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Posted on Wed, Jul 18, 2012 : noon

Americans deserve quality health care

By Tom Watkins

OK, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld much of the president's signature health care legislation, The Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare.

With a split ruling, the court decided the requirement that nearly all Americans must carry health insurance or pay a penalty, is constitutional under Congress' power to tax.

Nancy M. Schlichting, CEO of Henry Ford Health System and winner of the 2011 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, sent a note to her entire staff shortly after the Supreme Court ruling, saying in part: “The Supreme Court made a landmark decision today to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) a.k.a., Obamacare. I see this as a positive development for our nation's health care and a major move in the right direction to providing better health care access and quality for all of our Henry Ford Health System patients.”

The policies and the law can and have been hotly debated. What is not debatable is the problem with how to pay for health care in the good ol’ USA.

Politics aside, Governor Rick Snyder, his budget director and the Michigan Legislature, have to be breathing a sigh of relief with this decision.

Medicaid's rising cost is blowing holes in state budgets across the country, with exploding health care cost for the thousands without jobs and health insurance as a result of the changing world economy and the great recession of 2008.

It is reported that in Michigan more than 900,000 of our 1.1 million uninsured people likely will be eligible for Medicaid or other insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

Michigan's Medicaid budget already is squeezing other state priorities off the balance sheet as health care costs for poor and uninsured continue to explode. The Medicaid program takes up twice the share of state budgets as it did a quarter-century ago and is crowding out spending on other items such as pre-K-12 and higher education, which will make us stronger on the world stage.

While it might be construed that President Obama has “won” by having the Supreme Court uphold a signature piece of his landmark health care legislation, it has handed the Republicans another reason to try and defeat this president, take control of Congress and attempt overturning the law. Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney is polling only two points behind President Obama, and has pledged to repeal Obamacare on Day One if elected.

The Supremes have provided political ammunition for the left and the right in the upcoming presidential election. Each side will use the issue to raise cash, pummel the other side, and try to gain the upper hand for their guy come election day.

Moments after the Supreme Court decision was released, I began to receive fundraising appeals from Republican and Democratic groups alike, each predicting disaster if the other side prevails.

Yet, political rhetoric won’t pay for the cost of care for those with health issues and no ability to pay.

The Supremes have spoken: this debate will continue.

We all know the issue will be hotly contested for some time to come — not as a means toward solving a problem — but to gain political points.

It is enough to make you sick.

Tom Watkins was Michigan’s state superintendent of schools from 2001-05 and is now a U.S.-China business and educational consultant. He can be reached at



Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 2 p.m.

"Deserve" "Entitled to" These are the words that make me cringe and worry about the future of this country. "Earn" and "Personal Responsibility" are the terms we should be using.


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 2:38 a.m.

I spoke to God last night. He said it is good for Americans to have healthcare. When I told him some Americans were against healthcare for all, he just smiled and said, "just wait. They'll get it soon enough."

Billy Bob Schwartz

Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 12:28 a.m.

"Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney is polling only two points behind President Obama, and has pledged to repeal Obamacare on Day One if elected." Does this mean he will throw out the Constitution and become dictator, or is he still planning to have a Congress and Federal Court System?


Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 6:11 p.m.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 1:19 p.m.

sHa, Despite what some may think, most voters are very intelligent and see things the way they are and not by a perception that is being created.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 12:03 a.m.

Maallen, you are dead wrong about "most voters".


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 11:01 p.m.

sHa, If Mitt Romney was trying to "change" or hide something according to you don't you think he would have done it back when he was running in 2008? It was disclosed for all to see back then and then closed in 2010. Most voters realize there isn't anything secretive about the account and nothing illegal was done. Most voters realize that this is nothing but the democrats trying to make up something that isn't there. Instead of running on their record and telling the American people what they will do in the future, the democrats are busy trying to distract the voters. The perception is being created by the democrats to distract the american voter from the real issues at hand.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 4:37 p.m.

