The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Health Care Debate—Round 2

I suspect that the vast majority of Americans suffer from health care debate fatigue. But round 2 begins this week and is being touted as a more "civil" discussion of these important issues—we'll see.

Democrats will argue that they’re happy to force Republicans to explain why it's a good idea to repeal health care legislation that (1) mandates health insurance for all people, (2) prohibits insurers from dropping coverage, and (3) subsidizes insurance premiums for those who can’t afford them. And then, in a thrust that is part wishful thinking, part ideological delusion, and part dishonesty, some (but not all) Democrats will then claim that Obamacare will reduce the deficit and that repeal would lead to massive new government deficits.

When Republicans assert that the opposite is true, the President’s supporters dismiss their claims as partisan rhetoric. But the Republicans have already conducted a real-life experiment proposed by then-Republican Governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts, and the negative results in that laboratory support their claims. Timothy Carney comments:
In Massachusetts, these [health care] subsidies, mandates and regulations quickly caused health insurance and health care costs to spike, compelling the governor and state legislature to impose cost controls on insurers and providers while raising taxes on the state's residents and businesses.

David Bowen, former health staff director of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is one of the Obamacare authors to admit the bill could be a time-bomb.

Three months after the bill passed, and after Bowen had left Capitol Hill, he gave a briefing at the K Street offices of the lobbying firm Sidley Austin -- an event the firm billed as a "unique behind the scenes look at the development of this landmark legislation and [an opportunity] to hear an insider's view about issues that the legislation left unresolved."

Bowen compared the federal legislation to the Massachusetts legislation on the score of costs. "In Mass., there was a very conscious decision to do coverage first, knowing that that would bring on a cost battle second," the former Ted Kennedy aide explained. "We certainly made the same decision. This is a coverage bill, not a cost reduction bill. There is stuff here that will begin to address the issue of cost, but this is not a cost reduction bill with a bit of coverage on it -- it is really trying to get coverage first."

"Buy now, pay later," is how Peter Suderman at the free-market Reason magazine describes this strategy, which was deliberate on behalf of lawmakers in both Boston and Washington.

Now, it’s perfectly acceptable to argue that everyone should have coverage, but to suggest that providing that coverage would result in reduced expense to the government is blatantly dishonest. There is absolutely no evidence—none—to suggest that providing new insurance to 30 million people will reduce costs. No evidence—none—to suggest that demanding coverage of pre-existing conditions for someone who was heretofore uninsured will cause insurance rates to go down, and no evidence—none—that increased demands on a fixed number of medical care providers and hospitals will cause the accessibility to or quality of care to improve.

We are asked to accept these claims as an article of faith. Why? Because the President and his supporters tell us they’re true?

The real health care debate should focus balancing legitimate health care needs against the immediate requirement to provide economic stability, reign in government spending, and improve the efficiency of health care across the board. Obamacare will do none of those things. It should be repealed, and replaced by something that will.