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Health-care reform is a tough call - Martha Carr

The health-care bill has finally passed and been signed by President Obama. Whether this is good news, or creates a creeping sense of dread depends on a few variables.

Doctors who treat Medicare or Medicaid patients will be seeing a decrease in payouts without something to replace the practice's lost income, and will still have long-standing patients who need care. Many older doctors are mumbling something about early retirement. Their headaches with insurance providers and government care will increase, not decrease. Their income levels will be inversely proportionate to the hassle factor.

However, those of us, and this would include me, who have pre-existing conditions will have a better chance at getting insurance and, therefore, treated for that condition that could kill us. Children will not be able to be turned away for the same reason, and it'll be harder for insurance companies to cap treatment and treat human beings like we have an expiration date stamped on our foreheads.

Those were the real death panels.

Here's the kink in all of this, though, and the reason why so many people are protesting so loudly. There's a price tag for all of this, and while it's going to decrease the deficit over time, that doesn't mean it's a cost saver for everyone. And, no, it's not the ultra-wealthy who will be picking up the slack.

Families in particular, who make over $250,000 per year, will see an increase in taxes and that's a bitter pill to swallow at a time when everyone is worried about losing a job and protecting their diminished retirement account. Now, a lot of Americans will have to add paying for someone else's bills to their monthly budget. It feels a little like the giant bailout, but this time from the bottom up.

Notice, it's still the middle that's getting squeezed.

The public option, which would have made it possible for everyone to become insured, was deleted as too controversial and expensive to the average taxpayer. However, it's still going to be expensive to the average taxpayer, and at least this way, we would have known that everyone who needed coverage was getting it.

There is a balance to democracy that dictates entrepreneurship mixed with an even dose of charity toward others. It's the balance that's now out of whack.

Big corporations, which should have been in the entrepreneurship category, were treated as charity cases, and after they had the cash, went back to behaving like independent businesses to the taxpayers' detriment. That's what generally happens when those who caused the problem are bailed out. They learn nothing and are only relieved at not having to pay for their mistakes.

Those who could use some help to recover, such as displaced homeowners or small business owners or charities big and small, got very little assistance or nothing at all. That means the roots of our economy in America have not been watered, but the blooms at the top look great. It's all an illusion, though, and without a solid base consisting of a healthy middle class the recovery isn't going to hold, regardless of our health-insurance status.

Most of this can not be laid at the Obama administration's door. The seeds were planted in previous administrations from both parties who deregulated the financial markets, disregarding why the regulations were needed in the first place. Then, in 2005 when sub-prime mortgages began to be traded like they were actual gold, the Great Recession became an inevitable consequence.

What's more surprising is how little has been done to reign in the excess. Wall Street appears to have learned nothing more than how to ignore the jeers from the regular taxpayers while they keep cashing their bonus checks.

That leads to the big looming question about the new legislation. The ones who will end up paying for this new bill for the most part are small business owners, the backbone of the economy who employ more people than all of the large corporations combined. Just how long will they continue to pay for other people's mistakes before they have finally had enough? The answer will probably come in the mid-term elections and will have far more to do with the unemployment rate and the GNP than the health-insurance coverage.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.