I guess Romney isn't too concerned about how he appears to voters. After all, how he conducted business, and did his banking, several years ago shouldn't concern today's middle class at all. Of course one can "change", and hide his past, when he is running for President. Perception is reality.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 2:40 p.m.

sHa, Yes, Warren Buffet has had accounts overseas throughout his career. Please do your research. He has also invested in banks overseas, companies overseas, etc. Oh no, they file joint tax returns? Wow, something must be bad. They must be hiding something. Most Americans do file joint tax returns because they pay less taxes that way. But I guess now that's not ok because Mitt Romney files a joint tax return just like President Obama. Again, when you are investing a lot of money you look for diversification. And if you go back to the value of the American dollar compared to swiss francs and when it was all sold you might see why people like Warren Buffet and Ann Romney's Blind Trust invests in these types of accounts. So it is very much like mutual funds. You have a mutual fund that invests in other foreign entities, whether it be businesses, banks, foreign currencies, etc. It is still investing in other countries and there is nothing wrong with that. The only perception being created is by the democrats because they want to distract the voter from what is happening now. They are trying to bring up something that happened years ago by saying he is hiding something when in fact it has been fully disclosed. Not only was it fully disclosed to the IRS (and they had no problems with it) but also people have seen the past two years of his tax records (which he doesn't have to show.) Plus add that to his financial disclosures when he was running for nomination for President back in 2008. It was disclosed in there too. Gee, and the democrats didn't have a problem with that then. But now all of a sudden they have a problem with an account that was closed back in 2010. The perception is being created by the democrats to distract the american voter from the real issues at hand.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 9:01 p.m.

Maallen - Warren Buffet does not have a Swiss bank account and has never had one. You might want to research that. He's not hiding anything. Yes, the Blind Trust was in Romney's wife's name; however, she and Mitt Romney do file joint tax returns. Diversification in US-based mutual funds that contain foreign assets (investment in businesses in foreign countries) is not the same as putting money in a Swiss Bank account. You might want to do some research on that subject, also. If Mitt Romney is not hiding anything, then he would surely be willing to release all of his tax returns. No law that he has to, of course; he is simply giving the impression that he is hiding something. Again, perception is reality.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 7:43 p.m.

sHa, It is the democrats that are trying to give off the impression that Mitt Romney is trying to hide something. If Mitt Romney was trying to hide something on this swiss account, then why did he report it on his tax returns? Why did he pay taxes to the U.S. government on this account if he was hiding something?


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 7:39 p.m.

sHa, There is no spinning the facts: Is it a fact that it was Ann Romney's swiss "bank account"? Yes. Is it a fact that it was in a Blind Trust? Yes. So, tell me which fact is being twisted the first one? Or the Second one? A lot of Americans have mutual funds in their 401(k)'s. And in the mutual funds they have chosen, many of these mutual funds have invested in foreign accounts/businesses overseas. So are you saying all these Americans don't believe in America? Or don't believe in the dollar? Are these many Americans out of touch with themselves? Having a blind trust that is managed by a money manager is no different than having a mutual fund that is run by a money manager. It's called diversification. It's what Warren Buffet calls essential and does himself. And President Obama doesn't call Warren Buffet unamerican for doing it. And for the record, Anne Romney's blind trust manager closed the account in 2010. Each and every year it was open (7 years) they paid taxes to the U.S. government. Yeah, that is so unamerican and not believing in America. To most, it's called diversification. Just ask Presiden Obama's good friend Warren Buffet.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 6:44 p.m.

maallen, last time I checked the facts, Ann Romney was married to Mitt Romney. Go ahead and argue, and spin anyway you wish about it being her own money. It won't change my opinion about the Romneys. Again, re-read my earlier post about money in Swiss accounts. The Romneys are US citizens. They (maybe just Mrs. Romney according to you) apparently do not trust the banks in the USA. They give the impression that they are hiding something. Perception is reality, maallen. They seem to be out of touch with the average American.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 1:51 p.m.

