September 10th, 2009
02:47 PM ET

The Wellness Bonus

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/09/art.youlie.gi.jpg caption="Rep. Wilson the congressional heckler."]

Tanya M. Acker
AC360° Contributor

Simmer down Congressman Wilson, the Confederacy has been dissolved, the Civil War is over, and your side lost. Like it or not, he is your President too.

Now, on to other news.

While I doubt that the President’s speech will change the tone in Washington, I hope it will at least change the subject from the absurdities about “death panels” and other such nonsense to the truly important fiscal issues implicated by reform. (I don’t know if Eric Cantor and the rest of the GOP’s “dream team” will be able to follow that conversation – engrossed as they were in their Blackberries during such a critical address by the President of the United States – but one can only hope.)

Like many, I am fascinated by the numbers. The President said that he would not sign any reform package that added to the federal budget deficit, yet analysts already have disputed that assertion, maintaining that the only way the current reform proposals can be considered “budget neutral” is if one embraces Washington’s fuzzy math. Similarly, the Congressional Budget Office disputes one of the key economic assumptions underlying reform, namely, that increasing access to preventive care will ultimately bring down costs in the long run (according to the CBO, the increased utilization of resources may ultimately increase, rather than reduce, expenditures on medical care).

I don’t dispute the necessity of being in penny-pinching mode – it’s long overdue and we have much further to go on that front – but I wonder how accurately the CBO or other budget analysts can measure the costs of being sick. For instance, does the CBO’s projection of potential outputs accurately factor in the increased productivity of a population that has access to appropriate preventive care?

A study by the Commonwealth Fund indicated that health problems result in about $260 billion dollars in lost productivity every year. Is it fair to assume that if Americans have better access to care we will be more productive citizens, resulting in an ultimate increase in tax revenues? Couldn’t it be possible that by doing the right thing (and yes, I do think that ensuring that every American has access to basic preventive care is the right thing to do) we could ensure a broader base of support upon which to rest our economic foundation?

These, and other fiscal issues, are important questions to consider as we measure the nature and impact of any proposed reforms. Let’s just hope our friends in Congress aren’t too busy imitating “The Real Housewives (of Washington)” with their ill-concealed disdain for the nation’s Commander-in-Chief to give these matters sufficient attention.

Follow Tanya Acker on Twitter @tanyaacker

Filed under: Raw Politics • Tanya Acker
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Ken in Maryland

    Rep. Wilson and others, please show your democratically-elected president the respect that is due the office. You were out of line at the President's address. It's distressing to see the country so divided on the issue, but even more troubling to see the tone these debates are taking. To opponents of health care reform, I ask, when you disagree – please do so respectfully.

    There seems to be a theme of opponents shouting down others at meetings, exploiting fears, and even lying, on some points, to seniors and others (death panels? come on). Opponents may have valid points, but in your arguments and debates with each other on these points, be civil, don't shout people down, hear both sides – and encourage your colleagues and constituents to do so as well. Listen, and be heard.

    People seem appalled that the President would have the audacity to take on such big challenges – but it is long overdue. I don't know how someone can have lived in this country for the past eight years, know the state the country was in before and after those eight years, and still not be on board with Obama's strong message of change. It is time to get back on track in this country. Perhaps people have had it so bad for eight years they have lost sight of the fact that things can and should dramatically improve.

    September 10, 2009 at 7:36 pm |
  2. William of Iowa

    "Everyone has a right to be wrong" – Ronald Reagan.

    September 10, 2009 at 7:31 pm |
  3. Ang

    My question is this? If President Obama is a liar, why didn't joe wilson call President Bush a liar???????

    September 10, 2009 at 6:51 pm |
  4. Larry

    It was the Southern Democrats that instituted the Jim Crow Laws; but it seems like African Americans could care less about that.

    September 10, 2009 at 5:38 pm |
  5. Sylvia, New York

    The issue is being lost here because of Mr. Wilson's bad behavior.
    Americans need affordable health care. It is costing us billions of dollars each year to pay for uninsured people to go to emergency rooms and then are unable to pay the bill. You may not see this but it is in your medical bills and your insurance premiums.
    Preventative medicine is essential to a healthy America and will ultimately bring the cost of health care down.
    If a person with asthma is monitored and consistent with medications and learning triggers, it brings the chances of them ending up in an emergency room down considerably. A doctors visit is 65 dollars,
    An ambulance with als is $675 and 5 hours in the emergency room is well over a thousand dollars. plus the cost of meds, xrays, etc.
    What would you rather pay?

    We absolutely need restrictions on these insurance companies.
    They must cover pre existing conditions and pay for long term treatments, such as chemotherapy or transplants. You pay your premiums and believe they will help you, and they should.

    It's about time that Congress got thier act together and thought of the people of this country instead of politics. The way the republicans are acting is absolutely reprehensible. For once, PUT THE PEOPLE FIRST.

    September 10, 2009 at 5:24 pm |
  6. Demos

    Republicans and the health care lobby refuse to budge on health care reform. This is indicative of the poor attitude that certain politicians have toward Americans. Business as usual will cause insurmountable social issues eventually.

    September 10, 2009 at 5:20 pm |
  7. Jim, PA

    Mr Wilson was ordered to apologize by the Republican leadership who recognized that his terrible behaviour was exactly what the Democrats need to counter the yelling about healthcare reform coming from the Republican party operatives. He is the poster boy for why there is no real dialogue going on about what the country really needs. A foul mouthed grandstander. Keep him around and the Democrats will be able to get anything they want. Bury him and the dirty tricks can be done to keep big business rolling.

    September 10, 2009 at 5:07 pm |
  8. Carolyn Mata

    Pass Obama's health care plan this year!

    September 10, 2009 at 4:45 pm |
  9. matthew queens, ny

    you are joking right. if you believe that a massive government takeover of health care is necessary. then make that case. otherwise this wishful thinking about savings is just that. nowhere in government when our leaders promise savings has it happen. otherwise they would point to that as an example.

    make the case to the american people why they need to pay more in taxes to fix the current system. otherwise we will continue to do what we always seem to do -borrow- meaning we are taking from future generations to fix our problems.

    finally, what is with the sterotyping. do you know for fact that mr. wilson is a confederate sympathizer? hIs conduct was wrong but he apologized. not like we haven't seen bad behavior from both sides before. so is it necessary for your arguement to bring up the old south? sadly you sound just as devisive as those you are condemning.

    September 10, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  10. susan

    The early budget neutrality will be gained in indirect costs – unfortunately. Not as easy to track as direct costs.

    Only later will you see the difference in direct costs. (Sort of like, oh, eating breakfast. May cost you more initially (gotta buy something to eat for breakfast), but will result in better energy and productivity. Eventually, your boss notices and you get a raise.)

    September 10, 2009 at 4:09 pm |
  11. pansy

    "THE gop talk about big government, it will become big because of the police we have to hire and building prisons for the BIRTHERS and GOP children of THE CORN – their children who have been to disrespect the president , Afterall, Pres Obama had to clean up the MESS gw bush left."

    September 10, 2009 at 4:00 pm |
  12. roy alexander

    I try to understand it all... but it's just to complicated coming from both sides of the room...so my interest is fading.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  13. Amy in Oakland

    More like a Confederacy of Dunces.....we need to change our health care system as the current system is not working for those of us who have no or little coverage, are out of work, live with chronic/pre-existing illnesses, etc......it may take time, and we may need to a program that is fluid and flexible to accommodate any adjustments that might need to be made. NO MATTER WHAT...these guys need to come together and move forward on Health Care reform NOW!

    September 10, 2009 at 3:33 pm |