Health Nuts

Well, at least Democrats seem to be nuts about imposing a nationalized health care plan on Americans.

Former Bush administration economic adviser and blogger Keith Hennessey has compiled in-depth analyses of the two Democrat-authored health plan proposals that will shortly make their way into Congress for “debate” — or whatever you call it when the minority party is all but prohibited from making any kind of substantial contribution to the discussion.

First is the Kennedy-Dodd Health Care Bill that will be introduced in the Senate. Sen. Kennedy will of course receive most of the credit for this bill, but due to his ailing health, much of the work involved in getting the bill ready for debate has been overseen by Sen. Chris Dodd. And why not? He did such a great job overseeing our banking system that I can’t imagine a senator more qualified to advise on matters of health care.

Next, Hennessey compares the Kennedy bill to the Democrat-authored Tri-Committee Health Reform Draft Proposal that will be introduced in the House of Representatives.

Both bills are similar in that they will establish a mandate for health care coverage, either by private insurers, existing government programs for the indigent, or a new government health agency whose coverage will be extended to those who can’t afford private insurance, but who earn enough money so that they are disqualified from receiving Medicaid or SCHIP. Both plans will require private insurers to cover all applicants and will prohibit private insurers from writing exclusions based on pre-existing conditions. Both plans will also force employers to offer health coverage to employees, or else pay a penalty tax. Likewise, individuals will be required to show proof of health coverage, or else pay an additional penalty on their Federal income tax.

Both plans are intrusive, expensive, and will require an enormous new government bureaucracy in order to make them enforceable. Needless to say, Hennessey is alarmed by them.

Here are two more opinion pieces related to ObamaCare that are worth your time to read. First, Michael Barone, The Washington Examiner: Qualms and questions about Obama’s health plan:

First, there are nagging questions about money. As Clinton White House deputy domestic policy adviser William Galston points out in the New Republic blog, “Congress has thus far given the cold shoulder to most of the administration’s proposals for raising revenues dedicated to health reform.” So if Democrats want to pass their health bill using the reconciliation process, which requires that they get only 50 votes in the Senate, they will have to come up with $150,000,000,000 in annual revenue or offsetting spending or else add to the $900,000,000,000 in yearly budget deficits projected by the Congressional Budget Office. As Galston points out, the CBO is unlikely to agree with administration projections of savings from comparative effectiveness research. So money is a problem.

So is public opinion. An April tracking poll conducted for the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that voters rank changing health care below strengthening the economy, stabilizing Medicare and Social Security, and reducing the federal budget deficit on a list of eight possible priorities. Democrats rank it higher, Republicans rank it at the bottom and independents, on this issue, like many others this year, look more like Republicans than Democrats. The blunt fact is that most Americans are satisfied with their health insurance and don’t believe major legislation will improve things for them. This gives opponents of the Democrats’ rush to legislate a strong talking point.

There are also a number of concerns about how an over-arching government health care bureaucracy, complete with its own enormous insurance system, will affect the private health insurance industry. Writing for Reason, Ronald Bailey sees The Beginning of the End of Private Health Insurance:

The best result of creating a parallel public insurance scheme is that the United States would end up with an explicit two-tier medical system in which privately insured Americans have better access to better medical care. Such two-tier health care systems already exist in countries with national health care schemes such as the United Kingdom and Germany. In the United Kingdom, more and more Britons are opting for private health insurance instead of remaining with that country’s National Health Service. Privately insured Americans would get higher quality health care, but because the market for medical innovation would be smaller, everybody will get worse care than they would otherwise have received had most health care not been nationalized.

The worst case scenario is that the public option plan would eventually absorb what remains of the private health care system. This could happen as the political constituency for private health care and insurance shrinks while more and more Americans become covered by government insurance. In addition, it will be hard for politicians to resist forcing wealthier patients to join the government plan as a way to make up for eventual shortfalls in revenues.

I think it’s also worth your time to read the summary of the alternative bill proposed by Sen. Tom Coburn, MD. (PDF file) Among other things, the Coburn bill proposes state-managed health insurance exchanges that can help uninsured citizens find affordable private health coverage. It also proposes government credits for lower income families without health insurance in the form of a debit card that can be used to pay for routine medical care. Neither of these services would be mandated — the Coburn bill contains no health coverage mandates — and both of them would allow individuals to decide how their health care dollars are spent.

Of course there is a lot more in the Coburn plan, including Medicare reform, lawsuit abuse reform, and limiting food stamps only to the purchase of foods that meet minimum nutritional guidelines (which would be a huge help in ending nutrition-related health problems among the poor).

America deserves better than a nationalized health care rationing system managed by a bloated bureaucracy. And there is no reason why we can’t come up with something better — unless we are given no other choice. Unfortunately, I am afraid that is what will happen in Congress this fall.

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