sHa, Really? You are hanging your hat on that? First, it was Ann Romney that had an account overseas. And secondly it was in a Blind Trust. Just in case you don't know what a Blind Trust is, it's up to the investment manager where the money goes, and not the individual (in this case Ann Romney.) Investment managers job is to diversify a client's assets and that is exactly what he did. Now that we know that Ann Romney had money invested overseas in a blind trust, where is the proof that Mitt Romney had money overseas? But hey, let's forget the fact that it was a blind trust and that it was Ann Romney's. Investing 101: Diversification is #1. Again, there is no law against investing overseas and if Ann Romney's Blind Trust wants to do that and pay the taxes to the U.S. government for it, then more power to her.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 8:37 p.m.

Maallen: Please re-read the three reasons that I previously stated don't make a Swiss Bank account, particularly in the case of Romney, look "pro-American".


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 7:40 p.m.

Romney did in fact use a Swiss Bank Account:


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 3:54 p.m.

"There is no law against putting money in Swiss Bank accounts; however, It's essentially a triple blemish for Romney." Ah, there is no law against having money overseas, but let's demonize those that have money overseas! Again, where is the proof that he DOES have money overseas?


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 11:07 p.m.

There is no law against putting money in Swiss Bank accounts; however, It's essentially a triple blemish for Romney. First, a Swiss account appears to be a clear sign of distrust in the American banking system and value of the dollar; second, it leads to speculation about what assets he might be hiding. (Not to mention the fact that Romney has been accused of skimping on his taxes by holding funds overseas -- already a touchy subject for the wealthy ex-governor, who has only disclosed his last two tax returns.) And third, to Middle America, it could make him appear even more out of touch.


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 4:45 p.m.

NoSUVforMe, Where is your proof that he didn't pay any taxes? And where is your proof that it is "Thanks to the Caymans and secret Swiss bank accounts?" And while we are at it is it against the law to have bank accounts in other countries? The last time I checked it wasn't.


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 4:43 p.m.

Billy Bob, Where in the Constitution is there anything about Health Care? The Supreme Court ruled that ObamaCare was a tax and therefor the government has the right to tax its citizens. The president/congress can veto/repeal any taxes it places on its citizens.


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 2:31 a.m.

Fortunately we'll never find out. Romney has a bit of a tax problem... He didn't pay any taxes in 2007, 2008, and 2009. Thanks to the Caymans and secret Swiss bank accounts. Rebublicans know they are in trouble so they are sending out their "destroy America" squads. They would rather see the destruction of our country before the give up control.


Wed, Jul 18, 2012 : 11:13 p.m.

I have relatives in Canada, or should say had relatives in Canada who were basically not given health care. One had a heart attack and was not allowed to have any diagnostic testing because she was too old (79). The other died from a gangrenous infection and instead of amputating which was needed he was give antibiotics and pain killers and died a horrible death. Another relative could not get an appointment in a timely fashion and ended up dying of cancer. Wait times are unbelievable compared to the USA and people die because of it. When you give something away, reduce compensation to physicians, and basically tell doctors what they can earn you end up with the best and brightest finding another way to may a living; like being a government bureaucrat where you will get preferred health care. We've got a baby boomer problem and universal health care will help solve it........


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 5:25 p.m.

The Canadians refer to their system as "death on a waiting list." The Supreme Court of Canada wrote that "access to a waiting list is not access to health care." If you do not believe me, check with those radical right wingers over at the CBC. One of the nice things about living on a border with Canada is actually being able to view their news. Of course, those stories on the CBC News are also part of the vast right wing conspiracy, right?


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 4:21 p.m.

I wish what Mike was saying were false, but it's not. My in-laws live in Canada and my nephew needed an MRI done. Between the three hospitals in there area they only have one machine to share! And the wait time to use that machine is over one year. Unfortunately, my nephew was in extreme amount of pain, but there was nothing the doctor could do about the wait time because it was not a life threatening situation at the time. However, to wait a year to find out what is causing extreme amount of pain could turn into a life threatening situation. Instead of waiting for a year, they decided to come to the United States to have the tests done and pay out of pocket. The Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that if certain surgeries have longer than a 6 month waiting time before it could be performed, then the patient has every right to go to a private doctor to have it done and be reimbursed by the Canadian government. It took the Canadian Supreme Court to come to this basic conclusion, but unfortunately it did not help the person who filed the lawsuit because it took years before the Canadian Supreme Court ruled on the case. Nice system they have over there.


