coverage for the average worker, but he's seriously advocating bypassing the US health care system altogether:
The company has agreed to participate in a pilot project with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Wisconsin that will allow employees to have certain elective medical procedures, such as joint replacements or back surgery, done in designated hospitals in India.

Serigraph estimates that those procedures can be done for 40% to 50% less, including travel costs, than in the United States.
India? Isn't India one of those countries with free, socialized medicine available for all of its citizens? Why, yes it is!

So here we have Torinus, staunch opponent of anything that smells like universal, single-payer health care in the United States, sending his employees off to the hospitals and clinics of India, where treatment (for Indians) is free and paid for at taxpayer expense. I guess Torinus is just fine with letting the government subsidize and regulate the costs of his employees' health care--just as long as it's not our government that does it.

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