By Robert Pembroke
“In a democracy, the frequent imbecility of decision-making is a vice we are all willing to live with because of democracy’s great virtue and its many and constant feedback loops that allows idiotic policies to be reversed or ameliorated.” Wall Street Journal, “A Kavanaugh Hearing Without Facts Would be a Sham,” Sept. 21, 2018.
Now, I am not saying that my liberal breakfast friends are idiots or imbeciles but they surely know how to put a guy down. I recently entered the restaurant with joy in my heart, having just finished my morning orange, giving our dog his drops and getting out of the house without hearing about Trump, when all hell broke loose. “Our country is going down the drain because Medicare copays are going up.” This was the conversation that greeted me as I sat down.
I like to think of myself as an expert in Medicare since I’ve been involved in it for 18 years and during that time, I have never been concerned about Medicare co-pays. In fact, I have considered them to be ridiculously on the low side.
It is an economic fact that the lower the price, the higher the demand — and this works in most cases. But when it comes to healthcare, it has caused a distortion in the market. When you only have to pay $8 for your meds or $40 for a physical, there just might be a tendency to overuse the products or the services. This overutilization has contributed to the cost of healthcare in America being twice as much as healthcare in other developed countries.
Seven years ago, I started a crusade to lower the cost of healthcare to owners of small businesses. I formed a nonprofit, raised a few bucks and began jousting with the healthcare industry and, like Don Quixote, I not only lost the battle, I was humiliated. But I learned a lot and I think that a concerted effort by business owners cannot only reduce their cost of healthcare, it can make our country more competitive in the global marketplace.
Over 160 million Americans have healthcare plans that are provided to them by their employers. Most of these Americans also are owners of stock. When you connect the two, you have the making of a very powerful coalition that has the ability to make changes. All that needs to be done is to make this coalition believe that it can do it and then America will thrive.
In 1890, the Sherman Antitrust Act was passed almost unanimously by Congress to prevent restraint of trade and abuse of monopolies’ power. What America needs now is an updated Sherman Antitrust Act that goes after the very small number of corporations that control the healthcare industry.
The key antagonists are the insurance industry, the hospitals and the doctors. It’s amazing that so few players can dominate 20 percent of America’s GDP and they are not going to be happy campers when we cut their revenues by 30 percent to 40 percent.
I’ll tell you what I am going do. If I can get a few concerned citizens to join me, we will reinstate the nonprofit and try and get those who have employer-sponsored health plans and own stock in American corporations to come and joust with me and take on that that giant windmill called healthcare. The name of the nonprofit will be “The Forgotten Electorate.”
When I previously started the nonprofit, which I also called “The Forgotten Electorate,” I solicited help from my liberal friends in the breakfast club. This was a big mistake which not only cost me money, it also cost me a loss of confidence.
This time I am asking you to join me in trying to straighten our healthcare mess. If you are interested, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robert Pembroke is former chairman and CEO of Pembroke’s Inc. in Salt Lake City.