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 2:25 a.m.

This is the Rush Limbaugh approach to facts. Make them up. Anyone who has actually spoken to a Canadian would find that they just laugh and nod their heads at assertions like Mike's. Pure rubbish.


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 1:13 a.m.

That's not true. I communicate with Canadians who receive excellent care, including for cancer. The need for more primary care physicians is due to the fact that doctors leaving medical school with up to hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loans need to choose more lucrative specialties in order to pay off their loans. A better balance of pay (such as the Cleveland Clinic chooses to do) between primary care and more lucrative specialties has nothing to do with the how we pay for health insurance and health care. Also, one trend in health care includes greater reliance on P.A.'s (physicians' assistants) and nurse practitioners for routine medical care such as annual pap tests. Are you saying that some baby boomers should be prevented from having routine health care? Are you saying that insurance companies should be able to drop clients who become ill? Those are some of the things that occur without the Affordable Care Act.


Wed, Jul 18, 2012 : 8:52 p.m.

"Medicaid's rising cost is blowing holes in state budgets across the country." "Michigan's Medicaid budget already is squeezing other state priorities off the balance sheet." And what does the Affordable Care Act do? It expands medicaid. Meaning more people will be put on Medicaid which will blow even bigger holes in our budget! The Affordable Care Act doesn't help the situation, it only makes it worse!


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 8 p.m.

Maallen, how do you propose "streamlining" those programs you mention to make health insurance affordable for everyone, especially those who may be a bit over the poverty line and don't qualify for Medicaid?


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 4:06 p.m.

sHa, As I have pointed out to you before, I pay 100% of my health insurance premiums for me and my family. Because I pay 100% of my health insurance premiums myself, that means I have to make sacrifices elsewhere. I don't have the ipods, ipads, tablets, and the latest tech toys. I don't have the latest cars, tv's, cell phones, etc. But with that said, you do realize that there are over 126 anti-poverty programs run by 13 different agencies in the federal government? 21 of these programs is to provide food, 10 is to provide healthcare, 27 is to provide cash and other assistance. And all of these are from the federal government. People can get even more assistance from the state level. How about we streamline these programs to help the people who need it and get the healthcare? We don't need another massive federal program (which the ACA creates).


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 11:20 p.m.

maallen, since you are totally against the ACA, could you please tell us just how the problem of unaffordable healthcare in this country can be solved? In particular what about healthcare costs for the unemployed, self-employed and all the millions of people who simply cannot afford insurance premiums? As I have posted in response to your comments before, you and others who have sufficient heath insurance coverage are obviously not concerned about those who do not. I have not, as yet, heard any words of concern from you about those who are not as fortunate as you. Only


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 4:33 p.m.

Enso, Who pays for Medicaid? Often people will say the government, not really realizing that we, the taxpayers pay the government through our taxes. So in essence, we the tapayers pay for Medicaid. So, if Medicaid expands, which it will through ACA, then our taxes will become higher in order to pay for it. Medicaid already puts a huge hole in our budget and now it is going to get worse because we are adding even more people onto it. And we will need to pay for it somehow, right? Also, for people who buy their insurance through the exchange will get up to 85% of their premiums paid for by the federal government. Hmmmm.....and where do you think the federal government gets their money from? Us, the taxpayers. And once 2014 hits, why would any business under 50 employees offer insurance when they know their employees can get health insurance through the exchange with the government helping them pay for it? These businesses will save hundreds thousands by dropping their insurance! And we as taxpayers will pay even more because of all these individuals going to the exchange to get coverage and the government subsidizing the premiums.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 12:49 a.m.

