For Americans who support President Obama’s “health care reform” plan which includes the creation of a new public “government” insurance plan the requirement that most private companies, except for some small businesses, participate ought to be a red flag. As problematic as the corporatized health care system is (and it is, due to decades of never-ending government intervention), it could be in worse shape. However, if Obama, his hero-worshipping limousine leftists, and their collectivistic cronies have their way (and it looks as though it is heading in that direction), the deliberately-misnamed “single payer” health care for which the Democrats ache will come a cropper their way.
Obama’s plan entails the construction and implementation of a public “government” health insurance program with the promise that it will result in over $100 billion in health care savings in over 10 years mostly within Medicare, although the details have been pretty fuzzy at best. The bare bones of his plan are that everyone needs to have health insurance, and all private employers, with the exception of small business owners, must offer it. If the individual has no coverage or refuses it, he will face stiff penalties. As my good friend and fellow libertarian colleague Sheldon Richman recently and correctly pointed out, “Low-income people would be subsidized.”
If and when Obama signs the news-dominated and “hotly-debated” “reform” bill into law (and most likely it will pass with some opposition from the Republicans and little-to-no opposition from the public at large), the state will then have the unconstitutional power and authority to dictate what services and treatments will be covered, which will most likely ignite a chain reaction of lobbyists representing insurers of “indispensible” products and services who will flood the halls of Congress with endless grievances. (This transpires in the states as well.) This means that individuals will be forced to accept coverage that they otherwise wouldn’t want or need. Insurers will be coerced – at the threat of gunpoint – to provide coverage or hit their already-ailing policyholders with unnecessarily huge monthly premiums that they neither don’t need nor can afford to pay. Doesn’t that sound like socio-fascism (the fusion of socialism and fascism) to you? It does to me.
The proposal is very creepy and very insane, no matter how you slice and dice it. The plan also would not only mandate private insurers to furnish said coverage but would also slap price controls on how much they charge. That means insurance providers must bill everyone the same price regardless of their current health. That means the state will confiscate the wealth of some people and redistribute to those who didn’t earn it in the name of providing “universal” (or, as it’s now called, “single-payer”) health care. People regardless of income level who have earned that wealth will be forced to spend more on higher insurance premiums than they would be minus the federal dictate, thanks to the soon-to-be criminalized risk-based premiums. This is a clear-cut example of a very powerful health care welfare, not insurance.
The damage will be much worse than that. If the price controls go into effect (and odds are that they will) with the Obama-touted claim of paring down health care costs, private insurers will find that their insurance premiums will be set artificially below market levels. If that happens, then the insurers will have no incentive to invest in their resources to provide coverage, despite the President and the Democrats’ claim to the contrary. Once that occurs, the companies might not bother with crafting their own medical policies, thus leading them to be eventually priced out of the market. Effectively, all of these machinations will put them out of business. And Obama promises to allow people to “keep” their current insurance plans and expand choice? What utter claptrap!
Giving a well-written, well-crafted stump speech before the American Medical Association yesterday, Obama states in part:
“Despite what some have suggested, the reason we have these costs is not simply because we have an aging population. Demographics do account for part of rising costs because older, sicker societies pay more on health care than younger, healthier ones. But what accounts for the bulk of our costs is the nature of our health care system itself – a system where we spend vast amounts of money on things that aren't making our people any healthier; a system that automatically equates more expensive care with better care.”
Obama is correct on this point, although he’s missing the point anyway. But let’s entertain his befuddling logic in the meantime. Yes, it’s true that ailing seniors pay more for their health care than their “younger, healthier” counterparts do. But that’s because seniors have been on the Medicare and Social Security dole for so long that they are wealthier (even though many live in retirement homes) than they let on, and they’re capable of paying for their own retirement and provide for their own health care without the government involved. And yes, it’s true that the system is more expensive and not necessarily better and does not encourage people to be healthier.
But Obama doesn’t get it. The reason why health care costs are soaring out of control is because of decades of government intervention in the health care market. The imposition of the HMO Act of 1973, the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, the creation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Veterans Affairs, and many other government departments and countless number of regulations in the area of health care have lend a hand in the exploding costs. Medical licensing laws were pushed by the AMA to restrict the number of physicians who could enter the health care market and provide their own services, and these rules have helped inflate the cost of care even further. The passage of the licensing laws has led to a wide shortage of physicians, nurses, and other practitioners. There are currently an estimated 500,000 AMA-licensed physicians and more than 300 million Americans (give or take) in the U.S. There aren’t enough doctors and other licensed medical professionals to provide care for every single ill American. Moreover, such laws don’t prevent incompetency and quackery; they are breeding grounds for them. So much for the government-touted claim of “protecting the patient”!
