Monday, February 16, 2009

Health Care Finance Reform and The Bernie Madoff Syndrome

“Double digit growth on your investment year after year – it doesn’t matter what the market’s doing – he’s incredible! Seriously, Howard, you can’t do better! I’m tellin’ you, he’s got the Midas touch. But it’s not easy to get a meeting with him, Howard, you have to know somebody…“
In retrospect, the Bernie Madoff story seems so obvious, doesn’t it? How could so many people have been sucker-punched into believing that one guy had figured out a system to virtually guarantee growth of their portfolios irrespective of market conditions? Why did so few smell the rat? After all, these people who were conned by this man were not idiots, they were some of America’s most successful and influential people in the business world. Most of them were people with remarkable creativity, foresight and investment savvy. All of them were connected by friends of friends – someone who could get them access to Bernie, and nearly all of them had egos. Big egos.

But before we start mocking the rich folks taken by Mr. Madoff, we have to acknowledge that Americans love the Bernie Madoffs of the world. They reassure us. They make it easy. No need to ask the thorny questions. No. He’ll handle it. You won’t have to worry about a thing. Seriously. Just leave it up to him. Just give him your money and watch it grow. Here, can I give you a ride in my Mazerati?

Welcome to America’s latest financial affliction: the Bernie Madoff Syndrome, or “Bernie Syndrome,” for short.

And the Bernie Syndrome particularly afflicts the health care finance reform efforts underway. Can’t you hear it?

I mean, what’s a trillion here or a trillion there?

Don’t worry, we’ll make sure you can get health care. Seriously. He’ll just ask Congress to feed our broken, dysfunctional system so you can keep your employee-sponsored health care plan with its ten-dollar co-pay. No need to know how on earth we’re going to pay for it. Health care will be provided for all the kids with SCHIPS and seniors will be covered with our new, soon-to-be-lowered Medicare eligibility age limit of 55 without any loss of services! “Bernie” will handle it.

“Bernie” has access to friends in Washington. “Bernie” knows the finance system. “Bernie” knows how to get more money printed to pay for the system that “Bernie’s” friends on the Hill are already paying for. I mean, that’s what “Bernie” does! “Bernie” has the incredibly audacious ability to seemingly make money from, well, nothing! Don’t you see? “Bernie” will fix it!

But what will “Bernie’s” monthly statements really look like?

Details like loaded bureaucracies, shrinking numbers of physicians, rising costs of technology, inflated hospital costs, - not for you to worry about. Instead, we’ll be asked to “prevent chronic disease” as a way to bring our health care system back to solvency. We’ll spend billions upon billions to lower COBRA payments for the uninsured to show that meaningful efforts are underway to save our health care system. We’ll hear about the things we want to hear, like “access,” “electronic medical records,” and “quality.”

That’s because we’ve all contracted Bernie Syndrome.

After all, a person with Bernie’s Syndrome is trusting. A person with Bernie’s Syndrome likes to hear good news. A person with Bernie’s Syndrome thinks its offensive to ask too many questions. A person with Bernie’s syndrome wants to be one of the team.

And there’s really nothing to worry about.

After all, “Bernie’s” one of us.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Incredibly insightful.
I think that you've just coined a term and a concept that will be the new catchphrase of the year.