Yes, lefty...but is it worth it? LOL


Wed, Jul 18, 2012 : 11:17 p.m.

Enso - expanding the programs only means many will not receive care.There are only so many doctors and those that have been around and are financially set will retire. There's no such thing as a free lunch although you can try..............Once it's basically free everyone will use it and that will squeeze many out because of demand for the free services. Those who pay the freight will be paying for thise who won't or can't or learn to game the system. I can't understand why so many grown adults can't understand this..............


Wed, Jul 18, 2012 : 11:02 p.m.

Expanding medicaid will cause doctors to discover cancer in it's early stages, instead of having people go to the emergency room, when the symptoms become obvious. Treating cancer in it's early states dramatically increases survival rates. Same with just about any other malady. Find it early and treat it and the costs associated with treating it will drop dramatically. You don't need to be an economist to figure that out.

Tom Todd

Wed, Jul 18, 2012 : 9:54 p.m.

down with healthcare let's give more money to the banks and Halliburton.wink


Wed, Jul 18, 2012 : 9:39 p.m.

No, maallen, Yes, ACA expands Medicaid, which means it is giving people insurance. Those people would still get treatment even if they didn't have insurance. The problem is, when you wait forever to get treatment for something it is usually pretty bad at that point. And the worse the condition the more money it is going to cost. Because a hospital won't turn people away in emergencies these expensive treatments get passed on to you and me in the form of taxes. So either way we are paying for it. BUT if they are covered by either medicaid or especially if they get their own private insurance, then the insurance company pays for it, not you and me. When the insurance companies pay, our taxes for healthcare decrease.


Wed, Jul 18, 2012 : 8:31 p.m.

If the author or anyone else thinks Obamacare will control costs, they are complete fools. This will explode the cost of healthcare in this country and will lead to a reduction in service for those of us that already have healthcare. that seems to be the typical liberal answer to everything, take from those that have earned it and give to those that haven't.


Wed, Jul 18, 2012 : 11 p.m.

You think having people get preventative health care and thus avoiding emergency room visits will RAISE costs? That's some fuzzy math you're using there pal.

Tom Todd

Wed, Jul 18, 2012 : 9:52 p.m.

Snyder is not a liberal and he's doing the same thing.


Wed, Jul 18, 2012 : 9:35 p.m.

Wow, those are some assertions. And that is all they are, assertions, not based on facts.

Basic Bob

Wed, Jul 18, 2012 : 7:54 p.m.

1. The uninsured always had health care. They showed up at the emergency room with untreated illness and hospitals treated them. Whatever they couldn't collect was added onto every other patients bill. Now the hospitals can bill the state for more of these cases. 2. Some parts of Obamacare have been very favorable for independent contractors who actually pay for their own insurance. I have been able to keep adult children insured and even got a check back from the insurance company due to the 80/20 rule. Apparently they were overcharging a few billion.


Wed, Jul 18, 2012 : 10:59 p.m.

I agree with almost everything you wrote Basic Bob, but I do want to point out that when sick people show up at the emergency room, they do get health treatment, but not traditional "health care". Health care is when you visit your physician regularly, get screened for potential problems, and get some preventative care rather than waiting for something major to go wrong. Yes, it's great that poor people have the emergency room to fall back on, but if they were able to get regular check-ups, screenings, and other preventative care, the emergency room visits wouldn't be necessary. At least not nearly as often as they are now.

Tom Todd

Wed, Jul 18, 2012 : 9:51 p.m.

remove few and input a thousand


Wed, Jul 18, 2012 : 6:38 p.m.

Universal, single-payer health care is what we should strive for. It's time for the US to join the 21st century and recognize the enormous benefits to all of us that a modern healthcare system will bring. Our individual health and the health of our society is being held way, way back because of shortsighted private health insurance companies seeking to squeeze every last drop of profit out of our pain and suffering.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.

