Columbia’s sin was not knowing

Did you read Adam Beam's story this morning?

    Columbia is expected to have at least a $10 million shortfall in its general fund for the 2008 budget year — the largest for South Carolina’s capital city, preliminary audit figures show.
    Taxpayers will have to cover the deficit from the city’s rainy day fund — which could have been avoided had the city adjusted its employee health insurance plans two years ago to cover rising costs, Deputy Finance Director Bill Ellis said.
    But two years ago, the city’s finance department was in such disarray that city officials did not realize they were spending millions of dollars more than they had budgeted for health care.
    The city spent $18 million over budget from the fiscal years 2005 to 2007. In 2008, which is still being audited, Ellis estimates the city spent more than $8 million over budget for health insurance.

The sin wasn't spending more than projected on health care. Everybody's had that happen year after year, in the private and public sectors. The sin was NOT KNOWING the city was overspending on health care, and not reflecting that in subsequent budgets, or in terms of requiring a contribution from employees. (And note I didn't say an INCREASE in the contribution from employees — Adam also notes that most employees pay nothing for coverage: "Single employees with no dependents — who make up the majority of the city’s work force — don’t pay for their health insurance.")

Add to this the overview Adam did over the weekend of what we know so far of how messed up the city has been under Charles Austin and under this council. And you may then see why we gave Austin a failing grade on his evaluation (our eval, since the council couldn't seem to get one together), and the council a failing grade on supervising him, and called yet again for a system of government that the voters can hold to account.

22 thoughts on “Columbia’s sin was not knowing

  1. Lee Muller

    Solutions are obvious:
    1. Make employees pay for some of their medical insurance.
    2. Get rid of the insurance program if you can’t manage it and it is being abused.
    3. Cancel other projects, especially cosmetic stuff in the Vista, Main Street, parks, the river, to pay for the insurance program you can’t manage.

  2. Campaign for Liberty Presses On!!!

    MRS = Mitt Romney Says
    MRS, regarding healthcare, “Every recipient of healthcare benefits should pay SOMETHING” — or its value is cheapened and we just make idiots of ourselves, as reiterated above.
    Why, in SC, is the system GEARED toward single mothers, who will often do ANYTHING to keep a job [read: domination by predators]?
    Lee is right on the economic fronts — even you must admit that, Brad.

  3. Lee Muller

    This health care scandal at City Hall is just a microcosm of how national socialized medicine works.
    When people think they are getting something for free, and riding on the backs of others, they abuse the system and bleed it dry.
    This is why we need to be moving away from all so-called “employer benefits”. They are an illusion.
    If you work for private industry, the money is coming out of your paycheck – every cent of it – in the form of reduced gross wages.
    If you work for the government, some is coming out of your paycheck, and some out of the taxpayers. Your bosses don’t care. It’s not their money. You don’t care, because you think it’s not your money.

  4. Brad Warthen

    I don’t think anyone is proposing a national health plan that would cost nothing. We’d pay a tax in place of insurance premiums. Only we’d pay less than we do now because we wouldn’t be paying for a middleman’s profit.

  5. Doug Ross

    > We’d pay a tax in place of insurance
    We = everybody?
    How are you going to collect it from people who don’t work?
    Will you collect it from retired people?
    Will there be a minimum amount a person must contribute in order to get coverage?
    Will there be a maximum a person will pay or will you punish people who earn high incomes by making them pay more for the same thing?
    Will you have to prove citizenship to get coverage?
    My wife and I paid over $2000 last year into Medicare for other people’s healthcare. That’s more than I paid out of pocket for the medical care of my entire family for the year.

  6. Lee Muller

    The government would be the middleman for medical care.
    They can’t manage Medicare, which lost 31% of its 2007 budget to fraud, according to the GAO.
    Almost all the cost increases in medicine are in the 58% of sectors under government control. The other 42% has seen prices decrease in the last 20 years.
    Proponents of socialist medicine don’t care about anything except getting their services, however mediocre, for free. They want to ride someone else’s back.
    The proof of it is in Doug Ross’s challenge:
    Would you agree to government medical care if everyone paid the same premiums?

