11/01/11 — Eliminate cheats: Fix health system by catching those who misuse it first.

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Eliminate cheats: Fix health system by catching those who misuse it first.

It is the same old story.

People who have worked all their lives, obeyed the law and who have gone out of their way to help others are faced with crushing medical bills and nowhere to turn except for the generosity of their friends and neighbors.

Meanwhile, across town somewhere, someone is claiming disability while he or she is still able to work and a physician is filing false insurance claims to try to take advantage of the system.

Stories like this are why most people believe that something needs to be done about the health care system in this country.

And they are right. Something does need to be done -- and soon -- before no one can afford care and health insurance costs threaten even more jobs.

But before we start a wholesale revamp, this nation needs to look harder at those who use the programs and those who collect fees from them.

Not every recipient is a cheat and not every doctor or health care provider is either. But there are enough of them that there are millions of dollars of waste each year.

And that money, if it were being managed properly, could be used to help those who need it and who have earned it.

You will never completely eliminate cheating. There are too many people in this world -- as there always have been -- who are interested only in getting something for nothing.

But if we could come up with better tracking systems and more aggressive checks, we might be able to find more of these sorts of people who need extra help and who are not sure where to turn to find it.

And while we are at it, we can use those same checks for the welfare, food stamp and other government assistance programs.

There are few people in this country who want to see all efforts to help those who are in need eliminated. If there were, there would not be such a tremendous response when there is a call for help.

But what most of us get -- and want our politicians to understand -- is that we cannot afford to hand money out like Halloween candy.

We absolutely have to have a way to make sure the money is used efficiently and that it gets to the people who need it.

By eliminating waste and cheats, we might find we have the money to make sure that those who are going through hard times do not have to rely on a bake sale to pay their bills.

Published in Editorials on November 1, 2011 12:47 PM