Peter you are a little off base here. You are correct about Canada and Britain having single payer systems, but they are experiencing the same issues the US is. People in countries that have single payer like it but they do complain quite a bit. Also the quality is not as high as US care, and the waiting can be deadly. Single payer will not work in the US without huge changes that will be fought extremely hard. Here is an excellent article about health care globally. If you think single payer would work here, take a look at what Drs are paid in France and think about if US Drs would go for that. Even if the govt paid for med school I doubt Drs here would go with that salary.


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 9:24 p.m.

Peter, You can sugar coat it all you want, but Canada and England know that offering universal health care isn't working. It is driving their budgets sky high and they can only tax their citizens so much for it. They realize they need to do something. And moving away from single payer universal healthcare, however slow it may be, and allowing private practices to be set up is the way to go. Sorry to see that you approve of England's rationing of health care. It's a shame to have a system where the government gets to dictate whether or not a 70 year old can have eye surgery done based on the cost of the surgery and how long he is expected to live. If it's too expensive or isn't going to live "long enough" then he doesn't get surgery and goes blind. Yeah, that is such a wonderful system you like.


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 2 p.m.

None of that says that they're moving away from socialized healthcare, rather, they state they realize there are problems with current specific implementation and are taking steps to address it. England and Canada have a health care system that is better than ours in every single way, even with those problems - and they're taking real steps to make it even better, not the wishy washy milquetoast compromises of the ACA.


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 7:02 p.m.

Peter, Google Danny Williams, Premier of New Foundland. England's Health Department said in 2011 "The government is getting rid of bureaucracy and clinically unjustified targets so that nurses are freed up to do what they do best – taking care of patients." At the heart of England's universal health care reform is "cut the number of health bodies (boards), and introduce more competition into services, all with the intention of reducing administration costs by one third, something the government says is essential if the health service is to cope with the ever-rising cost of caring for an aging population, and new, expensive medicines and treatments," according to England's paper The Guardian. Also England's health reform bill will allow "private providers to be used when they can add something to the NHS (National Health System) and "help it to raise its game". In June of 2005, Canada's Supreme Court said this ""The evidence in this case shows that delays in the public healthcare system are widespread, and that, in some serious cases, patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care. The evidence also demonstrates that the prohibition against private health insurance and its consequence of denying people vital healthcare result in physical and psychological suffering that meets a threshold test of seriousness." As a result the Canadian government was forced to start allowing private practices and pay for those services if the wait time for certain surgery was too long. In Feb of 2006, NY Times wrote an article about private practices in Canada titled "Canada's Private Clinics Surge as Public System Falters."


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 5:20 p.m.

The Supreme Court of Canada wrote that "access to a waiting list is not access to health care."


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 5:05 p.m.

Do you have any sources for those claims? Why should anybody believe a word of that?


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 4:10 p.m.

Enso, Yes they are. Over the past several years, England has implemented laws that put the doctor and patient back in control of their care instead of the different governmental boards. The government of England saw how much money it was costing to have these boards making healthcare decisions for patients. Now it's back with the doctors and paitents. Since 1984, Canada has had a single payer universal healthcare. Now, Canada says it can no longer afford to keep paying. So they have now allowed private practices to be set up to alleviate the long wait times. The Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that if wait times exceed over 6 months to perform a surgery then the citizen can go to a private practice to have that surgery done and the government has to pay for it. In Canada you can see a two tiered system developing because of the Single Payer universal system. If you are rich and have the money, you can go to a private doctor and pay cash for it. Otherwise you are stuck with the 2nd rate government health care. In 2010, a prominent Canadian politician had heart surgery performed in the United States.


Wed, Jul 18, 2012 : 9:34 p.m.

@maallen, "Please explain why countries like Canada and England are moving away from Universal single payer healthcare?" They're not.


Wed, Jul 18, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.

Peter, Please explain why countries like Canada and England are moving away from Universal single payer healthcare? Heck, even Cuba realizes it can't keep offering universal health care and they are now charging monthly premiums on top of the taxes!


Wed, Jul 18, 2012 : 5:39 p.m.

Is the argument "State-sponsored medical care doesn't work, so thank God we passed state-sponsored medical care"? Did I read that right?