  7. Reader

    Your online compatriots are asking us to finish the [Columbia] sentence,
    “Let’s make 2009 the year of the . . .”
    Since my machine is missing the “comment form below” to which they direct my non-profane, non-vulgar, non-objectionable comments, I will plant them here:
    2009: Year of The Truth
    In all its appalling grandeur.

  8. Brad Warthen

    It would probably work like SS taxes, although not having ANY figures in front of me, there’s no way I can tell you exactly how. And of course, Doug considers that a reason to dismiss the whole idea.
    Which is really pretty ridiculous, since the concept I’m presenting speaks for itself, whatever the details.
    The thing about “will I have to pay for someone else’s health care” is also an irrelevant objection. You pay for other people’s health care now, only far less efficiently that it could be done with everyone in the same pool. Obviously, you pay now for Medicaid. In addition to that, the premiums, co-pays and fees you pay are all much higher because of all the people who are uninsured and indigent, who are not covered by any sort of plan public or private. The markup that hospitals put on everything from MRIs down to boxes of tissue in your room is huge, because hospitals are not allowed to turn people away when they show up at the ER — and also because so many people get no routine care, which is far cheaper than when they present themselves at the hospital with a crisis.
    What we need to is take that money being paid into both public and private plans now, distribute the cost more broadly through payroll taxes (or some other mechanism if you have a better idea), eliminate the profit in processing it, and provide more care for less money.
    And yep, there are going to be some people at any given moment who are not MAKING any money and can’t pay in. Are you saying that when you lose your job, or when you take a risk and give up a job with benefits to start your own business (thereby potentially growing the economy) you should not get health care? If so, you’re talking about a rapidly growing part of the population right now, since 2.5 million lost their jobs in 2008, and a half million of those in December, with every indication that January will be worse — which means increased costs in the system I’m proposing, but guess what? That cost would incur in the present NONsystem as well, and it would be borne by people who are paying too much now for health care to compensate for those not covered, with that added cost of middlemen’s profits built in.
    Anyway, anybody want talk about the city of Columbia’s mess? I’ll be glad to start yet another separate post on health care as a national issue if you’d like.
    The immediate point is that within the current national health care picture, everybody knows the cost has been going up — everybody, apparently, except the administrators and city council of Columbia…

  9. Lee Muller

    Yes, it probably would be a bankrupt Ponzi scheme, just like Social Security.
    Social Security is a welfare program, not an insurance program.
    Some of us now pay for Medicaid – the ones who don’t get it. Government can’t manage Medicare or Medicaid. Only a fool would trust them with their medical care.
    The City of Columbia, being broke, needs to drop all its medical benefits TODAY.

  10. p.m.

    “Only we’d pay less than we do now because we wouldn’t be paying for a middleman’s profit.”
    Surely you can’t believe that the government wouldn’t skim off billions for political ends, Brad.
    Just like Obama’s stimulus plan now. Less that one-tenth of it will be economic stimulus. The rest is for Democrat projects, not the least of which is simply robbing the rich to buy the votes of the poor.

  11. Brad Warthen

    You’re missing the fact that providing affordable health care is one of those Democratic priorities.

    The great shame of it is that nobody in the Democratic Party — not the president, not the Congress — is planning on doing the one most obvious thing to dramatically prove the system, even though if they don’t have the political leverage to do it now, they never will.

    So those of you who fear anything so rational and efficient as single-payer have NOTHING to worry about. I just keep talking about what is NOT, and asking why.

    No, what Obama et al. are planning to do is further complicate matters by creating a new group of people who are covered in a whole new way, atop the bewildering thicket of ways the public currently pays for health care, which requires doctors to hire more people to process insurance, and fewer to care for patients, and which is just plain insane.

    As I keep pointing out, the problem isn’t the one in seven who don’t have insurance; the problem is that the whole unwieldy, unmanageable, overly complex mess costs way too much for MOST of us, and delivers less and less for our dollars. That was the point of my first column devoted to this subject, back in ’07.

  12. Brad Warthen

    LOOK at what private businesses are going to pay this year, and the greater amount they’ll have to pay next year, and the increasing amounts such public entities as the city of Columbia will be paying, and what those of us who are insured will be paying in premiums and co-pays, and look at the diminishing quality and quantity of care we’ll get.