All of these government-constructed machinations have also led to another perverse side effect: it has encouraged systematic misdiagnoses and more unneeded and unnecessary tests and procedures out of fear of medical malpractice lawsuits. Oh, and Mr. President, don’t you know that the AMA also has restricted how many medical schools could operate, how many medical students could be accepted into those schools, what curricula would be taught at those institutions, who would receive hospital residencies, and who will get jobs in medicine? As Dr. Lawrence Wilson of Arizona writes in his published commentary “America’s Socialized Health Care” (which can be read at the Future of Freedom Foundation) on January 24, 2005:
“Through physician licensing and hundreds of other rules, only those who practice drug medicine hold licenses, work in hospitals and HMOs, and direct government research institutes. This effectively blocks change. Most alternative-health practitioners who practice a far less expensive type of healing are shut out of the mainstream.”
Getting back to Obama’s scheme, if these controls and dictates are put into place (via injecting “cost containment” measures in the form of said price controls), Americans can expect to see waiting lists ballooning, costs going through the roof, and a growing list of services that the government has no incentive to cover. This will be handled in the form of rationing and shortages; thus, we end up having much less freedom and much more government control and power over our lives.
Another frightening aspect of the plan is Obama’s call for insurance exchanges. According to a June 6 piece in The New York Times:
“Those entities, known as health benefit gateways, would disseminate information about premiums and benefits and would help people enroll.
The new entities would also act as financial intermediaries, receiving subsidy payments from the government and sending the money to insurance companies. The insurance exchanges would also redistribute money among health insurance plans, from those with a large share of healthy subscribers to those with large numbers of sick people.”
That is the heart of the President’s health care welfarism. If that doesn’t scream special-interest manipulation, corruption, and tax-funded favoritism, I don’t know what does.
The projections of the deal claim that, in a period of 10 years, it will cost taxpayers approximately $1.5 trillion. Additionally, it will allegedly save approximately $200 billion to $300 billion in Medicare and Medicaid costs, along with the installation of a new system that would store electronic records (in other words, a database) of every patient under the new program. Purportedly, that will not affect the already-massive spending deficit. Nonsense! Many pundits of the plan, not to mention studies, are noting that the so-called savings from the new database are blown out of proportion, and Obama’s promise to slash billions of dollars from Medicare and Medicaid will be met with hostile criticism from the lobbies that will get wind of these deals.
The sad part is that current tax policy makes it possible for the new system to strengthen the third-party payment apparatus upon which most Americans depend. Government covers much of the expenses via the medical programs that the elderly and low-income people enjoy. And, while this is all happening, we wind up with a ridiculous system in which people not only use insurance for routine services that they once paid out of pocket in the distant past (causing artificial demand and higher costs) but also abuse it when they don’t need to use it for certain costly and unnecessary treatments, tests, and even procedures. To the average person who has the insurance and receives “free” medical care (even though the taxpayers are paying for it), he or she becomes indifferent and unconcerned about the costs.
Medicare and Medicaid-accepting physicians who bitterly complain about and object to the system and are constantly underpaid by and facing harassment and threats from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service Centers are increasingly throwing their hands in the air and are now dropping out of the government system. The facts that the waiting rooms at the hospitals and clinics are filling up and doctors do not have time to spend enough time with their patients are undeniable, except to Obama, the Democrats, and even the bulk of the Republicans.
One more thing about the private insurers: if the price controls are enacted, it is very likely that those companies may at first opt for “cash-and-carry only,” making it very expensive for low-income and seniors who rely on the government-financed health care to get the care they desperately need. Hence, this action will be the opposite of “choice” and “savings” that Obama and his minions promise – assuming that the government doesn’t raid and close those providers down. That could swing the doors open for black market insurance companies, which will provide excessively expensive services to their customers. That could spring forth a violent world in that market, because the market is criminalized, and that would draw the attention of law enforcement groups and authorities to handle the “illegal insurance” operations. Imagine a War on Health Insurance! Is that what you call “choice” and “savings,” Mr. President?
At the end of the day, no matter which way the wind blows, the American health care system is doomed. Smash the state! End health care tyranny imposed by the state! Americans have a choice to make: it’s either a true free market health care system or health care socio-fascism.Powered by Sidelines