- The Washington Times - Friday, November 29, 2002

Mayor Williams and the D.C. Council can't fool me. The fundamental problems with the District's health care programs are the same as elsewhere in D.C. government: entitlements and politics. Entitlements, because the left of left D.C. leadership insists on trying to make the government all things to all people. Politics, because that's the nature of the beast.
A brief recap. In 1996, when he was CFO, Mr. Williams threatened to cut off funding to the public hospital because of mismanagement. In 2001, two years after he became mayor, Mr. Williams closed the hospital and let contracts, with council insight and approval, for indigent care at a privately owned hospital. Earlier this month, all learned that the company that owns the company that owns the hospital was broke, which means the hospital is broke, which means we're right back where we were in 1996.
How'd that happen, you might wonder. Entitlements and politics. Entitlements that continue to allow poor people some of who are sick and injured, and many who rely on emergency rooms as their primary care providers to continue to drive up the costs of health care. Politics that allows the council to shirk its oversight responsibilities and, at the same time, force Mr. Williams to shoulder the blame.
So, here we are. Reading and writing about the so-called crisis.
Well, the reading and writing about this one will be coming for a while. There is no immediate stopgap. There is no extra money for a bailout. The poor will continue to use emergency rooms because that is what the law allows them to do. That's what entitlements are designed to do. Especially federal entitlements like Medicaid. Give away things free of charge. In this particular case, health care. No questions asked. Except, "Are you poor?"
But, shouldn't there be a moral to this never-ending story of give and give? Shouldn't we, the taxpayers, be asking for something in return?Wait. That's exactly what we should be doing. Asking for something in return. Wait. I've got a vision. It's coming to me.
That something starts with an "A."
I've got it. Accountability.
Accountability is what the mayor would have gotten if his health and human services appointees would have been counting beans.
Accountability is what Sandy Allen and David Catania, the Fric and Frac of the council human services committee, would have gotten if they had been watching the mayor's folks counting beans.
Accountability is what taxpayers would have gotten if they had ignored the hype and paid attention to the facts.
Now, all any of us has is a headache.
Now, I could take the route of the Frics and the Fracs and say, "I told you so." But that won't solve the problem of my tax dollars being swallowed by a black hole.
No, I'll relieve my headache by trying to offer some advice to the pols and activists (and critics) who read my column.
Legislation got us into this, and legislation can get us out.
First, stop promoting the free rides and then scale back the free rides even if that means doing without the milk and cookies.
Second, Mr. Williams must stand up for what's right, and stop toeing the liberal line to get along with the council. The council does not want the mayor to succeed. At anything. It's not in the council's best interests.
Third, the mayor needs to follow the lead of his own CFO, Natwar Gandhi. Mr. Gandhi is top bean-counter. If he says there are only X amount of beans for Program A, then follow his lead. Tell the council to take a hike.
Finally, the mayor needs to stop trying to be a politician. Mr. Williams is a manager and excellent bean-counter, not a politician. He needs to stop letting his advisers mislead him into believing that he is a politician. He needs to leave the City Hall politicking to his staff. That's what they are paid for. If his current staff can't cut it, he should hire new staffers who can.
Having handily won re-election on Nov. 5, Mr. Williams and the newly re-elected council incumbents are going to be at this for another four years. But he should remember that health care merely happens to be the latest headline-grabber.
Before we know it, crime, education and the budget will return to the front burner.


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