  13. Brad Warthen

    … and after you’ve looked at all that, tell me why any reasonable person would want to keep going down this path.
    Again, what Obama and company are talking about would throw one more over-complicated ingredient into this Crazy Hash. Not helpful.

  14. Lee Muller

    I get so tired of hearing the lies about “one in seven without insurance” and the “41,000,000 uninsured”.
    The 30,000,000 illegal aliens don’t count.
    Of the remaining who do not have medical insurance at any given moment, it is only temporary, as they change insurance plans. There is a constant turnover as people change jobs so often.
    A huge number of them can afford to buy insurance, but choose not to, according to the Census Bureau and studies by the insurance industry.
    So stop the dishonest pity propaganda.
    Be honest enough to talk about your own selfish desire to escape personal responsibility for your own medical care.

  15. bud

    I find it amusing, yet frightening, how the idiots on the right continue to writhe in agony over the stunning defeat they suffered in November. Lee of course will ramble on endlessly in his incoherent blathering. That is to be expected. But at least he’s fairly harmless here on Brad’s Blog. But what is really scary is how someone like Rush Limbaugh can still attract a significant radio audience. He openly wishes that Obama will fail! Failure means 4 years of high unemployment and setbacks in foreign policy. How anyone can still take this crackpot seriously is beyond me.

  16. Birch Barlow

    If single payer is such a big deal so as to be “the one most obvious thing to dramatically prove the system,” then why didn’t you endorse the only Democrat running for president who endorsed single payer? The person YOU endorsed (the person who ended up winning) did NOT support such a plan. Big surprise now that he’s president that he isn’t pushing the plan isn’t it? So quit yer bitchin’.
    “The great shame of it is that nobody in the Democratic Party — not the president, not the Congress…” Whoa, whoa, whoa. “Nobody?” Sounds like a hyperbole to me.

  17. Herb Brasher

    Well, I think I’ve figured out part of the problem of our costly health care system. My wife goes in for a small operation on her hand. In Germany, this takes two people: a doctor and a nurse, and the doctor might do it on the spur of the moment if not too many people are waiting.
    Here in Lexington, it takes 6 medical personnel, including an IV, just in case (let me guess: just in the remote case that she needs an IV. doesn’t have it, and the hospital gets sued). And since there are 6 different medical personnel present, I’m guessing that we will end up with about 5 different bills, and no proper insurance, because insurance companies don’t want people who have lived in Europe.
    Does anyone else think that this whole business is overkill, and who else is going to reign in the insurance companies and the lawyers if it isn’t the government? (I’m asking a question, not making a statement.)

  18. Brad Warthen

    Excellent question, Birch — which is why I answered it in late 2007, before we endorsed Obama.

    To get the full picture, you might want to look at two columns I did back then:

    To save you some trouble, though, I’ll recap the most salient part, from the end of the second of those columns:

        One good thing about primaries is that they force people who might otherwise surrender their thinking to a party to understand that even within a party, there can be great diversity of thought. Such choices compel us to acknowledge the necessity to compromise on some things, unless we’re fooling ourselves. For any thinking voter to find a candidate with whom he agrees on everything would a minor miracle.
        Anyway, back to where we started: Rep. Kucinich gets an A-plus and a gold star on health care in my gradebook. But he flunks national security, which is a required subject.

  19. Lee Muller

    “Single Payer” is as propaganda slogan.
    There would be millions of payers – taxpayers.
    And millions of freeloaders, just like we have now.
    7.5% of Americans pay 70% of all the taxes.
    That’s the sort of crooked socialist medical care the deadbeats want for themselves.
    Smart Americans want Obama to fail because Obama’s idea of success is destroying Americanism.

  20. Birch Barlow

    Thanks for that response, Brad.
    I don’t like to see those with good ideas marginalized because they are deemed to be not “viable.” I cringe every time I hear that word. Good ideas do not belong only to those who make good speeches, have a certain level of charisma and have name recognition.
    They aren’t nobodies.

  21. Lee Muller

    Herb, did you figure out that in America, the doctors, nurses and hospitals have “make every effort” in order to meet the legal tests that will be used against them in court by patients who expect perfect cures and lawyers who hope to win the insurance lottery?

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